Assaults on civilians have begun in Jammu and Kashmir, and another Kashmiri Pandit has been murdered. Those seen as government allies, including Kashmiri Pandits, non-Kashmiri migrant workers, and locals, were killed in a terrorist rampage last year. Targeted assassinations are a disturbing reminder of what still haunts Kashmir, even if the J&K police had termed 2022 a successful year of anti-terror operations (172 terrorists were neutralized).
Tragically, due to the frustration of terrorists and their Pakistani sponsors with the success of the combined security system and the government of India’s (GoI) focus on the relocation and jobs project for the community, Kashmiri Pandits are once again prominent terror targets. After Article 370’s repeal in 2019, it helped maintain a reasonably calm security environment in J&K. The terrorists shifted to employing overground networks to carry out targeted killings, and many of the people involved in these networks are minors who are not on any government watch lists.
Hybrid militancy is the term used by experts to describe this phenomenon. Terrorists in Kashmir kill Pandits to instil fear in the local population and to erode their sense of normalcy. The only way to eliminate this danger is to starve the terror-radicalisation ecosystem of its resources. That can’t be accomplished with security measures alone, partly because massive combing operations still have unintended consequences even when they successfully apprehend the actual bad guys.
Political participation is necessary for Kashmir, not only to allow for the election of a new administration but also to halt the growth of radicalism that has persisted into 2019. Politicians with vested interests in the status quo tend to have considerable sway. There has yet to be an announcement on the timing of the upcoming assembly elections in J&K, even though the delimitation exercise and updating of electoral rolls were finalised in the previous year.
As spring turns to summer and the mountain passes open, the Elections Commission has a chance. Remember that now that Pakistan is no longer on the FATF grey list, the funding for terror groups in the Valley of the Shadows will likely increase. Thus, J&K need an effective elected administration that cooperates closely with the security forces.