Source: News Bharati English05 Aug 2015 15:13:30

The terror attack on a BSF convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in District Udhampur in which two soldiers have lost their lives and one terrorist has been nabbed and one killed, points towards the critical need to challenge the new face of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The identity of the terrorists is yet to be established, yet, it can be surmised that they are from within the cadre already operating in the state local as well as foreign. There are two reasons for this assessment. First, it is improbable that a newly infiltrated group would succeed in reaching up to the Highway at Udhampur without detection. Second, no new case of infiltration has been reported for quite some time.

There is a widespread perception that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a shift with newly indoctrinated local youth joining the terrorist cadre in large numbers. A reported census carried out by the J&K Police has indicated that 62 percent of the terrorists now operating in the Valley are local youth.

There is a possibility that this particular attack has been carried out by the local cadre with some assistance from the older more experienced foreign terrorists. The intention would also be to dispel the perception of terrorism having been restricted to the Kashmir valley alone.

A big reason behind the increase in the local terrorist strength is that Pakistan is finding it very difficult to infiltrate terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Despite a spate of ceasefire violations and use of other infiltration tactics, the terror mongers have not been successful in infiltrating even one terrorist in this year. With the number of foreign terrorists dwindling due to lack of reinforcement, the number of local cadre is getting larger.

The challenging security situation that is now emerging should give the Government of Jammu and Kashmir a lot to worry about. Concrete steps need to be taken urgently to check those local youth are being indoctrinated to pursue the evil path of terrorism.

National media and opinion makers are paying all attention to the ISIS flag waving at the cost of focusing on the more critical issue of radicalisation of the Kashmiri youth.

The ISIS does not have a significant footprint in the Kashmir Valley, at the moment. The radicalised youth are joining, not the ISIS but the Hizbul Mujahdeen (HM), the newly created Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) and also the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) which are very much operational in the area.

 The army has flagged its concern and left it to the government to deal with the challenge since it is essentially in the political domain. The government needs to mark the words of the Army Commander, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. DS Hooda, when he says that, “The numbers (of local terrorists) are not too many, but the fact remains that it was down to single digit during two or three years. In that sense it is something that we need to look at seriously.”

There are some who hold the view that so long as the Congress was ruling in the state as a coalition partner and also in the centre, politics in the valley were kept on a tight lease. This was because the aftershocks of violence and secessionist activity were felt by the party leadership in Delhi.

In the present coalition, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has no political representation in the valley while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is going soft with the separatist and militant forces. This situation is providing unwarranted political space to divisive and disruptive activity in the region.

A word about the aspirations of the local cadre; the control of Syed Sallahuddin, the Pakistan based leader of the HM and Chairman of the United Jihad Council (UJC) and others of his ilk over the local cadre is dwindling at a fast pace. It is for this reason that Sallahuddin was forced to expel from the organisation his oldest and most trusted commander on ground, Abdul Qayoom Najar, who is a local terrorist of long standing.

 Najar has, for long, aspired to be the top commander on ground, a position that is invariably held by a terrorist of Pakistani origin. He also demanded more money, weapons and most importantly ammunition to run his operations which the HM chief was unable to provide. Left with no support he resorted to extortion of the telecommunication sector to stay afloat. Sallahuddin simply used this as an excuse to get rid of Najar and eliminate the need to maintain him any further.

Najar floated LeI as his own independent outfit. However, the lack of support from across the border has taken its toll and today he is a hunted man. A few days back, there were media reports of him being killed in an encounter, but it so turned out that the person killed was his close associate, Tariq Ahmed Mir, while Najar himself escaped narrowly.

This is the narrative of the local terrorist cadre. It wishes to boldly come to the forefront and take control.

Lt. Gen. Hooda has, very rightly, identified “alienation and lack of opportunity” as important reasons for Kashmiri youths picking up the gun yet again. The trust deficit due to the ham-handed flood relief measures and increased access to fundamentalist literature on the net are two important reasons. Politics is playing its role too.

It is quite evident that radicalisation of local youth poses the biggest challenge today. The existing scenario, if not checked in time, can have serious politico-security consequences.  The state as well as the Central Government needs to take corrective measures to ensure that the process of radicalisation of the youth is controlled forthwith. The dividend of peace created by the security forces cannot be enjoyed by the people till the youth are not channelised in a positive direction. At the same time, a tight lease has to be kept on terrorist activity to ensure that it is not allowed to raise its ugly head again.

(Jaibans Singh is author of Jammu and Kashmir: The Tide Turns. @jaibanssingh)