Like any Indian citizen, it is very disheartening to hear about violence and deaths in Kashmir every other day. We are concerned about the well being of the citizens there, we are concerned about our security forces (Army, J&K Police and Central para-military forces) that operate in such difficult conditions. But there is never a clear message that comes out from our media or government on how exactly are we making progress in winning this war on terror in Kashmir. An average Indian often hears one or more of the following statements, depending on whom you are listening to:
- Vajpayee years were much better due to Kashmir centric policies of his Government
- Violence in Kashmir is now at its peak, triggered mainly due to BJP Government at State and Center
- Pakistan Army, ISI, ISIS and other external factors have really made the conflict more violent
- Indian Army has been highly successful in dealing with terrorists in past couple of years
- Lack of proper weapons and tech is making our security force vulnerable to vicious and fatal attacks
- More and more Kashmiri youth are joining insurgency making it difficult for India to win this war on terror
Now, depending on which side of the political, religious and ideological spectrum you stand, you would agree with some of the above points and disagree with the rest. The only way to come to any meaningful picture of what is going on is to look into statistics.
I completely agree that we cannot judge a war simply based on numbers. It is inhuman to look at people’s sufferings and killings simply on the basis of numbers. But in the absence of any unbiased humane narrative, numbers are our only alternative.
Below analysis is completely based on data taken from http://satp.org/. This forum, South Asia Terrorism Portal, tracks all incidents of violence in various countries in our region. My belief is that their data represents the ground reality to a large extent. We will look into the casualty data from 3 different perspectives and try to arrive at some conclusions.
Has the violence reduced or increased over years?
- Between 1998 and 2017, it is estimated that 26,364 persons died in Jammu and Kashmir due to militancy related violence. Security forces, civilians and terrorists are included in this figure
- Bloodiest year was 2001 when 4,507 deaths were reported
- Year 2012 was the most peaceful one with only 117 reported deaths due to terrorism related violence
- Previous year, 2017, reported 358 deaths
- Vajpayee years (1999 to 2004) were the bloodiest ones in Kashmir. This may not be due to his Government policies, but the overall geo-political situation at that time. Islamic extremism was at its peak as manifested in the major terror attacks in Africa, US and Srinagar. US war on Taliban brought the entire sub continent into a situation similar to the one seen 20 years ago when Russians invaded Afghanistan. Nature of terror attacks also turned into fidayeen which made it very difficult for security forces to handle.
- There has been a substantial drop in fatalities post 2005. This could be due to multiple reasons – a) UPA government is generally seen as minority friendly and that could have helped ease some tensions in Kashmir. b) Pakistan started seeing an increasing number of terror attacks internally from 2005, which kept their security agencies busy handling their own conflicts and stayed away from interfering with Kashmir.
- Years 2016 and 2017 witnessed slight increase in terror related deaths. While the numbers are far less than 2000’s , they were still higher than the 2011 to 2015 period. This again is probably due to – a) NDA government is generally seen pro-Hindu and it could trigger some alienation among extremist elements in Kashmiri, b) Pakistan internal issues were sorted out in the previous years and this gave their security forces more time and resources to invest in Kashmir
Who is getting killed?
- Security forces hunted down the most number of terrorists (2,850) in year 2001
- Year 2008 was the first time when number of security forces casualties exceed the the number of civilian casualties. Civilian deaths remained the lowest number ever since
- In the last 10 years, 2017 was the bloodiest when it comes to civilian deaths (57) in Jammu and Kashmir
- Total number of civilians killed in extremist violence in past 10 years is 353. Civilian deaths are usually projected as a major concern but the facts on the ground tell a difficult story.
- Indian security forces had been highly successful in civilian death low while dealing effectively with extremists at the same time
- Recent incidents of extremists killing civilians could be an act of desperation as attack on security forces is becoming difficult and hence the pursuit for softer targets
How effective are India’s security forces?
- This is a major concern area for India’s security establishment. Out of 4 persons (security forces and terrorists) killed in Jammu and Kashmir, 1 is a security force person and 3 are terrorists. This ratio is maintained from 1998 to 2012, even through the worse times of 2001.
- From 2013 onwards, we are losing slightly more number of soldiers while neutralizing terrorists. It is important to note that the overall casualties have decreased in past 5 years, but the cost our security forces have paid has increased slightly. Hence if someone says the killing 200+ militants is a good achievement in 2017, the other side to the story is we lost slightly more soldiers in doing so.
- Reduction in the overall number of casualties in recent is a good indicator that infiltration has come down heavily and our security forces are preventing a lot of attacks. But once an attack takes place, we continue to lose the same number of soldiers in a gunfight, like it used to happen in 2001.
- India has to invest heavily on tech to guard its borders, protect its soldiers in order to bring down the soldier death count for every 10 terrorists killed.
I hope you now have a better perspective of our security forces progress in Kashmir. Also, civilian deaths are far less than what is projected. Yes, our forces still have an uphill task towards a ZERO casualty goal for them and civilians.