No Relief To J&K Dreaded Outfits
20 December 2004
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
Jammu: Even as the Congress-led coalition Government at the Centre is for a purposeful dialogue process with all groups in Jammu and Kashmir, the possibility of lifting the ban on several Islamist extremist organisations in the State has been ruled out, at least for the time being. The Government headed by Manmohan Singh does not want to encourage or allow any harsh policy towards the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), despite the fact that its star salesman, Yasin Malik, continues to embarass New Delhi by organising activity and expression against the alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces in his homeland. But New Delhi is definitely unwilling to favour any relief to the dreaded outfits in Jammu and Kashmir. These outfits, already banned, include Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Umar Mujahideen, Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front, Al Badr, Jamiat-ul- Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Milat. In other words, the ban on these organisations will continue to be in force. The Government of India has already taken due note of the changed nomenclature of some of these outfits. This notwithstanding, the ban on each one of them will continue. Lok Sabha was informed on this December 14 by the Government that while as many as 32 organisations in the country have been banned, following the repeal of POTA, 2002, these terrorist outfits continue to be banned under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 as amended by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Ordinance, 2004. Others on the Government list of banned organisations are not known for their direct link with or involvement in the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir. But there are some organisations that have already been known or reported for their 'vested interest' in J&K, particularly in some parts of the Jammu region. These outfits have been identified as Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), International Sikh Youth Federation. On the other hand, some Islamist hardliners in the Valley have not opposed the idea of sympathising with the workers and leaders of two banned organisations, namely, SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and Deendar Anjuman. Significantly, the Union Government has not denied the role of Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) while keeping alive most of the banned organisations. In fact, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sriprakash Jaiswal, told Lok Sabha, in response to a query by B Vinod Kumar, that the ISI 'is providing support' to some of the terrorist organisations in India. These organisations include, among others, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Dukhtara-e-Milat, Al Badr and J&K Islamic Front, each one of them known to be active in different parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Again, it is official: Assam's ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) is also receiving support from Pakistan's ISI. The support to ULFA and some other terrorist outfits is in the form of arms training, arms and ammunition and financial assistance. Can the ISI's role be done away with ? The Home Ministry's answer: In order to curb Pak ISI- supported terrorist activities, the Government has pursued a multi- pronged approach. It includes strengthening the border management to check infiltration, galvanising the intelligence machinery, improved technology, weaponry and equipment for security forces, neutralising plans of terrorist groups, anti- national elements, ISI agents by well-coordinated intelligence-based operations. Terrorists have, in the past two years, done away with thousands of human lives in J&K, north-eastern States and Left extremist-affected territories in India. According to the official statistics available with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), During 2003 and 2004 (upto October), as many as 4322 persons in 5624 incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, 1860 persons in 2237 incidents in north-eastern States and 1276 persons in 2927 incidents in naxal affected States were killed. During the period, 700 terrorists in J&K, 1706 extremists in north-eastern States and 2552 naxalites in naxal-affected States were arrested. Recently, in Pakistan-Lahore, to be precise-a spokesman for a twice-banned Pakistani militant outfit took many by surprise when he appeared on the scene to make it clear that the militant mindset is alive even if not kicking. He, in fact, sought to convey that the jihadis have not gone anywhere and are merely lying low at the behest of Pakistani establishment. Pakistan-based militants, particularly those earmarked for Jammu and Kashmir 'operations', are keenly watching the ebb and flow of the peace process between India and Pakistan. And many of them have been found to be of the view that Indo-Pak peace talks have affected the ranks of militant groups. Change in strategy and tactics have left several militants unemployed. Equally important is the acceptance of the 'fact' by most Pak-based militants that crackdown in that country is limited to outfits engaged in sectarianism. True, Pakistan continues to be under pressure from the United States to terminate the use of its territory for Taliban and Al Qaeda attacks into Afghanistan. But the US, significantly, has been unwilling to pressure Pakistan to crack down on all jihadi groups. Instructive, indeed, is the case relating to the Lashkar-e-Toiba led by Hafiz Saeed. Despite members of the organisation being discovered in Iraq, and his making express threats to raise cadre to fight there, the LeT chief remains free to recruit personnel and raise funds. In Kashmir, lack of headway in the official talks with militant groups is disappointing. Worse still is that advantage could not be taken of the rift in the Hurriyat ranks. It is the Islamists, the Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan that have come out trumps. Delhi waffled for too long on resuming the dialogue with the Hurriyat leaders. Pakistan used this to marginalise the 'centrists' like Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Maulvi Umar Farooq and Abdul Ghani Bhat, enabling the hard-liner Syed Ali Shah Geelani to be in the limelight. On the other hand, however, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has achieved success while engaging Pak President, Gen. Parvez Musharraf, in a serious conversation on Kashmir. There is no doubt that Manmohan Singh has ended years of Indian defensiveness on the subject. By refusing to avoid a serious conversation on Kashmir, Manmohan Singh has demonstrated that India has no reason to be afraid of a final solution to the Kashmir issue. If the ground for a new approach was prepared by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, present Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has demonstrated political courage. This, however, does not suggest that the Prime Minister's task is hassle-free, when it comes to tackling unprdictable Pakistan.