Militancy in J&K: An Annual Review of Security Challenges

The Indian army chief and home minister have both claimed that militancy in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is under control, but the reality is different. In 2023, the J&K Police reported 14 targeted attacks on civilians and 76 militants killed, a decrease from 31 in 2022.

This is attributed to the fact that only 20 local youths joined militancy in 2023, a decrease from 130 in 2022. This suggests a breakdown in the recruitment abilities of militants and a continuation of more foreigners among active militants.

In 2023, 55 Pakistanis were among the 76 militants killed, but this does not necessarily mean a decrease in local support for militancy. Government claims of peace coexist with claims of widespread public despair in the region.

The state administration has managed to prevent dissent and public outcry through measures like internet and mobile phone shutdowns. Although incidents have decreased, shutdowns have also been imposed in Jammu’s Rajouri, Poonch, and Kishtwar districts. The lack of forward movement in restoring the political process remains contentious between the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties.

Pakistani militants’ dominance in the state has led to a deadly militancy campaign. Local recruits have a short life span and are mostly neutralized within a month, while better-trained foreign militants survive longer and add more potency.

The security establishment claimed to have reduced the number of active militants to 31 by the end of 2023 and 2022, but local recruitment and cross-border infiltration have prevented further reductions.

The number also doesn’t include the faceless and part-time terrorists who the security forces have limited knowledge about. The real challenge to peace in J&K in 2023 is repeated terror attacks in the Pir Panjal valley, which has seen militancy once again in the past two years.

Significant instances of terror occurred in the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch, where 28 of the 33 security force personnel lost their lives in 2023. Until the end of the year, no firm plan had been put in place to tackle this new phenomenon.

The recent terror attacks in J&K have sparked a debate on the state of security in the region. New Delhi has urged the security establishment to deal with the situation, but recent incidents have resurfaced as well. Three civilians were killed in a deadly ambush, and five were injured due to alleged torture. A viral video showed suspected army personnel stripping and putting chilli powder on them.

Despite the government’s compensation and removal of senior officers, these incidents have revived the narrative of human rights violations by security forces. New Delhi is determined to ensure zero terrorism in J&K and solve the militancy problem by 2026. The army has unveiled Operation Sarvashakti, a large-scale initiative similar to Operation Sarpvinash, targeting militants in dense jungles, mountains, and caves.

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