Real Victims of Terrorism

Over last several years entire public discourse about the state of Jammu Kashmir has become fixated on the Kashmir valley, thanks to the unique propaganda machinery working overtime to achieve this objective. And this has happened despite the fact that Jammu region has a much greater geographical area with a relatively larger population than that in Kashmir valley

Net result of this nefarious obsession of the country's five star activists with Kashmir Valley has been that even genuine concerns of Jammu region are now comfortably ignored. This doublespeak of “opinion-makers” and “elite-secularists” (read rabble rousers) becomes clearly evident when it comes to terrorism in Jammu Kashmir.

There is a general impression that only valley faced the heat of terrorism, only Kashmir Hindu had to displace from their place. But if one looks at the scenario closely, it becomes clear that terrorism was not confined only to Kashmir region. Even Jammu too is adversely affected from it. Moreover, it is a harsh reality that the grievances of the persons who were displaced from their natural habitat and occupations as a result of terrorist activities in the Jammu region of the State have not received due proper attention and publicity in other parts of the country. In the Jammu region, both the Muslims & the Hindus from various areas particularly from Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi. Udhampur and kathua districts were terror affected districts of Jammu Kashmir. These districts are hilly and backward districts. Government of the State treatment to these districts are not fair. These districts suffer from the problem of unemployment, connectivity, water, electricity. After the blow of terrorism a large number of people had to migrate from their respective places to safe places. Most of them were farmers; it affected their farming and livestock very badly which was their sole source of income generation.

Jammu became witness of brutal massacre and killings. On 14 August 1993; Militants Hijack bus no; JKU 2003 from Sarthal morh ( Kishtwar ) and massacred 16 innocent passenger. There are many more instances of atrocities of terrorists . But discriminination with the victims of terrorism on the basis of region was evident in the deeds of the State Government. According to a report of organization Justcie on trial Almost 80 % Cases of appointment under SRO 43 in the Jammu region are still pending.

The fight against terrorism cannot be won by the Government without people’s so- operation. The people of the state and those of the Jammu Region are very much eager to offer their co-operation and service to the Government in fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, the Government is not encouraging the people to come forward and help in this fight. The measure taken in this regard like formation of village Defence committees (VDC) and appointment of special police officers (SPO), though half-hearted, received overwhelming response from the people and there was tremendous demand for becoming members of VDCs and enrolling as SPOs. The incidence of terrorist activities declined to a considerable extent in areas having VDCs and SPOs fought valiantly side by side with regular force. Despite this the Government did not increase the members of VDCs and SPOs and continued to pay paltry remuneration and incentives to the VDCs and SPOs. There are continuous effort to discredit VDCs in Jammu and Kshmir. Kistwar episode is the fresh evidence of it.

But then it would be naïve and dangerous to brush aside this of lective amnesia of the country’s elite-secularists as mere ignorance. It is rather a well concerted design and a planned strategy to change the demography of entire Jammu region. Their modus operandi is simple. One, offer covert support to violent terror attacks on people across the Jammu region. Two, ignore this violence when discussing terrorism in Jammu Kashmir such that rest of the country remains ignorant about ground realities and real issues that people of this region face. Three, misuse the state’s machinery to drive people out of the border areas, thereby altering the demography to Pakistan’s advantage.

Justice (retd.) VS Kokje led a team that conducted a study on terrorism across Jammu region. The report “Ordeal of Jammu migrants—from frying pan to fire” is a first of its kind that recorded the first-hand account of terror affected victims across the Jammu region and analysed the government’s response on the issue. The findings are startling, to say the least.

Reading through the accounts of terror victims, in this report, it becomes clear that both Hindus and Muslims have been victims of this violence and anybody who refused to submit to the designs of separatist forces have been subjected to this violence.

In the Poonch district, around 200 families lived in the villages of Khanetar, Dalhera, Banchh but due to repeated terrorist attacks and selective assaults on the houses and shops of Hindus close to 150 families have now migrated out to other regions of Jammu. The state administration is yet to provide any security to the remaining Hindu families such that they too do not migrate from these border villages.

In fact, Justice Kokje’s report lists several such cases and incidents wherein the entire government machinery appears to be a mute spectator despite clinching evidence of terrorist activities.

“It is true that those who are affected should be adequately compensated and rehabilitated. But it is also important to see that large scale migration from the region is not encouraged and rehabilitation has to be ensured at the normal place of the victim and not at a faraway place. If we do not restore the status-quo-ante and provide the victim a new place to live in and a new occupation to adopt, we are in a way fulfilling the desire of the terrorists to flush out the area of non-Muslims to achieve or retain Muslim majority in the area,” explained Justice Kokje’s report.

So the set of problems and their complexity suggest that the solutions are not going to be easier if we expect our "elite-five-star-activists" to solve them. Instead, a resolute attempt has to be made by the nationalist forces that would help create awareness about Jammu region across the country and shape public opinion. Here’s a list of five set of measures that can be implemented at the earliest.

First, whenever there are talks about “Kashmir”, remind those moulding the discussion that it is the state of “Jammu Kashmir” rather than only the Kashmir valley. The Kashmir valley is one of the regions of Jammu Kashmir as is Jammu, and this is a historical and geographical fact.

Second, the terror victims of Jammu need our help and not blank sympathies. These brave people live in the hilly areas of Jammu and have been holding their forte despite Pakistan-promoted terrorist activities. The area should be declared as “Terrorism Affected Area”. These people are suffering from the last 10 years. They had to leave their homes with their livestocks. They could not do farming. They were either forced to sell their land or illegally occupied by some influential people. School remained off for long period , this affected futue of their children very badly. A strong public opinion must be built across the country such that government takes active initiatives to develop robust employment opportunities across the Jammu region affected due to terrorism.

Third, there is an urgent need to clearly spell out the definition of “migrant” and “displaced” persons. Many hapless individuals who were forced to migrate to a safer location due to violent terrorist activities remain in the lurch without any help from the government. Compensation at flat rates or symbolic gestures aimed at scoring political brownie points does not allay the fears of either the migrant or displaced individuals and a clear cut policy should be provided by the government such that need-based adequate compensation should be provided.

Justice Kokje in his report has also mentioned that the aim and objective of all rehabilitation work must be to put back and reinstate the victim or the displaced person in the same position and at the same place where he was before being disturbed by the terrorist activity. Demand of appointing Separate Relief Commissioner to look after the problems of affected people is valid. Government even failed to have an authentic number of victims of terrorism in Jammu region. No data of disabled persons and widows are there in the public domain. Rehabilitation of terror migrants is a multidimensional process. There will be various dimensions such as social, psychological and financial. A well thought out developmental plan must be devised which will not only provide immediate relief in terms of financial help and create conducive atmosphere for employment or income generation activities.

Fourth, Village Defence Committees (VDC) and Special Police Officers therein should be equipped and further strengthened rather than emasculating them. Further, family members of Special Police Officers and other villagers who sacrificed their lives fighting with the terrorists should be provided monetary compensation and martyrs should be felicitated. This will encourage the nationalist forces and more and more people will fight with the terrorists.

Box Material- 1

1. Total affected persons- One Lakh

2. Total Districs- 8

3. Doda, Ramban, Raeisi, Udhampur, KIshtwar, Rajouri, Poonch and kathua

In box-SRO-43 SRO 283 in the year 1991 and amended the same as SRO 43 in the year 1994 which provides for employment to one of members of the family of a person killed in militancy related incidents provided that the killed person was neither himself a militant nor was/is found to be involved in subversive activities.