The All Parties Hurriyat Conference is the main culprit. It is clandestinely receiving monetary assistance from Pakistan, while the children of its leaders are studying and serving in Western countries. Geelani and his Hurriyat have been accused by the Indian media of staging fake protests by paying money to unemployed youth. According to the stone-pelters who have been arrested, each of them is paid Rs 400 every Friday. According to the police, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s followers are raising the money locally.

Most of the money comes from fruit markets and saw mills, Pakistan-based LeT terrorists also participate in stone-pelting, police said. In another encounter in Pulwama on 21 December, six terrorists, including a close aide of Zakir Musa, one of Jammu and Kashmir’s most wanted terrorists, were killed in Pulwama district. Soliha, also known as Rehaan Khan, was the deputy chief of Zakir Musa’s group Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, which has links with Al-Qaida.

Zakir Musa is a former Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, and his Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind is said to have links with Jaish-e-Mohammed. He is one of the most wanted terrorists who are currently operating in the Kashmir Valley. In this encounter, no stone-pelters came forward to save the terrorists because of the fear of retaliation by security forces. Earlier, seven stone-pelters had died while countering the anti-terrorist operations.

President’s rule has been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir following the end of the six-month Governor’s rule on 20 December. President Ram Nath Kovind signed the proclamation paving the way for imposition of central rule in the state, which was plunged in crisis in June after the BJP withdrew support to the PDP government led by Mehbooba Mufti. The proclamation was signed after the Union Cabinet gave its go-ahead for President’s rule. After the proclamation, the powers of the Legislature are exercised by or under the authority of Parliament.

READ | Serious, not insurmountable – Part I

Since the state has a separate Constitution, six months of Governor’s rule is compulsory under Article 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, under which all the legislative powers are vested with the Governor. No Presidential proclamation shall in any case remain in force for more than three years except for the intervention of Election Commission of India, which has to certify that the continuance of the proclamation is necessary on account of difficulties in holding general elections to the Legislative Assembly.

Surprisingly in the last four years, 219 soldiers were killed in Jammu and Kashmir while fighting terrorists, compared with the 144 casualties in the preceding five years. The militants in the state have also increased in strength from 150 to 300 though more than 700 of them have been killed in encounters. This shows that the situation has worsened because these incidents have transformed a Pakistan-fuelled insurgency into a predominantly Kashmiri one.

The reason for the heavy casualties of the infantry soldiers is that they are not equipped with the latest weapons and equipment in the face of better armaments, notably the Kalashnikov rifles of the terrorists. The infantry needs lightweight tactical modern weapons like assault rifles, carbines, light machine guns, night firing sniper rifles, night vision devices which can detect the enemy from a distance of 100 to 300 meters. The Indian soldier has in fact operated without functional bulletproof jackets and helmets, which are only now being issued.

What is the use of boasting the fastest economy in the world, when the defence allocation in the budget in 1.58 per cent of the GDP, at any rate since 1955?

Some good sense seems to have prevailed. The 1.3 million strong military is abandoning its two decade-old Indian made rifles and is seeking to arm the infantry with more up-to-date equipment. It is scouting for a new model across the global market for 185,000 assault rifles. The Ministry of Defence also needs to buy hundreds of thousands of helmets and tens of thousands of bullet-proof jackets.

These moves are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $250 billion push to modernise India’s armed forces, as the infantry continues to face the brunt of deadly attacks in disputed border areas of Kashmir and the north-east.

Besides these tactical weapons and equipment, the procurement of strategic defence weapons ~ the 36 Rafale jet aircraft from France, the S-400 missile system from Russia, the indigenously built Arihant nuclear submarine, drones from Israel and launch of communication satellite GSAT-7A in space for the IAF’s communication system ~ are deterrent steps in the right direction. With the acquisition of new tactical weapons for the Army, the soldiers’ casualties will be minimal as is the case of Israel, which is surrounded by 17 hostile countries, which are afraid of Israel’s onslaught in case of any misadventure.

More infantry battalions should be converted into specialised forces, as most of them will be dealing with terrorists and counter-insurgency operations during peacetime. Besides, one company in all infantry battalions should be converted into a specialised company with the latest tactical weapons like the effective ‘Ghatak Platoons’.

One wonders why the present government is not acting against the separatists ~ especially the Hurriyat Conference ~ who are not allowing the democratically elected government to function smoothly. All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on 9 March 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmiri separatism.

This alliance has historically been viewed positively by Pakistan as it contests the claim of the Indian government over the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the Hurriyat Conference, Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and India’s control of it is not justified. It supports the Pakistani claim that Kashmir is the “unfinished agenda of Partition” and needs to be solved “as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” The APHC perceives itself to be the sole representative of the Kashmiri people.

The organisation’s primary role has been to project a negative image of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and to mobilise public opinion against Indian security forces.

The alliance has consistently followed up local allegations of excesses on the part of security forces, and in several documented cases, has allegedly distorted facts to suit its propaganda. The APHC enjoys an observer’s status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). The APHC must be banned and its activities declared as anti-national as these are against the Constitution of India.

(Concluded)

(The writer is retired Professor of International Trade. He may be reached at [email protected])