Jammu and Kashmir: Tense Peace
On March 24, 2023, Security Forces (SFs) foiled an infiltration bid and killed one terrorist in the Jabdi area of Tangdhar village, along the Line of Control (LoC), in Kupwara District.
On February 16, 2023, SFs foiled an infiltration attempt by a group of three terrorists in the Saidpora forward area along the LoC, in Kupwara District. While one terrorist was killed, the remaining two managed to escape.
On January 8, SFs foiled an infiltration attempt, killing two unidentified militants near the Line of Control in the Balakote sector of Poonch District.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), six terrorists have already been killed this year, along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), while making infiltration attempts, in three separate incidents. In 2022, there were 27 incidents in which 24 infiltrators were killed and four were arrested.
According to official statistics,
During the attempts of infiltration from across the border from 2005 till 31st October, 2019, 1011 militants have been killed, 42 militants have been apprehended and 2253 militants have been pushed back/returned due to efficient vigil of security forces.
Though no official data is available for such incidents between November and December 2019, according to official sources, 19 terrorists were killed during the course of infiltration in 2020 and 12 in 2021. One terrorist was apprehended in 2021. There were 77 infiltration attempts in 2021 and 99 in 2020.
Meanwhile, according to the SATP database, a total of eight militants have been killed in J&K (including during infiltration) in 2023 (all data till March 26). In both 2022 and 2021, 193 terrorists (including during infiltration) were killed. Of 193 terrorists killed in 2022, at least 56 were Pakistanis. From a peak of 2,345 in 2001, terrorist fatalities dropped to a low of 84 in 2012, and increased again for six consecutive years: 100 (2013), 114 (2014), 115 (2015), 165 (2016), 220 (2017), 271 (2018). They declined to 163 in 2019, but increased again to 232 in 2020. Since 1988, a total of 23,918 terrorists (including during infiltration) have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir.
SFs have lost 6,636 personnel since 1988, including one in 2023, 30 in 2022 and 45 in 2021. After recording an all-time high of 638 in 2000, SF fatalities came down to 30 in 2022, the second lowest since 1988. The lowest tally of 18 was recorded in 2012. Fatalities in this category have been on a continuous decline since 2019.
The SFs established a positive overall kill ratio, at 3.6 over a period of 25 years, and have maintained dominance on the ground. The continued dominance of the SFs over an extended period of time is one of the primary reasons behind the relative peace in J&K, despite Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence relentlessly seeking to destabilize the situation through its terrorist proxies.
Indeed, after reaching a high of 4,011 in 2001, overall fatalities registered a continuous decline in successive years till 2012, when they touched a low of 121. Since then, fatalities have maintained a cyclical trend, declining for two consecutive years in 2021 (274 fatalities) and 2022 (253 fatalities). There were 321 fatalities in 2020. Overall fatalities remained in four digits between 1990 and 2006.
According to official data, the number of terrorist incidents peaked at 4,971 in 1992, but came down to 123 in 2022, till November 30.
Nevertheless, concerns persist. One of the most significant among these is the continued targeted attacks on non-locals and minorities. According to the SATP database, terrorists targeted non-local labourers on at least 17 occasions in 2022, resulting in eight fatalities and 34 persons injured. In 2021, there were six such attacks, which resulted in six deaths and two persons injured. Though no such attack was reported in 2020, there were two attacks in 2019 after the ‘abrogation’ of Article 370 on August 5, which resulted in five deaths and one person injured. On October 29, 2019, five migrant workers from the Murshidabad District of West Bengal were shot dead by terrorists in the Kulgam District, while one non-local worker was injured in a second attack.
Thus, since August 5, 2019, terrorists have targeted non-local labourers (from outside J&K) on at least 25 occasions killing 19 non-local workers and injuring another 37 (till December 31, 2022). One such incident, resulting in one injury, has already been recorded in 2023.
According to official data, 11 persons from minority communities in the Union Territory were killed in 2021, three in 2020, six in 2019, three in 2018 and 11 in 2017. Another 14 persons from the minority communities were killed in 2022 (data till November 30). The data does not indicate how many of these were non-locals. According to SATP, another two such killings were reported in December 2022. So far in 2023, eight persons from minority communities have been killed.
Significantly, on January 1-2, 2023, seven civilians, including two children, were killed and several others were injured in two separate terrorist incidents in the Dhangri area of Rajouri District. The five persons killed in the January 1 attack were identified as Satish Kumar (45), Deepak Kumar (23), Pritam Lal (57), Shishu Pal (32), and Prince Sharma. The two killed in the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on January 2 were identified as cousins Vihan Sharma (4) and Samiksha Sharma (16). The police said the IED was planted under a bag by terrorists after the firing incident on January 1. Two civilians had been killed in the district in 2022. Prior to that, the last civilian killing in Rajouri was reported way back in 2013 (two civilians killed).
It was, moreover, after a gap of 11 years that a civilian was killed in Udhampur District. On March 9, 2022, one person was killed and 15 were injured when a low-intensity IED exploded outside a court complex at Slathia Chowk in Udhampur District. The IED blast took place around 1 pm at Slathia Chowk, where fruit and vegetable vendors put up their carts. The injured included a woman, an eight-month-old infant, and a Rajasthan resident. The last civilian killing before this, in the District was reported on May 2, 2011.
Budgam recorded five civilian fatalities in 2022, the highest since 2005, when 18 civilians were killed.
The civilian killings in two districts – Rajouri and Udhampur – in 2022, after a long gap, and the increased number of civilian killings in Budgam, indicate that these areas of J&K, which had been declared terrorism free some years ago, have once again come into the scope of Pakistan-backed terrorist groups. Any geographical extension of violent incidents must raise urgent concerns.
It is to be noted, however, that the situation is not as alarming as is being projected by a strident few. Civilian fatalities were in three to four digits between 1990 and 2007 (in four digits between 1993 to 1996 and in 2001), but have since then remained in two digits. Moreover, and after reaching a recent high of 86 in 2018, they came down to 30 in 2022. There were 36 civilian fatalities in 2021.
Meanwhile, the government’s inability to hold Assembly Elections and restore statehood is providing opportunities to elements inimical to peace, to spread misinformation. For instance, it has been widely propagated that the ruling party at the Centre – the Bharatiya Janata Party – is delaying the elections till the time it feels certain of its victory.
Despite significant overall improvement in the security situation, it is imperative for the government to respond convincingly to such propaganda. Urgent steps are also required to be taken to address the security concerns of non-locals and minorities.