For the past several years, Jammu and Kashmir has been plagued by the problem of Separatism. If one looks at the issue closely, it has been as lethal as terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, recent probes by the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate have clearly established the role of Separatists in fuelling terror and unrest in the Valley.

The case is famously known as the Kashmir terror funding case and the agencies have named the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba boss, Hafiz Saeed, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah among others. What is ironic is that these revelations were not new, but the truth was that they were never probed. Several officials who have worked in Kashmir blamed soft policies and appeasement for such a lacklustre approach.

Intelligence Bureau officials and security analysts tell MyNation that the money flowed in at a constant pace and these separatists had managed to both pocket as well as channelize funds to fuel subversive activities. It was in the later part of 2015 that the NIA and ED dug deeper into these cases and over the past couple of years dealt with the Separatists with an iron fist. One of the key reasons for the success was the free hand that the agencies got.

Have the Separatists been cornered?

Many top Separatists are in jail as the probe into the terror funding case is underway. There are however some Separatists who are still in the Valley, but in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 they have been largely silent. The question is, have they learnt their lesson and hence have quietened down?

IB officials say that, it is not yet time to look the other way where these Separatists are concerned. They need to be constantly monitored as most of them in the Valley are adopting a new strategy. They have not incited violence since Article 370 has been scrapped. Instead they are working on the ground and trying to radicalise the youth, officials say.

This is a worrying factor and urgent measures would need to be taken to prevent this, an official in New Delhi said. Over the past couple of weeks, their foot-soldiers have been tapping the youth and are indulging in large scale radicalisation. They have been telling the youth that the Indian government would betray them and hence they need to be prepared to undertake a larger war. While officials have already put in place, counter-radicalisation measures, it is still a big task to bring this problem under control.

The Separatists are aware that any attempt to incite violence now will be crushed in no time by the Armed Forces and hence they have devised this new strategy. The cadre of the Jamaat-e-Islami is actively part of this campaign. While many top Separatists are behind bars, one must not forget that the wily old dangerous Separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani is still in Kashmir.

Further, the agencies have also signalled that foreign terrorists are no longer moving towards the South of Kashmir, which has been their stronghold. They have been advised by the Separatists to spread across J&K and tap youth and radicalise them.

India has come a long way:

Officials point out that the battle against terrorists has been a long one. Although these cases were old, we were starting from scratch an NIA officer part of the probe informed. The likes of Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Masarat Alam, Asiya Andrabi and former MLA, Abdul Rashid Sheikh alias Engineer Rashid have had a free run.

After the Modi government came to power for the first time in 2014, the policy was clear and there shall be no appeasing these Separatists. It has been tried and tested and it has failed, top officials who briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said. It was decided that the Separatists would be spoken with only if they decided to do so within the framework of the Indian Constitution. However, the most important thing was to hit them where it hurts and that would be to squeeze their fund flow.

The NIA has conducted a series of searches and has seized cash and several other incriminating material. After registering the case in 2017, it has filed a chargesheet. A more recent supplementary chargesheet speaks about the nine locations that were searched in Kashmir. During this operation, the NIA seized 400 electronic devices along with 85 incriminating documents, which became the basis of the evidence against the accused persons.

The NIA says that every Separatist in the Valley played a big role in fomenting terror in the Valley. They had hatched a conspiracy to get youth on the streets and protest, pelt stones and cause a large-scale economic shut down. The money that was pumped in from Pakistan through Saudi Arabia was used to fund terrorists and also violence on the streets.

The NIA also recovered electronic evidence during the searches. There are videos showing the likes of Malik and Shah exhorting the general public of Kashmir to carry out illegal acts and also calling upon the people to support terrorists. The NIA has yet again stated that Yasin Malik had been receiving funds through hawala channels to cause unrest and fund terror in J&K. Further the NIA also pointed out that the Pakistan High Commission had played a very crucial role in arranging and also channelizing funds to the Separatists.

Pakistan and the Separatists:

Officials say that a close eye must be kept on the Separatists. Although they may be down and cornered owing to a muscle policy, they continue to be a tool for foreign powers. Pakistan will continue to offer them sops through which they will get the local Kashmir on the street, while continuing to educate their children abroad.

The Indian Government has no plans of going soft on the Separatists. To counter them, the probes into their financial irregularities will continue unabated. The NIA says that the cases will go to trial and a conviction will be obtained. This would send across strong signals that this government is serious about ending the menace.

One official says that the backs of many have broken after their funds were choked. They are currently looking for redemption and importance and hence are quietly working on the ground towards widespread radicalisation. The government on the other hand is trying to ensure that the youth do not get swayed by this and the best way to go about it is to bring them to the mainstream.

The long and short of it is that the Separatists currently have their backs to the wall and tail between their legs. However, with Pakistan around and the Separatists looking for relevance, it is not yet time to take their eyes off them.