Before the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1989-90, Kashmir was the most peaceful region in the country. There used to be few police personnel manning the strategic location like Lal Chowk, Secretariat in Srinagar City. Local population and tourist used to roam around freely in the interior of the valley without any fear or obstruction. Even at midnight there was no fear to go out of house. In the remotest of areas of the state there was hardly any presence of Police as it was not required. If one police personnel would visit anybody in a village, not the villagers of that village but from surrounding villages would enquire the reason for police in the village.
Kashmiri people as a whole are peace loving people with rich culture, fertile land and beautiful locations. Kashmir is known "the land of Sufis" who always preacher peace and brotherhood. Before 1989 it was beyond imagination that the most peaceful, beautiful region called paradise on earth will become so hostile where thousands of innocent lives will be lost. In any case the loss of property can be repaid but the loss of life is irreparable. Because of militancy the adverse effect are beyond property and life. Psychologically a generation has suffered mental trauma. The adverse effect of militancy in Kashmir will continue even after the situation is normal.
Background of Kashmir: Since independence of the country in 1947, there are some people in Kashmir valley who are sympathizers of our neighboring country. These elements always try to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust but never succeeded in the motives. Ignoring the facts these people always say that Kashmir is a disputed territory but they never succeeded in their motives. Our neighboring country always raised the Kashmir issue on every international, regional and diplomatic forum. They used force by sending armed tribal's in 1947 to annexe Kashmir but Kashmiri people resisted their attempt with the support of army the attack of tribal's were repulsed. Pakistan also fought two wars with India on Kashmir in 1965 and 1971. Although as an external factors they left no stone unturned to create uncertainty and disturbances in Kashmir but they failed to get enough support from Kashmir.
Therefore Pakistan realized that militarily Kashmir cannot be annexed from India. The separatist ideology and our neighboring country hatched a conspiracy to start militancy in Kashmir instead of getting involved directly in the conflict they took advantage of the political situation and exploited the youth by giving them armed training. As already mentioned a separatist element was always present in Kashmir Valley, this element worked as catalyst and coordinator for militancy in Kashmir.
Although some restlessness was in Kashmir Valley particularly among the youth. The restlessness started in 1986-87 but was considered as any restlessness in any part of the country. But the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir valley in 1989 was sudden, when armed militants started their activities in Kashmir Valley and later on extended to rest of the state particularly to erstwhile Doda District, Poonch and Rajouri with active support from across the border. Because of various reasons initially the militancy in Kashmir was supported by local population. The general strike, civil curfew, encounter, anti India protest was a routine. The militants used to roam freely in some parts in Kashmir and they targeted the people opposed to them at will. So much was the effect of militancy in Kashmir that militants started talking about the liberated zones, which means that these areas of Kashmir were under the control of militants which was not true. But it was a fact the militancy in Kashmir had become a dreaded monster and people were having no option but to succumb to the dictates of this monster of militancy. The fear of militancy was so much that many people migrated out of Kashmir valley. The activist of political parties under the threat of militants publicly and through newspapers advertisements announced their disassociation with the political parties. Even they were giving instruction to local media what they should write in their newspapers. Due to threat from militants human migration took place from the valley. The system was crumbling, the supporters of militants penetrated in Govt. offices. The militancy in Kashmir consumed many innocent people including some prominent personalities including intellectuals, doctors, academicians, politicians, social workers etc. In short the situation was so bad that nobody could have thought of such a violent situation in wildest of dreams.
Improvement in Situation: Both the central and State Govt. from the very beginning adopted different strategies to counter the militancy in Kashmir and restore normalcy. The toughest challenge was to restore the confidence and normalcy in Kashmir Valley. With the passage of time people who were supporters of militancy in Kashmir started realizing that militancy resulted in suffering to all and good to none. But they could not come out openly against militancy because of threat to their life and property.
On the one hand people were feeling the pinch of militancy on the other hand security forces had improved their intelligence network and with every passing day pressure on militants was increasing. The Govt. effort to involve civil society in local decision making like developmental activities were paying dividend and people started speaking against militancy in Kashmir.
Another reason for improvement in situation was increasing ideological and operational differences between different militant organizations. One militant group like JKLF in favour of Azadi (independence) of whole Jammu and Kashmir i.e. including Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) from India and Pakistan. Other militant group like Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was in favour of complete accession of Kashmir with Pakistan. It was natural for Pakistan to give preferential treatment to militant groups who were if favour of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan than the militant groups who supported AZADI. As a result of these differences JKLF became weak and their militants were easy target for security forces. Under the increasing pressure of Indian side and weak response from across the border JKLF were discourage. They renounced violence and decided to continue their movement peacefully.
The sponsors of militancy in Kashmir realised that it will not be in their interest to put all their eggs in one or two baskets. Therefore under the guidance of ISI many more militants' groups were formed. Some were called indigenous and some foreign mercenaries militant groups. These groups started dictating their conflicting terms to the public. Because of increase of groups the threat and suffering of common person also increased and they start speaking against militants and helping security forces to arrest or kill militants.
Due to effective intelligence networking and presence of security forces people regained confidence and encounter with militants increased which resulted in loss of life to militants. The forces also increased vigilance on Line of actual Control (LOC). Therefore on the one hand militant killing and arrest became daily routine and on the other hand their movement across the border was effected. The situation started developing. Although there are number of reason for improvement in situation in Kashmir but the following measures have played major role in improving the situation in Kashmir.
Turning point Assembly Election 1996: Right from the outbreak of militancy there was no election. Govt. was trying its best to hold election in Kashmir but the situation was not conducive. Even political parties were not ready to participate in election. The Govt took a calculated step to hold Lok Sabha election in Jammu and Kashmir in 1996.The main opposition party of Kashmir Valley National Conference (NC) boycotted these election. The vote polling was very low in Kashmir Valley but it opened a window for political process. Encouraged by Lok Sabha election outcome Govt. decided to hold Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir. Militants in Kashmir threatened the people against participation in election. But despite of militant threat people participated in election. This was an eye opener to the public and a welcome change from President's rule to elected assembly. This also proved to be a platform for general public to be part of decision making.
The major change of in Assembly election compared to Lok Sasha election was NC participated in Assembly elections. People gained some confidence from the Lok Sabha election, beside political parties many independent candidates were also in fray. In some of the constituencies sensing the mood of the public separatist put up dummy candidates. Because of increase in number of candidates people participation also increased. The Assembly election was a major turning point for the Govt. and set back to militants, separatists and their mentors across the border. In short it was major blow to militancy in Kashmir.
Role of Elected Government: Once the popular elected Govt. assumed the office things started rolling. Many developmental and social which were defunct were revived and new schemes were launched. Govt .of India also increased funds to the states for planning and development in the state. During the Presidents there are few advisors to the Governor and the general public cannot reach to them with their grievances, but compared to elected Govt. there are more than 125 elected representatives consisting of MPs from Lok Sabha, Rajaya Sabha, MLAs, MLCs. These public representatives act as feedback channel to the Govt. as well as they are there for redrassal of grievances of the public. Besides the public representatives their cadre all over the state also acts as bridge between the Govt. and the public. The elected Govt. started various schemes of development, employment, reconstruction, rehabilitation, etc. etc. In fact the popular elected Govt was taking care of public problems and demands and Security Forces were tackling the militancy with the active support of elected Govt.
Diplomatic Efforts: The militancy in Kashmir has internal and external dimensions. To address internal dimension to a larger extent the popular elected Govt. was in place. To tackle militancy in Kashmir the diplomatic efforts at world, regional and bilateral forums was very important. Because unless the militant training camps, supply of arms and ammunition is not stopped from across the border the militancy in Kashmir will continue. The major achievement of diplomatic efforts was Bus Journey of Indian Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Pakistan. The Bus journey proved to be a mile stone for people to people contact. From time to time other confidence building measure (CBM) was also taken. The cricket diplomacy also helped to establish people to people contact.
Disturbance in Pakistan: The terrorist group who were trained to create problems in Kashmir and Afghanistan has started violence in Pakistan. A large area in Pakistan was affected by militancy. In fact the loss of life because of militancy was more in Pakistan then in Kashmir. Pakistan started realizing that the monster of terrorism which they have reared to eat Kashmir and Afghanistan has started eating the God father itself. In other words one can say that if you are keeping a Lion in your backyard with the intention that the Lion will only eat the neighbour, you are mistaken, because hungry Lion can eat you as well. Pakistan has realized this and started taking action against the militants group who were creating violence. The attack on Lal Masjid and military offensive in Frontier province signifies the changing attitude of Pakistan towards militancy. These steps were taken under compulsion otherwise these groups were challenging the integrity of Pakistan and Pakistan was at the verge of being declared as Terrorist State.
Because of various reason and step taken by the Center and state Govt. the situation in Kashmir is improving. The marked improvement in militancy infested Kashmir can be observed from the following:
In the end I would like to say that the black days of militancy are over, peace and prosperity is waiting with open arms to welcome the Kashmir.