The NIA’s investigation into hawala transactions involving the separatists and their ilk has entered a decisive phase. A sting operation, in which their members openly boasted of unlimited flow of funds to disrupt normal life and deny children even basic educational facilities by burning schools, has opened a Pandora’s box.
The trail is now being connected and source of funds being blocked, choking the flow of illegal money into the Valley. With restrictions imposed on cross- border trade, new avenues are now restricted. This has added to problems being faced by separatists and their cronies.
The first impact of drying of funds has been a reduction in organised violence in the Valley. Incidents still occur, but are scant and uncoordinated, mostly spontaneous, thereby enabling security forces to control them. Incidents of violence cannot be completely stopped, but can be restricted and controlled.
The NIA has also identified habitual stone-throwers, observed participating in multiple locations. These are local leaders, who compelled youth to join organised protests. They motivated college students employing peer pressure and monetary gains. It was clear that these habitual offenders were being paid by the Hurriyat. They are now arrested and being questioned. Details of links in the chain would soon flow and there would be more arrests.
The NIA has begun reining in the separatists, calling them out of the state for questioning, reducing their ability to influence the Valley. The investigation and methodology adopted is logical. The interrogations have begun from the third rung, slowly moving up the ladder. As the investigation climbs each rung, it reaches closer to the kingpins. Each level provides details linking those on the next higher plane into the crime.
As information flows and the NIA collates data, the senior hierarchy would be called in. Thus, within a short time, the entire Hurriyat leadership would be out of the state. The NIA should simultaneously begin filing criminal cases against those suspected of being guilty, locking them behind bars, away from the Valley. Since it is possible for them to influence crucial witnesses or disappear, bail should strictly be denied.
Simultaneously, governments at the state and Centre must observe local reactions and monitor the situation. The NIA has also begun releasing details of properties amassed by senior Hurriyat leaders. Since none has done a day’s honest labour in their lives, the properties they own are all illegal. For the Kashmiris who trusted them and followed their battle cry, the realisation has begun to dawn that the Hurriyat played on the innocence of the youth, made them cannon fodder, while living a life of luxury, secure and safe from the dangers of bullets and amassed wealth.
Another input which came to light, through recovery of documents, was that local militant groups claimed and obtained money from the Hurriyat post-demonetisation, when they faced a financial crunch. Many main stream political parties refused to accept that demonetisation did impact militancy, but documents, now in NIA custody, prove this aspect. Thus, the Hurriyat’s direct support to militancy is established.
The Hurriyat never expected the government to act against them and believed that they were above the law and too sacred to be touched, as all previous governments considered them as a part of the solution. Times have changed and the present government considers them as part of the problem. The NIA action forced them to seek local support in desperation.
The Hurriyat announced a bandh call after the arrest of the second rung, including close family members of the top leadership. Other than Lal Chowk, the Valley was peaceful with schools, colleges and offices functioning, clearly indicating a change in air across the region. The truth is slowly dawning amongst Kashmiris that the Hurriyat not only amassed wealth from funds sent from across the border, to support the uprising, but now that they are in trouble are seeking violence to save them.
Simultaneously, security forces are relentlessly pursuing militants and their over-ground workers (OGW), breaking recruiting modules by the day. Enhanced counter-infiltration measures have drastically reduced inflow of militants. Inducted militants are on the run, avoiding direct confrontation with security forces, firing and running, solely seeking to survive. There may still be stray incidents, where militants may achieve success, however, the situation is now coming under control.
Even Zakir Musa, the local al Qaeda head, appears to be just a poster boy. He has hardly any supporters and devotes his time in sending video and audio messages. Local militants have realised that though they picked up the gun in anger, their lives are at risk, hence avoid direct confrontation with security forces.
Will moving the separatists out of the Valley, reduce tempers and create an opportunity for the government? While many incidents, including violence after funerals of militants or those killed in stone-throwing were spontaneous, most others were planned and funded. Violence was apart from being an industry and an avenue of employment in the Valley, also a means of releasing anger and frustration of the youth. With no funding on the way, only spontaneous incidents, akin to what happens across the country would occur. Hence would be controllable, provided the government acts.
As the NIA questioning progresses amid controlling of militancy and reduction in violence, the opportunity now arising must not be lost. The governments at the state and Centre should be at the forefront fulfilling their promises to the public. Locals politicians must become more visible in their constituencies, pushing for deliverance of governance and interacting with the masses. Simultaneously, the Centre must move in with its solution, as the home minister, Rajnath Singh, had so boldly announced.
The state government must enhance interaction with the youths in colleges. Employment opportunities should be enhanced and development must become more visible. This was also hinted by Mehbooba Mufti, in her recent speech.
This opportunity has arisen because the government’s strategy for the state has moved as visualised. The situation is moving towards near normalcy and the Hurriyat is battling to save itself, almost isolated. Pakistan-supported infiltrators are being killed on entry, while those within, running to save themselves.
This moment should not be lost as has happened on previous occasions. Roping in major political parties of the state - PDP, NC and the Congress - the Centre must act, pushing forth its agenda. If it hesitates, this moment may be lost forever.