Other States

Analysis | Change at Jammu and Kashmir helm amid uneasy security situation

Newly appointed J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha gestures as he arrives in Srinagar ahead on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.

Newly appointed J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha gestures as he arrives in Srinagar ahead on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Former Union minister Manoj Sinha’s appointment as Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir is the surest signal yet that the Centre has taken a call that the political process in the Union Territory is to be given a push.

With more than three attacks and as many fatalities in the last five days (two in Qazigund and one in Budgam) of sarpanches associated with the BJP, however, a new low investment-high stakes game seems to have been started by terror outfits and could upset the plans Mr Sinha has arrived in Srinagar with.

Sarpanches and local level political workers, who haven’t been on the terror radar and are considered very low in the pecking order of targets, are finding the going tough. According to officials in the government, the picking of such targets reflects the change in strategy of terror outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. These outfits have indicated via social media and other messaging in the last month or so that open season is declared on anyone seeming to be on the side of the Indian State and its position vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue.

The last few months has also seen major crackdowns on terror outfits. Combined with the lack of sophisticated arms with terror outfits currently, BJP-affiliated sarpanches make for easy targets, felled by small arms fire, with an element of surprise.

Also read: Manoj Sinha’s posting brings back a politician at the helm of affairs in the Srinagar Raj Bhavan

After the panchayat polls of 2018, many sarpanches did demand security and had been provided rooms in Srinagar to stay and camps were also set up. Till last month or so, attacks hadn’t been this severe and threat perception levels were also low. Officials say that the picking of the targets follows a modified version of “non-kinetic action” pattern of Psy-Ops, of low investment and high impact actions.

The BJP has, predictably, reacted with anger at the targeting of its people. Three BJP activists quit the party after the death of Arif Ahmad Shah in Qazigund. The BJP’s national general secretary in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, too has demanded adequate security for party leaders.

Also read: Four BJP leaders quit in Kashmir

It’s a message of sorts to anyone who wants to participate in any future political activity in J&K.

The incarceration of leaders of mainstream political parties had already wiped out the space in the middle, and any attempts to reinvent the wheel has now come up against two main hurdles.

One is the very obvious hurdle of political legitimacy of any outfit that wants to start off in State politics. The newly formed Apni Party with Altaf Bukhari at its head is a case in point, formed with much gusto and given space to set up party offices, but not getting any traction on the ground. The second, of course, is the physical annihilation of political workers meant to discourage any political activity.

In the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370, nobody yet knows what shape political activity and engagement will take. To the fundamental question of whether to “move on” from Article 370’s abrogation or stick to old positions on it, and what level of pragmatism will not be considered cynical, is added the question of physical security. A tough task for the new man at the helm.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 10:10:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/analysis-change-at-jammu-and-kashmir-helm-amid-uneasy-security-situation/article32317573.ece

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