The history of terrorism in the Valley indicates that the social disintegration of Kashmir directly as a result of Pakistan’s nefarious activities and proxy war is not likely to end anytime soon.
By Parjanya Bhatt
Pakistan is once again recalibrating its hybrid war tactics in India’s northern-most State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). For nearly two decades, its proxy war in Kashmir was driven primarily by infiltration of trained terrorists into the Valley. With the onset of mobile-based internet apps and social media tools, it successfully scripted a new chapter on terrorist violence. Using e-Jihad to brainwash and convert the vulnerable youth, Pakistan has accelerated the dark spectre of radicalised homegrown insurgency. In a latest move, Pakistan has started to fund terror organisations by pushing narcotics and drug money into J&K and Punjab. And if recent disclosures by the Indian army and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the State’s health data are to go by, this strategy is directed not only to generate funds from within India to finance terrorism in the Valley, it is also gnawing away Kashmir’s youth from within.
In rare joint operations recently, conducted by the Army and the DRI, huge cache of drugs and arms, including an AK-56 rifle, 15 hand grenades, five pistols, 12 detonators of IEDs and 234 rounds of ammunition, were seized. The Afghan variety of drug is being pumped into Kashmir, via Pakistan, which is further pushed into Punjab via Jammu. Army intelligence sources are also said to have established strong links between Kashmiri terrorists and drug trafficking in Punjab. The recent terror attack in Amritsar and the reported presence of Zakir Musa in the holy city is believed to be part of the same chain.
Media reports also suggest that Kashmiri farmers, especially in South Kashmir, are being forced into cultivating poppy to generate funds to finance street rage and terrorist violence. While the focus of the national media has largely been on drug abuse among the youth in Punjab, the scenario in J&K is no less frightening. According to the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), there are about 70,000 substance abusers present in the Valley, out of which 31 percent are women. According to addiction data published by the Government Psychiatric Hospital, Srinagar, around 90 percent drug abusers belong to the age group of 17-35.
Media reports also suggest that Kashmiri farmers, especially in South Kashmir, are being forced into cultivating poppy to generate funds to finance street rage and terrorist violence.
Given this sinister backdrop, it would be unwise to believe that this dangerous trend of drug abuse among the Kashmiri youth is only because of the socio-psychological impact of prolonged conflict, unemployment or family/social issues. There is obviously a much larger design to this growing menace that is damaging the already stressed social and moral fabric of the Valley.
It is time the political corridors in New Delhi and Srinagar, the separatists’ lobby and the Kashmiri society as a whole got serious and thought about the way forward — especially since most of the state responses to the changing face of terror in Kashmir have fallen well short of their objectives. If the count of body bags is taken as the sole indicator, counter-insurgency operations seem to be paying rich dividends in Kashmir. However, if the objective of the ‘bullet for bullet’ response of security agencies is to curb terrorism in the Valley by eliminating top commanders of militants’ groups, the strategy seems to have made not much difference. On the contrary, it has led to further alienation and created a fertile ground for ready terror recruitment. Despite eliminating nearly 240 terrorists in the current year so far, there is a constant flow of local boys being recruited to replace their fallen comrades. In 2018 alone (up to 10 November), nearly 175 local boys have been recruited. On the other hand, Pakistan-sponsored narco-terrorism seems to have changed the dimension of terrorism in the Valley and given a new lease of life to it. It is now further percolating to the border State of Punjab too. Media reports also indicate that up to 25 percent of narcotics being infiltrated into J&K is via Punjab.
It is time the political corridors in New Delhi and Srinagar, the separatists’ lobby and the Kashmiri society as a whole got serious and thought about the way forward — especially since most of the state responses to the changing face of terror in Kashmir have fallen well short of their objectives.
The J&K police, for the past couple of years, have red-flagged the growing threat of narco-terrorism. Former J&K DGP, S.P. Vaid, had reportedly remarked in July this year that the drug menace was a ‘bigger challenge’ than terrorism in the State and that contrabands were being “pumped from across the border” by people “who want our future generations to be addicted to drugs so that they can succeed in their nefarious ploys.” Last year, 70 kg of pure heroin was seized from the Valley, while over 25 kg of contraband was seized from Jammu — totally worth INR 500 crore in the international market. The State government has provided land to the police to set up a full-fledged de-addiction centre near Eidgah in Srinagar, but it is yet to adhere to the proposal to allocate land for a similar facility in Jammu. The State police have also planned to send a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs to allocate land for a 10-bedded de-addiction facility in all the districts of the State. While all these are sensible initial responses, they are largely reactive and defensive. The need of the hour, on the contrary, is launching a concerted and active offensive by the government to strike the problem at its roots and break the narcotics supply chain.
The history of terrorism in the Valley indicates that the social disintegration of Kashmir directly as a result of Pakistan’s nefarious activities and proxy war is not likely to end anytime soon. First, Kashmir lost its aborigines — the Hindu Pandits. Then it lost an entire generation to the gun culture. Now, Kashmir seems to be on the road to losing yet another generation to drug abuse.
Pakistan has constantly upgraded and calibrated its proxy and hybrid war strategy in Kashmir and challenged India’s internal security. The Indian government can no longer afford to be stuck on the backfoot to foil our neighbour’s evil designs.