If morbidity were a quality with which a comparative analysis could be made, statistics tend to show that CRPF deaths are higher in Maoist areas than in Kashmir. Even so, the total collapse of ‘normalcy’ in the Valley cannot offer any succor to security policy savants. Yes, ‘normalcy’ is a purely relative term here. Both are de facto combat zones and, as such, far away from any acceptable definition of normal. Both have underlying causative factors that are political in nature, which need policy attention if any long-term stability is sought. And viewing the situation purely through a security prism is perhaps what prolongs and even worsens the situation. Yet, the audacious ‘overgrounding’ of militants on view in Kashmir is a new tipping point.
Mass attendance at militant funerals has been a phenomenon that points to new trends—one, it shows the extent of popular disenchantment; and two, it also speaks of an increase in the number of local recruits. But at Qaimoh village in Kulgam the other day, alleged Lashkar militants joined the crowds after Hizbul militant Fayaz Ahmad was killed and gave their confrere a gun salute. Internal security must be integrated within a framework that also attends to political facts. It is no longer enough to throw an endless number of security personnel—who mostly come from poor, small-town or village India—to the killing fields as cannon fodder. Such popular obduracy, and such local hostility to security presence is not simply a security failure.
It’s the absence of a larger vision, a plan to win back minds. Deploying military phrases like ‘area domination’ becomes meaningless when judged against the absence of popular consent. It is an unprecedented situation in J&K and the Maoist zone. Militancy and extremism is not only posing a security threat. The idea of democracy itself—of people’s rule delivering what the people want—is being actively challenged. India’s democracy cannot succumb to a failure of the imagination.