Decoding Targeted Killings In Kashmir – OpEd


The cold-blooded murder of 45-year-old Sanjay Sharma in Achan village of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday serves as a grim warning that there’s no let-up in the despicable trend of terrorists targeting minority community members in Kashmir Valley. What’s really disturbing is that despite being a Kashmiri, Sanjay was killed solely because he belonged to the minority community, and a terrorist group calling itself ‘The Resistance Front’ [TRF] accepted responsibility for this ghastly act. The spurt in instances of Kashmiris extinguishing the lives of fellow Kashmiris just because they follow a different religion seems to have become a routine affair here and this gory practice is indeed worrisome.

Since they have the gun and are answerable to none, terrorist groups all over the world often target innocent civilians for a host of reasons. However, while doing so, they ensure that their identity is not compromised. This is a precautionary measure to preserve their public image as a righteous lot as well as to ensure that their reprehensible acts don’t invite retribution and terrorist groups in Kashmir were no exception- till groups like TRF suddenly popped up and started taking responsibility for targeted killings!

In 1984, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front [JKLF] terrorists in England kidnapped Assistant Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ravindra Mhatre. Their intention was   to secure the release of JKLF leader Maqbool Bhat who was on death row in India for having murdered a police officer. Even though their demand to free Bhat was a dead giveaway, yet the JKLF terrorists still tried to conceal their identity by claiming to be members of ‘Kashmir Liberation Army.’ 

Seven years later, six Israeli tourists holidaying in Kashmir were kidnapped by JKLF terrorists from a houseboat in Srinagar’s Dal Lake. Here again the JKLF posed as members of a relatively unknown ‘Pasdaaran-e-Inqilaabi-e-Islam’ terrorist group. In 1995, six foreign tourists alongwith two local guides were kidnapped by Harkat-ul-Ansar [HuA] terrorists who tried to conceal their identity by claiming to be members of ‘Al Faran.’

So, when a group calling itself ‘The Resistance Front’ [TRF] starts taking responsibility for the targeted killing of minority community members, two questions arise. One, how does targeting minority community members help what Pakistan’s proxies euphemistically refer to as the ‘Kashmir cause’, the so-called ‘right to self-determination’ movement or even ‘azadi’ [freedom]? The second, and more serious question is-why are groups like TRF that specifically target minority community members so prompt in accepting responsibility for their heinous acts?

The answer is simple.

Just like ‘shell companies’ which have no actual business operations and are created solely to facilitate money laundering and conceal the identity of those parking their illegally acquired wealth, groups like TRF too are physically non-existent entities that accept responsibility for targeted killings and thus help in concealing the true identity of the terrorist groups who perpetuate such gruesome acts. Another advantage is that being non-existent, designating groups like TRF as terrorist organisations, sanctioning them or freezing their assets makes no material difference whatsoever!

Many opine that local opposition to abrogation of Article 370 Article led to the emergence of terrorist groups like TRF and there’s no denying that groups specifically targeting minority community members did emerge after Article 370 abrogation. However, identifying resentment against this move as the reason behind the mushrooming of such groups is absolutely wrong, simply because even if this was the case, there’s no reason for anyone to vent anger against minority communities as they were in no way instrumental for the abrogation of Article 370.

 Speaking on condition of anonymity, an old acquaintance with impeccable antecedents who is in the know of things, confided that while all terrorist groups in Kashmir are involved in targeted killings, Pakistan army’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] has groups like TRF to take the responsibility for the same and thereby misled investigators. He also revealed that such killings are carefully planned and explicitly sanctioned by top level terrorist commanders [possibly on directions from across the Line of Control] just to belie New Delhi’s claim that normalcy has returned to Kashmir Valley after Article 370 abrogation!

The most worrying part of his disclosure is that the overall aim of targeting minority community members in Kashmir is two-fold. Firstly, it seeks to create an enduring atmosphere of fear through recurrent killings, and at the same time ensuring that the intensity of such violence doesn’t escalate to levels that could attract adverse international reaction. Secondly, promote fundamentalist ideology by passing off the killing of innocent people on the basis of their religious beliefs as ‘resistance’ against assumed persecution.

Some would consider the revelation regarding a deliberate attempt by ISI to mainstream targeted killings to be too far-fetched. Those who think so may like to deliberate on the brazen attempt by Pakistan’s major proxy, All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC] to justify Sanjay Sharma’s murder by stating that “The state policy of extreme repression and unilateral interventions countered by equally extreme and viscous vengeance is a vortex we have got caught into, leading to extreme suffering of Kashmiris of all hues.” [Emphasis added].

With this, I rest my case!

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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