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What lies in store for Kashmir in 2020: Peace or discontent?

What lies in store for Kashmir in 2020: Peace or discontent?

Having failed to incite Kashmiris to public unrest after the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year, separatists and Pakistan are back to their old games in Jammu and Kashmir, suggest senior officers of intelligence agencies, army, paramilitary and the local police.

"Pakistan had threatened a bloodbath if Delhi tried to assimilate what it called the disputed region of J&K. Handlers of terrorists and their overground supporters called 'separatist politicians' believed they had a godsent opportunity when Article 370 was abrogated and the state broken down into two Union territories.

"This, Pakistan thought, would generate a public frenzy in Kashmir that would give Pakistan the right opportunity to rake up Kashmir's disputed status internationally.

"Terrorists, separatists and their sympathisers were asked to lie low. India had completely and irretrievably annoyed Pro-India politicians, and Pakistan thought these Pro-India politicians would do their bidding since it was believed that an uncontrollable public uprising would sweep the pro-India politicians off their feet.

"Nothing like that happened. Not only did the people not resort to violence of any sort, but contrary to expectations they appeared to silently celebrate the arrest of politicians who people believed had robbed Delhi in the name of Kashmir to further their self and pelf", said a senior intelligence officer who has been in the thick of handling law and order and local intelligence network for long in J&K.

The officer added that the powers across and the handlers of terrorists were stupefied for at least four months till the end of last year.

"For sometime they believed we had made such heavy deployments of the security forces that violence could not happen on ground. As the foot fall of the security forces was gradually reduced and restrictions eased, the real frustration started building up in the anti-national elements overground and the weapon wielding terrorists underground.

"They needed to give it their best shot unless they accepted the finality of J&K as an integral part of India. Terrorists were ordered to start armed violence not only against the security forces, but also against the common Kashmiri who had betrayed the 'cause' as Pakistan saw it", the officer said.

Sources in the Army and the paramilitary forces say the snowbound routes of infiltration along the LoC have started opening up due to the melting snow. Engaging the army in sustained firing exchanges by ceasefire violation has been the standard practice of Pakistan to provide fire cover to infiltrators.

Since January this year, Pakistan has violated bilateral ceasefire on the LoC more than 1,550 times against 3,168 violations during the entire year in 2019.

This has resulted in heightened vigil by the security forces on the LoC and the hinterland that has in turn resulted in the killings of 64 terrorists so far this year.

"There are around 300 trained terrorists waiting at the launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to infiltrate into our side this year. We are waiting to give them a hot reception. For any terrorist trying to infiltrate into J&K it is going to be a one-way road", said a senior army officer.

Intelligence sources say while trying to infiltrate terrorists from across the LoC is the top priority of powers across, they have given clear orders to those terrorists lying low in Kashmir to increase violence in the hinterland. We have had more than 40 militancy related incidents since January this year.

"Handwara encounter in which a foreign mercenary was used is a typical example of trying to intimidate the common Kashmiri. The terrorists involved in the Handwara encounter in which we lost five of our bravehearts were initially spotted in the thickly forested area of the Rajwar jungle.

"They came down and entered a civilian house in Chanjimulla village hoping that there would be civilian casualties during the encounter and that would result in public anger and protest against the security forces setting the agenda for the summer 2020 for the separatists.

"Our brave soldiers led by Colonel Ashutosh Sharma risked their lives and laid them down in the service of the nation because they entered the house to evacuate civilians. The martyrs ensured that the terrorists are eliminated without any collateral damage", said an army officer.

Summer 2020 is going to be extremely important for the security forces to root out terrorism so that people are able to choose their representatives without any fear during the Assembly elections likely to be held in 2021.

This year is also going to be the last opportunity for the terrorists and their handlers to give violence the last push to defeat democracy and the people's power to rule themselves.

Summer 2020 is, therefore, a watershed period that will decide whether J&K gets its much awaited peace or whether its people are perpetually doomed to boil in their own soup..