Terrorism in Kashmir is now coming a step nearer to complete decimation due to incisive and highly successful counter-terrorist operations being conducted by security forces. The latest success came on November 1, when a terrorist killed in a gun fight in Rangreth was identified as Saifullah, commander of the terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM). Saifullah had been appointed as commander only a few months back post the killing of the previous commander, Riyaz Naikoo. Naikoo had taken up the mantle after the death of Burhan Wani and defection of Zakir Musa to the Al-Qaeda in 2017. While Naikoo remained operational for about three years, Saifullah could last hardly for six months.
Media attempted to project the killing of Saifullah as a big success, however, realistically speaking Saifullah did not amount to much as he was highly constrained due to a depleted cadre and indifferent recruitment success, unlike Naikoo who was adept at indoctrination and recruitment of locals into the fold of terrorism. Saifullah’s killing was also a docile affair with his single associate preferring to surrender. Hizbul Mujahideen has not been able to appoint a new commander since it has nobody to fit the bill.
Surrender by terrorists, as in the case of the associate of Saifullah, is yet another big setback to the terrorist movement in recent times. On October 13, Special Police Officer (SPO) Altaf Hasan Bhat decamped with an AK 47 rifle. The police identified his location within two days and a cordon was laid out. While Altaf managed to escape his associate Jahangir Ahmad Bhat preferred to surrender. Within a few days, on 22 October, two other newly recruited terrorists named Abid and Mehraj belonging to the Al-Badr terrorist group also opted to surrender when their families, brought specially to the encounter site, appealed to them to do so.
The security forces led by the Indian Army have been following a policy of giving entrapped terrorists an opportunity to surrender. On many occasions, as in the aforementioned case, families are called in to make the appeal; in recent times, considerable success has been achieved in this process. The impact of the efforts to make the youth eschew the path of violence is now visible and it is a welcome development.
An analysis of aforementioned cases leads to two derivatives. First, the life span of a terrorist, even if he is a highly protected commander, is very limited. It ranges from a few days to a few months at the maximum. It is so because of effective intelligence about the movement of terrorists is being provided by the people themselves who wish to see an end to this menace.
Secondly, the new recruits into terrorism lack commitment since they are being forced into this line. Such locals who get swayed into joining terrorist groups soon realise their mistake but hesitate to leave due to fear of reprisal. In recent times these new cadres have evolved a good strategy of surrendering to security forces in the course of an encounter.
It needs to be kept in mind that once a person joins the cult of terrorism, getting back becomes very difficult indeed. The security of the person as well as that of his family comes under threat. Hence, the best option is to nip this malaise in the bud. It is here that families, elders, teachers, role models and civil society have a very important role to play. It is they who can educate and isolate the youth from the intense propaganda and well oiled indoctrination machinery of the terrorists. As things stand, the poster boys like Burhan Wani who pulled large number of youngsters are now eliminated. However, social media continues to be used by Pakistan to infiltrate vulnerable minds. It is not without reason that 4G connection is not being allowed in the region. The threat from the enemy is very real and very potent.
The security forces are doing their bit to build upon the existing thrust to reverse the process of terrorist recruitment. During a recent press interaction, Lt. General BS Raju, the General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps is reported to have said, “It gives us no pleasure to kill young boys who have picked up arms a month ago or a bit earlier. We will be doing more work on ensuring that more surrenders take place.” No better words can be used by any soldier to express his desire to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. It is for this reason that an elaborate drill is being followed to save entrapped local terrorists.
The government is also looking towards modifying the surrender and rehabilitation policy in a manner that serves as an incentive to the misled youth and gets them back into the mainstream.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir do not want terrorism to gain ascendency all over again and the authorities need to ensure that it does not happen. The government and the forces are, therefore, going all out to save precious lives of locals who have been indoctrinated into this suicidal path and give to them an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. Some good steps have been taken but more needs to be done. No space should be given to terrorists and divisive forces to resurrect the draconian times when terrorism was at its peak.
The time has come for the people of Kashmir to bring about a closure to the cult of evil foreign sponsored terrorism. A clear message needs to be given out that there is no element of religiosity and sacrifice visible in the murderous and perfidious acts of the terrorists. The government and the nation have spread out their hands to assist able and qualified Kashmiri youth in chalking out a career. This opportunity that needs to be leveraged instead of the despicable path of terrorism that assures nothing other than ignominious death.