Tuesday, June 27, 2017
 
 News Details
Wake-up, Kashmir is slipping into 90s!
Straight Talk

By K B Jandial


All is not well in Kashmir. Everything is going wrong way for quite some time and the Governments, both at the State and the Centre are losing the plot. The situation is deteriorating on daily basis and the political and security brains of the country are unable to come up with a clear cut strategy to check the growing violence, including militancy in Kashmir and causalities on LoC. The Central Govt has gone into huddle with top serving and retired security officers and experts including Governor N N Vohra, camping at Delhi for a week giving rise to all sorts of speculations. For the first time, a strategy on Kashmir is being formulated, even though a much delayed exercise. It comes close to the heal of Central Govt informing the Supreme Court on Kashmir Bar Association’s PIL that it is averse to dialogue with separatists who want ‘azadi’ from India Mehbooba’s persistent appeals for dialogue with all stakeholders including Hurriyat notwithstanding. Mehbooba has more formidable task than faced by any of her political predecessors. Her political nerves are on test people questioning is she equal to the task?



Pakistan’s barbaric act of beheading two slain Indian soldiers in Krishna Ghati area of Poonch sector on 1st May has further compounded the challenges for Modi and Mehbooba Govts. Such repeated horrendous acts have soured Indo-Pak relations with outraged Indian nation disapproving any soft option on Pakistan or Kashmir for Modi Govt. This was the fourth such inhuman and unsoldierly act of Pak army in close coordination with its Border Action Team. First such ghastly act was committed in June 2008 when an Indian soldier’s body was found beheaded in Kel sector followed by mutilation of bodies of two soldiers in January 8, 2013 in Mankot sector of Poonch, mutilation of one soldier on October 28, 2016 in Machhil sector and again of another soldier in Machhil sector on November 22, 2016.



The public anger demands exemplary reaction to this horrendous act which would gradually drop with the passage of time as happened on similar ghastly acts in the past. India will definitely retaliate and avenge this crime, but will Pakistan’s rogue army stop repeating such acts in future? Absolutely not! Then will India live with it?
All Indian initiatives for building friendly ties between two neigbhour were stone-walled by Pak army which actually controls Pakistan’s India policy. Vajpayee’s Lahore’s visit was responded by Kargil war and Modi’s surprised landing at Lahore on 25 December, 2015 to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and also to bless his granddaughter on her weekend marriage while returning from Kabul, too met with terror attack on Pathankot air base within a week ( 1 Jan ’16) of Lahore visit. Terror attacks continued: attack on CRPF convey at Frestbal, Pampore killing 8 jawans (25 June ’16), Uri army camp killing 16 army men (18Sept ’16), Langate (6 Oct. ’16), army establishment Nagrota killing 7 soldiers (29 Nov ’16) and RR camp Kupwara killing 3 soldiers (27 April ’17). Pak army is the real villain of peace and it will never allow any peace pact, much less resolving Kashmir issue.


With nation outraged over these dastardly acts peace initiative is not possible, chorus of talks with Pakistan of Mehbooba, Farooq Abdullah and Omar notwithstanding. So, the challenge is how to handle Pakistan’s rogue army.



On international level too, India didn’t get any word of support or even sympathy over this brazen violation of international covenants and treaties from any of the leading world power. On the other hand, first America and now Turkey advocated multilateral dialogue to solve K-issue with China too articulating similar views, having invested hugely in CPEC that passed through disputed territory of PoK. Things are not cheerful for India even though it continues to rely on its discourse: Pakistan is internationally isolated.
Within Kashmir, the virus of stone pelting is spreading all over in Kashmir’s spectrum, even affecting for the first time girl students who were hitherto unconnected with the unrest. Their pictures throwing stones on security forces have gone viral world over denting India’s image. Time appears to be slipping out of hand with Kashmir’s narrative changing from terrorists getting huge public support at their public burials of their “mujahidin” to public obstruction in completing anti-terrorists operations by throwing stones to rescue besieged terrorists to now demanding dead bodies of slain terrorists and getting killed in the resultant violence. The separatism has become belligerent, a challenge unfolding differently every day. Mufti’s policy of “battle of ideas” gave long rope to disruptionists and secessionists. South Kashmir is almost “liberated zone” with ill-advised suspension of anti-militancy operations in view of Anantnag LS by-poll and no party afford to conduct its political activity. That provided opportunity to militants to dominate the area.



For the first time since 1989, anti- India elements succeeded in obstructing the electoral process to the huge embarrassment of India. The Pak controlled elements have checkmated the State, Central Govts and Election authorities by instilling fear among the potential voters forcing cancelation of electoral process for Anantnag LS by-election. Advice to police officers against visiting their homes in South Kashmir is in fact admission that the situation is not in control. Comparatively peaceful districts of Badgam and Kupwara too have fallen to violence mold for the first time. Pakistan factor had remained active all through yet very successful elections were held many times since 1996. Threats and killing political leaders living in rural areas have added yet another frightening dimension to already challenging situation.



Shocking videos of 9th April that went viral one by one in post Srinagar Lok Sabha by poll is quite intriguing. Was it a strategy to corner the security forces that hardly have support in the Valley, not even from the mainstream Kashmiri politicians including of ruling party whom they protect 24X7? While these videos, in a way, bolster Kashmiris feelings in their renewed “fight against Delhi” the Indian nation was outraged over it, especially the one that disgracefully show a CRPF jawan carrying EVM heckled and kicked by some youth while he and other 7 jawans kept walking with election material in their hands, picking up his helmet and weapons kicked on the grounds. Despite unseen humiliation, he and his armed colleagues maintained their utmost restraint and kept on walking toward the polling booth. Their restraint was rare and exemplary prevented sure bloodshed had he or other jawans opened fire but it boosted up the “azadi” elements in Kashmir. While it outraged the people across the country cursing the Govt’s policy of restraint there was no such feelings in Kashmir, in fact it was reverse. This sadly shows the increasing gap between the people of Kashmir and rest of India in their reaction to these unsavory developments.



Another sensitive , albeit controversial, video that displayed a Kashmir youth strapped to the bonnet of army jeep and seeking safe passage from 900 strong stone pelting mob. It created furore. While majority of people in India justified it by an army officer to escape from the violent mob but also prevented possible bloodshed. Though he succeeded in saving lives of poll staff and prevented bloodshed yet his action was not covered by rule book and became a target of criticism of human right activists and some of the army veterans. Another surprise leaked video show security personnel thrashing captured stone pelters and made them to say “Pakistan murdabad”. This too was distasteful. How come this video went viral having shot in area controlled by security personnel? Did it benefit security forces? A month later militants put out a video showing just opposite, lashing and tonsuring three. National media played it up scaring further those in Kashmir who still like to be India’s side. Who will advise the media not to run down the nation or its vital instruments just for TRP points?



Today, the fight is as much on the streets in the hinterland as on smart phones. This communication tool was not available in 90s. Unregulated and unauthenticated sensitive material in social media is said to be one major factor to spread violence in Kashmir. If so, why did the Govt wait so long to ban it only last week and that too, intriguingly, still remained in operation either directly or through the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) and other proxies. It means Govt is checkmated on this issue also. Has the administration done it half-heartedly? Why? You can’t fight the terrible situation in such casual manner.



Radicalization of youth is also continuing unabated in Kashmir with no visible sign for its reversal. Imams of many mosques are becoming willing instruments for anti-India campaign. Many times, call for obstructing anti-militancy operations come from mosques in many areas. ? Even more than 50 Pakistani and Saudi channels are being beamed to Kashmiri households and border areas in both Kashmir and Jammu regions through cable network without Govt clearance and these are stoking the fire of “azadi” and radicalisation. While over half a lakh private connections in Srinagar alone beaming these provocative material with impunity, the Govt and its all agencies are sleeping on such brazen violations.


Those who were tasked in 90s to check and reverse a much hopeless trend had succeeded in turning around the situation and brought back parliamentary democracy, are deeply concerned over the huge slide in the situation, wondering it has happened? This should be probed into to know if there were any lapses-unwittingly or intentionally, and take immediate corrective steps before it is too late.


The army, under pressure, undertook a massive cordon and search operation in militancy- infested 20 villages of Shopian district on 4th May 6, 2017, said to be first of its kind in last 15 years, involving 4000 soldiers of army, CRPF and local police men but without success. Either the information was deceitful or militants manage to escape.
Another twist in the situation is frequent looting of banks by cash-strapped militants. Since demonetization, there have been 9 cases of J&K bank dacoity in which currency valuing Rs. 48 lakhs were looted by the militants who are feeling cash crunch. The Govt has rightly stopped cash transactions in 40 branches of J&K Bank in vulnerable pockets of Shopian and Pulwama.



Obviously, the needle of suspicion would point towards the local administration in Kashmir which is alleged to be soft on militants and radicalisation. At national level, even some political parties have started accusing J&K Govt “of collaborating with terrorists.” Still, the situation is not as bad as 90s when “azadi” was believed to be round the corner while today, everyone knows for certain that it is not achievable spilling of blood of the youth notwithstanding. Then, why the Govt is unable to stem the rot? All those who are manning important positions today, have their strong political connections that explains non-enforcement of their accountability. Assuring PM of turnaround of Kashmir situation in three months, Mehbooba started her action by a major reshuffle transferring officers in Jammu while Kashmir administration remained untouched. Sounds strange! She tells everyone that Modi has the capability of doing it but how? The ground situation does not support any peace initiative.


What is the way forward on Kashmir? Is the status quo the only option? While militancy will have to be crushed without collateral damage, the youth needs to be handled properly. The police and security forces need not open more front by entering into campuses of colleges and schools. Local administration has to be activated to reach out students. Mind it; all stone throwers are not really students. Different spokespersons of different political parties on national TV debates invariably talk about the students’ grievances or issues but no one ask them what their grievances are? “Azadi” cannot be a grievance that can be negotiated.

It is Kashmir’s tragedy that the present generation is lucky for being the part of democratic India where at least constitution guarantees them fundamental rights which were nonexistent in the past including under Moghul and Afghan (Muslim) rule. Kashmiris were mercilessly crushed by the then rulers/ governors like Karim Dad Khan, Amir Khan, Kakad Khan, Jabbar Khan and Musa Raina, to name a few. The pages of history are replete with instances that how ruthlessly fellow Muslim rulers tackled the uprisings with iron fist in the valley. In comparison, the present dispensation does attempt in mollifying the fears of the public. Popular Indian channels are available to anti-India raucous almost every evening to the annoyance of the majority viewers. Is this freedom available in Pakistan or PoK? Be that so, all political parties and civil society must take initiative and end bloodshed and violence before any peace talk start. (feedback:[email protected])





(The writer is former Secretary Information, health, transport, CAPD departments and a member of Public Service Commission, feedback: [email protected])





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