Jammu and Kashmir: The new anatomy of jihadist violence

Srinagar: The recent brutal killings of civilians in Jammu and Kashmir by terrorists has sparked outrage in the Valley with locals taking to streets to protest against it. A look back at these past few terror incidents shows a paradigm shift that harks back to the initial days of Islamist terrorism in 1990s.

“A total of 28 civilians have been killed by terrorists in 2021. Out of 28, five persons belong to local Hindu and Sikh communities and two persons are non-local Hindu labourers,” Inspector General (IG) Kashmir Vijay Kumar told ANI.

The official believes that due to the killing of ‘huge’ numbers of terrorists, destruction of their support structures, “terrorists’ handlers across got frustrated, changed their strategy and started targeting unarmed policemen, politicians, civilians from minority communities including women.”

Five civilians targeted in recent terror attacks

For the unversed, two teachers were killed in a terrorist attack at a government school in the Eidgah area of Srinagar on Thursday. Before that, three civilians, including Kashmiri pandit businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo, were targeted in three separate incidents by terrorists.

The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration on Friday convened a meeting at the residence of its chairman Farooq Abdullah to take stock of the current situation prevailing in the Union Territory. “These killings have created a climate of fear that has not been seen in Kashmir since the early 90s,” a leading daily quoted PAGD spokesperson M Y Tarigami as saying.

Looking back at early 1990s

To understand this shift of target by terrorists, one needs to first look back in the past.

A report in Observer Research Foundation (ORF) notes that the “violent secessionist outbreak in 1989, and since then, the government’s anti-militancy and counterinsurgency operations, have embedded strong ‘Us vs Them’ narratives amongst the Kashmiris and alienated them from the Indian polity.”

Another report by them states that between 1989 and 2000, 55,538 incidents of violence were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, and out of the 15,937 terrorists killed, more than 3,000 were from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As per the data available, the period between 2014 and 2020 has witnessed a significant increase in local militancy in the region. While the local recruitments were restricted to double digits from 2014 till 2016, it witnessed a big hike thereafter. As many as 126 youths in the Valley joined militancy in 2017, followed by 218 in 2019 and 167 in 2020, according to reports.

Talking about the recent terror attacks in the Valley, Vijay Kumar said, “In all such cases, terrorists have been using pistols. These acts are committed by newly recruited terrorists or those who are about to join the terrorists’ rank… Jammu and Kashmir Police is working hard and we are identifying all such part-time/hybrid terrorists. Strictest action shall be taken against them.”

Abrogation of Article 370 by Centre

In an unprecedented move, the central government had in 2019 abrogated Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the region into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in March earlier this year stated, “There has been no civilian death in law and order incidents in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. However, due to terrorist violence supported from across the border, terrorists deliberately target civilians to put pressure on security forces.”

However, ANI, citing a media report, noted that after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the number of Pakistan-based terrorists has surged in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time since the Centre abrogated Article 370 in 2019.

Many of the terrorists crossing into Jammu and Kashmir are affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) groups based in Pakistan that have been fighting together with the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction, in Afghanistan.


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