As Complex As Kupwara
Politically Vibrant District, People Against Violence, Efforts By Pakistan Handlers To Vitiate Atmosphere
How will you describe the frontier district of Kupwara in North Kashmir? A holistic look at the geographical entity of Kupwara gives us a very complex picture. Kupwara is politically perhaps a showcase district of Kashmir regarding electoral participation. Kupwara witnesses overwhelming participation of people in electoral politics, and is least affected by the boycott politics that has afflicted some other districts of Kashmir. A strange dichotomy is that as the lone frontier district, Kupwara witnessed record migration to the other side of Line of Control (LOC) during the early years of militancy.
On one hand Kupwara is the most peaceful district in Kashmir region. There is not a single local militant active in the area. At the same time, Kupwara is susceptible to influences because of the regular communication with people on the other side of the LOC through social media applications.
Deep Democratic Culture
In terms of people’s participation in governance, Kupwara has always played a remarkable role. By this account, the people of Kupwara are aligned with the democratic culture of the country. A close study may reveal that on the democratic deep roots, Kupwara may even be better than many parts of the country.
But Kupwara also has the most volatile sectors of Karnah, Machil and Tanghdar, which at times witness infiltration attempts by terrorists backed by Pakistan army. On account of these infiltration attempts and activities by the terrorists pushed in by Pakistan, Kupwara occasionally turns into a battlefield.
Cordial Relationship With Security Forces
Kupwara is the one district where the people enjoy a very cordial relationship with the security forces. The interdependence of the security forces and the people on each other is vital. That is why the Army initiatives here are seen as people friendly, and there is public cooperation with the Army operations here. The mutual dependence and respect has registered a very positive influence on the people of Kupwara.
At the same time, the attempts to influence or corrupt the locals by the terror handlers from across the border continue. Pakistan stays engaged in carrying out activities for facilitating weapons and drug smuggling in the Kupwara sector.
Strong, Well Knit Panchayati Raj System
Kupwara has a strong and well knit Panchayati Raj system in place. Gram Panchayats are vibrant. There are around 10,000 elected public representatives including Panches, Sarpanches, BDCs and DDCs working day and night to improve and upgrade the socio-economic infrastructure in the district.
Simultaneously, there are undercurrents that are not aligned with the peace and progress initiatives. Hence, one often witnesses overt and covert attempts by the strategic assets of Pakistan to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
People are undeniably against violence, as they have witnessed enough of it in the past. Whatever the political scenario, the people of Kupwara exhibit no interest in going against the system. Rather, endorsement to the government decisions always comes first from Kupwara district. Pakistan, the hostile neighbour, is always in search of opportunities to vitiate the atmosphere.
A peace loving populace and a determined administration seem to be resolute in making this frontier district a hub of socio-economic activities. There are challenges but there is collective will of the people for a better future. The district administration is capitalizing on the goodwill of the people.
People Want Peace, Harmony And Development; SSP Kupwara Yougal Manhas
Senior Superintendent of Police Kupwara district Mr Yougal Manhas, KPS, in an exclusive interview to Kashmir Central said that the district faces challenges since it is a frontier belt. “What is fascinating is the resolve of the people to contribute towards peace and harmony. Even former militants are publicly denouncing violence. People of this district have seen a lot of turbulence in the past. There is realization that the violence is self-destructive,” Manhas told Kashmir Central.
The SSP said that there is complete unanimity of the thought processes in Kupwara. People are fed up with the militancy and border skirmishes. They want peace at all costs. The DC added that there is a fringe which is under the influence of terrorists from across the border, and is constantly on the lookout to foment trouble.
Terror Modules Try To Influence Some Youngsters
“The terror modules from across the border try to exploit two things. One, people in large numbers have migrated to that side of LOC during the early phase of militancy. Many of them have settled there, they have families there. Many have returned here with families. They have communication channels. They keep talking to their relatives on this side and sometimes try to influence them to be in the business of weapon and drug smuggling,” Manhas said.
He added that the police recently arrested a woman who was involved in the smuggling of drugs and weapons at the behest of her relatives from across the border. The woman belongs to Lolab valley. “Interestingly, six of her family members were already arrested on charges of weapon and drug smuggling,” informed Manhas.
Social Media Abuse
Social media also plays a role in radicalization and indoctrination. “People from across the border use social media platforms vociferously to indoctrinate and influence the young minds on our side. The common pattern adopted by the handlers from across the border is that they send friend requests on Facebook to amenable users on this side. They exchange messages, share Whatsapp numbers and then task them with certain unlawful activities,” stated the SSP.
Talking about a recent incident, the SSP said that a youngster in a mosque all of a sudden started waving the Pakistan flag. “Police got into action and arrested the boy. During interrogation, the boy narrated that he got a friend request from an anonymous Facebook user and got in touch with him on messenger. The handler gradually influenced him and finally tasked him to create a scene in the mosque by waving the Pakistan flag.”
Those who have returned from Pakistan under the controversial surrender policy have got families from POK with them. In Kupwara district there are 76 Pakistani women who are married to the locals. They have relatives in POK and they keep in touch with them. In certain cases, the Pakistani handlers try to involve these women in the terror and narcotics network, or at least involve them in sharing sensitive information.
Disillusionment Of People With Violence
“These are the challenges. But at the same time there is complete disillusionment of the people with violence. That is why terror handlers from across the border have not been able to create terror structures in the district despite their desperation to do so,” Manhas told Kashmir Central.
The SSP informed that there is not even a single local active militant in the district as on date. Human and technical surveillance is good. “The people have stakes in strengthening the human surveillance,” Manhas said. He added that people are so invested in building peace and harmony that they themselves will choose to pounce upon the terrorists and will not leave them.”
On police-public partnership, SSP Kupwara said that the police have started Thana Devas on the analogy of Block Devas in the entire district. “Thana Devas is observed on weekly basis. People in large numbers participate in these events for immediate reddresal of their issues,” Manhas told Kashmir Central. He said that the overwhelming response of the people to the initiatives is fascinating. “We have ensured greater interaction between the police and the local people,” SSP Kupwara said.
Domestic Violence On The Rise
The SSP expressed his concern over the growing incidents of domestic violence. He said that the cases of domestic violence are on rise, which is a disturbing trend. The SSP said that incidence is now so high, and the cases are being highlighted by those involved in such large numbers that the Station House Officer (SHO) of Women Police Station Kupwara cannot find time to relax. “Her police station always remains over crowded. However, she is very passionate and hardworking and never complains about the heavy burden she faces,” said the SSP.
Regarding drug peddling, SSP Kupwara said that there are desperate attempts from across the border to pump in as much narcotics to this side as they can. Definitely, they are able to achieve this with local support only. Some locals are involved in narcotics smuggling. “A total of 76 people have been arrested during this year including four women drug peddlers. We have been able to crack the drug peddling modules,” said SSP Kupwara.
Manhas added that according to an unofficial survey, there are around 900 drug abusers in the district. However, the numbers could be more. The SSP said that there are coordinated efforts from the police and the civil society to isolate the drug abusers and rehabilitate them.
On the question of infiltration, SSP Kupwara said that going by the statistics, there were least infiltration attempts during this year from Keran, Machil and Tanghdar sectors. Intelligence agencies keep cautioning, and the level of infiltration has considerably gone down. “It seems that currently Pakistani army is not that active on dispatching terrorists to this side,” Yougal Manhas said. There is a lull but we are vigilant and cannot take any chances,” SSP Kupwara added.