July 2004 News

How taxpayers subsidise terror

12 July 2004
The Hindu
Praveen Swami

Srinagar: For the past three months, Indian intelligence analysts have been considering a strange paradox. While the levels of killings and terrorist attacks have risen this summer, part of an annual cyclical pattern, one strange figure has perplexed them: not a single rupee has been looted by terrorists. For the past three months, banks, businesses and Government offices have not reported a single instance of looting a record in the 15 year low-intensity war in Jammu and Kashmir. The break is particularly mysterious since, by most intelligence estimates, the flow of funds from Jihadi groups in Pakistan has declined substantially, in part because of the global crackdown on terror assets forced by the United States of America. What could explain this phenomenon? Classified data of the Jammu and Kashmir Government obtained by The Hindu make for interesting reading (see chart). Looting grew steadily through 2001 and 2002, perhaps a direct consequence of the pressure placed on Jihadi assets in Pakistan and the steady interdiction of hawala operators funnelling funds into the State by the country's intelligence services. Put simply, terrorists had to raise funds locally rather than rely on remittances from their head offices overseas. After February 2003, looting tailed off. In the absence of an alternative explanation, it seems probable that the fall was linked to the vast injection of Central funds into Jammu and Kashmir for infrastructure projects roads, bridges, hydro-electric plants and, of course, the Jammu-Srinagar railway line. At an estimated cost of between Rs. 2.5 crores and Rs. 3 crores a kilometre, and given the impossibility of effective security, the railway line was a sitting duck for extortion. Consider the numbers. This year, not a single instance of looting was reported in the three-month period from April. In contrast, Rs. 1,35,408 was looted from April to June 2003, out of a total of Rs. 26,57,440 for the year. In 2002, Rs. 3,55,965 was looted in the April-June period, out of a total of Rs. 53,73,865. While zero-looting months have been noticed in the past, the three- month break is unprecedented. If protection payments are the reason for the decline, it is not wholly surprising. Off the record, tourism operators in Gulmarg and Pahlgam admit they made small payments to local terrorist groups to ensure that their out-of-State clients were not harassed. Fruit orchard owners in most parts of Kashmir, for whom the loss of even a few trees means the destruction of assets which will take years to re-grow, have long bought their peace. 'Degenerated insurgencies' (to use a term coined by the former Border Security Force chief, E.N. Rammohan) have long been seen in India's North-East, where the ideological struggle against the Indian state was supplanted by brigandry decades ago. Could it be that Jammu and Kashmir is headed the same way now?


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