August 12, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/Jammu & Kashmir
Governor G C Saxena

'Terrorism has spread to various parts of the state'

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Girish Chandera Saxena, now serving his second term in office, believes that militancy has spread to various parts of the state in the last six to seven years.

"When I was here in the early nineties, militancy was largely confined to the Kashmir Valley. Now it has spread to other parts of the state," he told's Onkar Singh in Srinagar.

The last time he was governor, he handled the situation directly, on a day-to-day basis, with the help of advisors. Now, with an elected government in charge, he is confined to listening to advice from Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and acting according to constitutional guidelines.

Gary Saxena, as he is popularly known in administrative circles, hopes that better sense will prevail and the Hizbul Mujahideen will return to the negotiating table. Excerpts from the interview:

What are the differences between your tenures as governor?

During my first tenure, militancy was largely confined to the Valley, though pockets of Doda district were affected. More then 90 per cent militants were local Kashmiris. And their movement was backed from across the border.

Now, there are more foreign terrorists. Local militants play a secondary role.

Militancy has also spread to Jammu division. Though, of course, the concentration of militancy continues to be focussed in the Valley. Trans-border terrorism has become a sort of proxy war. Insurgency has become a different kind of a game. It has spread to Doda, Poonch, Rajouri and pockets of Udhampur. This is the first big difference.

Earlier, there was a political vacuum. There was no political leadership active among the people. Cadres of various political parties chose to lie low. Now, there is an elected government and hence more political activity. That vacuum has been filled.

Is it because local militants have been forced to play a secondary role in militancy that Hizb chief Syed Salahudin tried his hand at peace negotiations with the Government of India?

That could have happened because the public mood is changing. That is why they welcomed restoration of the democratic process. People want to get out of this situation. They want to end violence and a return to normalcy. They want to resume economic activity. This is unmistakably a strong sentiment among people in Jammu and Kashmir. And everyone dealing with the problem has to be sensitive to it. The government has to be sensitive, besides the security forces. The political leadership, cutting across party-lines, has to be sensitive. Even militant groups have to be sensitive to it.

The Hizb chief may have been forced to talk to the government also because the attrition rate against militants has been very high in recent months. The going is getting tougher for them. They have lost many men. In May, they lost 140 men, while in June the security forces killed 180 terrorists. This is a very high rate and many of them may have been Hizb men. They were seeing no light at the end of the tunnel and hence they may have decided to go in for talks, to ease pressure the army was mounting day by day.

Did they gamble in holding talks, in a bid to buy time and reorganise themselves?

It does not appear that it was part of their game-plan. The militant groups have realised that they were being used for a foreign agenda. There was also a feeling that the establishment and the executive of Pakistan really did not care for them.

People in the Valley and Doda can fend for themselves. But the cadres in Kashmir look at it differently. They could not have done much. If that was the case, they should have prolonged the cease-fire. Hizb cadres in Kashmir think that their leadership in Pakistan was under pressure to call off the cease-fire. There is a possibility that the Hizb used this opportunity to move their arms.

Are you satisfied with operations by security agencies against militants in the state?

The operations against militants have always been improving, but it depends to a large extent on the changing ground level. The nature of challenge changes. Two sides are fighting a proxy war. If the militants use new tactics, you must refine your responses. You have to constantly think of your own tactics and strategies. You got to carry the fight into the enemy camp.

Overall, our responses have been correct, but there is always scope for improvement. For instance, when we overcame the peak of insurgency in early the nineties, they injected more foreign mercenaries. Even that was overcome. Then they thought of Kargil. Of course, they wanted to internationalise the Kashmir issue.

They also wanted to ensure that the army pulled out of Jammu so that more militants could cross over to India. We took care of the Kargil gamble and they suffered an unmistakable diplomatic and military debacle. Then they started resorting to suicidal attacks. The security forces started decimating them.

Then they come out with something new. This is a game that is not constant. But it is difficult to quantify the impact of army actions or follow a logical sequence.

Every year, the Amarnath yatris become a soft target for the militants. How is it that despite claims of tight security, they killed over 100 people in the state?

The militants did not strike in Pahalgam alone. They struck at seven places. It was a part of their diabolical game-plan. An inquiry is on about the shootout in Pahalgam. But most probably it was a suicidal attack by two militants who were gunned down by the security forces within minutes.

Before they were killed, they went down the road, spraying bullets on both sides.

They could have been intercepted earlier, but since they were operating in a township, they managed to slip away for sometime before they were gunned down.

It is not easy to make security arrangements for the yatra, that begins from Jammu, comes to Pahalgam and goes on to Chandanwari, Seshnag, to the cave. Earlier, they tried to disrupt the yatra by laying mines. But the mines were detected in time.

In Pahalgam, there was a sort of mela situation. The terrorists managed to mingle with the yatris and hoodwink the security forces. They may have reached there two to three days before. They may have smuggled in the arms much before the day of the incident. It is a big challenge to make security arrangements for such an event. We have managed to contain the damage and thereafter the security cordon was tightened to ensure no harm to the yatris.

There has been no report of any militant trying to disrupt the yatra after August 2.

Talks have broken down and the Hizb refused to extend the cease-fire deadline. Will better sense prevail and the Hizb chief return to the negotiating table?

Nothing can be predicted. But some sections of the Hizb cadres are willing to continue talks.

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