Kashmir Politics

Profile of Changing Situation - 1991

The profile of the Pakistan sponsored secessionist 'movement' in the Kashmir Valley and some parts of Jammu region acquired newer dimensions during 1991 with militants readjusting their strategy and tactics aimed at sustaining the militant 'movement' on a long-term basis. Unremitting targeted violence was combined with mass actions and greatly accented disruptive propaganda against India on the issue of alleged Human Rights violations to accentuate the feelings of alienation of Kashmiris. The emphasis on the Islamic content of the 'movement' continued unabated with renewed social reforms campaign by pro-Pakistan fundamentalist groups and continued use of religious places to sustain Islamic resurgence. The tentacles of subversion spread deeper to various sections of the social fabric - the press, bureaucracy, judiciary, police, other professionals and the trading community. There was no perceptible dilution in the level of sympathy and support of the print media in the Valley towards the 'movement'. Occasional criticism of some facets of militancy were more intended to be corrective to ensure that the 'movement' did not degenerate into sheer terrorism. Intelligentia and overground sympathisers of the 'movement' kept guiding the militants from behind the scenes.

Since early 1991, there was a perceptible disenchantment among common people against growing criminalisation of the terrorist 'movement', increasing inter-group clashes which reflected in holding of some anti-militant demonstrations. However, not withstanding the growing manifestations of public resentment with violence and doubts over real Pakistani intentions, there was hardly any dilution in the overall anti-India public mood and fervour for 'Azadi'. Simultaneously, Pakistan tightened its vicious grip over the 'movement' by abetting domination of outright pro-Pakistan militant groups like 'Hizb-ul-Mujahideen' (HuM), disciplining prominent centrist outfits like 'Al Umar Mujahideen' and 'Ikhwan-ul-Musalmeen' (IUM) and merger of two factions of J&K Peoples' League and their armed wings as 'Al Jehad Force.' Militants demonstrated their determination by indulging in large-scale violence particularly targeted against security forces. The disturbing trend in the violence was the increase in kidnappings by militant outfits to secure release of their detained cadres and extort money. This trend gained momentum after the release of 9 hard-core militants of IUM in exchange of K. Doraiswamy on 20 August 1991. For the first time during the year, militants resorted to kidnapping of foreigners including Israelis.

Though the mass upsurge of early 1990 did not recur during 1991, militants organised other mass actions like 'hartals'(strikes) and street comer 'dharnas'(protests), particularly by women. The issue of Human Rights violations by security forces remained the most popular theme as it evoked spontaneous response and helped militants in sustaining the popular support for the 'movement'. Intense and wide spread propaganda against India over this issue was also orchestrated in the USA, European countries and Islamic countries by secessionist Kashmiri expatriate groups. The Central Government, for the first time, offered holding of talks (February 1991) with militants and secessionists to find a solution to the 'Kashmir issue' within the frame-work of the Indian Constitution. The offer evoked a tough stance from militant outfits, who spelled out impossible conditions as prerequisites for talks. The militant groups escalated targeted violence, whenever the Government took steps to initiate the political process in the State.

In intensified but restrained operations, the security forces succeeded in entrenching themselves in militant infested localities of Srinagar city (Rainawari, Ali Kadal, Chattabal) and at some places in Baramulla and Anantnag districts during the later part of the year. Security forces also achieved impressive gains in their counter militant operations and recovered large quantity of weapons. The process of surrender which began in 1990, picked up with about 600 militants surrendering along with weapons before security forces. Though the exfiltration showed a decline, the quantum of transborder traffic and induction of weaponry remained at a high level.