“Modi government’s ‘free hand’ to the army helping contain terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir” claimed the infographic shared on the day of the terror attack on Amarnath Yatra by Amit Malviya, in-charge of the BJP IT cell. The accompanying graph showed an increasing number of terrorists killed since 2012. The first thought that crosses the mind on seeing this graph is why is it showing a comparison only since 2012. Why not a longer period? Why not the full UPA term? Is there an attempt to ‘window-dress’ the data? Experience with data put out by BJP shows that it probably is, but let us give them the benefit of doubt and check it out.

Here is the infographic tweeted by Malviya:

The same claim was also made in a Times of India article a few days earlier. “As counter-terror forces mount offensive against terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir, the gains are starting to show,” claimed the article. An unnamed source also told Times of India, “the forces have been given a free hand to track and intercept terrorists holed up in the valley, before launching .intelligence-based operations with due mapping of the target and how to neuteralise terrorists with minimum collateral damage.” There is a striking similarity in the argument made here and Malviya’s subsequent tweet and infographic. Times of India shared a detailed infographic, using data only since 2012. Surely the team that put together this infographic had access to the complete ‘satp’ data. The same story was also carried by Times Now and Zee News claiming Indian Army’s counter terror offensive yielding good results.

The full picture

The data shared in the infographic is sourced from ‘satp’ which is the South Asia Terrorism Portal. We decided to check the original source to verify the claim.

The data presented in the infographic is accurate but as expected, the years have been carefully selected in favor of BJP. If we take a longer view to include UPA-II as well, the picture changes completely. Terrorist fatalities were much higher in 2009-10 period which has not been shown in the BJP graph.

Terrorist Fatalities in J&K

If we cover the UPA-I term as well, the number of terrorists killed peaks in 2005 at 1000 and then declines in line with the decline in total deaths (including civilian and security forces) due to terrorist violence during UPA-II. The deaths in terrorism related violence picks up again in 2016.

Number of terrorists killed is only one part of the story. Let us also look at the number of security forces killed during this period.

Security Forces fatalities in J&K

It turns out that the year 2016 had the highest security forces fatalities since UPA-II. 2017 also doesn’t look good as till July 16th, already 40 security forces have been killed which is higher than the full year fatalities in some of the previous years. There is not much evidence of the success claimed in the Times of India article due to “seamless coordination between the Army, central forces, state government and intelligence agencies.”

The number of civilian casualties in 2017 are also of concern. At 38, the number of civilian deaths till July 16th, 2017 has already crossed the full year figures for previous years since 2010.

Civilian fatalities in J&K

Concerns have been raised about BJP’s handling of the Kashmir situation. It had earlier made claims of demonetization breaking the backbone of terrorism and now after recent attack on Amarnath Yatra, it is presenting incomplete data set to show success in countering terrorism. It is understandable if BJP attempts to project itself in a positive light but it is disturbing to find national media also doing the same. A narrative of “free-hand” to the Army is being built. It is not clear what it means and how it is different from the past. The numbers however do not point to a roaring success that is being claimed in the infographics that have been circulated.

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