Recently a report by J&K police regarding militancy makes an interesting read. The report traces the life cycle of a local militant in four stages. The first stage is where the youngster feels “disillusionment with the status quo, lack of opportunity and no space for dissent”. In the next stage, he “turns to religion in search of solace, tries to be with like-minded people and distances from family”. The third stage is when he “feels the need and responsibility to change the status quo, even with force, contacts militant groups and joins”. The final stage, the report says, is the “vicious circle” when he (the militant) “gets killed, is turned into a martyr by stakeholders, becomes a hero for other disillusioned youth, completing the circle”. But in the end the report comes to an astonishing conclusion that the militant is nor driven by ideology.
Insurgency is like an amoeba, it changes shape and size over time. Thus any kind of ‘template’ or SOP to tackle the problem is a non-starter.
This is an atypical example of correct data but wrong interpretation. The youth in the valley today is driven by ideology of militant Islam that sees ‘Nizam e Mustafa’ or Shariyat rule as the ultimate goal. The Kashmir conflict that began as a cry for ‘Azadi’ (freedom) has indeed come a long way.
Insurgency is like an amoeba, it changes shape and size over time. Thus any kind of ‘template’ or SOP (standard operating procedure) to tackle the problem is a non-starter. It is also a truism that the role of armed forces in counterinsurgency is that of an ‘enabler’ and they cannot provide a solution by themselves. This needs reiteration, especially on military forum, so that it is clearly understood. An insurgency may start as a protest movement against election rigging and then turn to secession and finally a religio-politico demand like establishment of kingdom of God. Kashmir insurgency has gone through precisely these phases. The reason to clearly understand the current shape of ‘Amoeba,’ is that it is necessary precondition to make suitable changes in policy, strategy and tactics.
Currently the major actors in this drama are the political leadership at the central and state level, armed forces, civil bureaucracy, intelligence agencies and sundry political operatives (of both the ruling and opposition variety). Parachuted academics (mainly from Delhi or self-styled ‘eminent intellectuals’) and human rights NGOs provide an occasional comic relief, in an otherwise grim narrative. There is a perceptible lack of institutional memory and the result is reinvention of wheel approach several times over. Some sort of continuity was thought to be achieved by the NSAB (national security advisory board) and NSC (National Security Council) secretariat, but from publicly available evidence, these appear to be subordinate to crisis managers.
Reorganization of the state of J&K faces a major hurdle due to its internationalization by us on 1 January 1948 when we took our complaint of Pakistani aggression to the UN.
It was sometime in Aug 1991, the author accompanied troops (as an observer since I was already retired) during a cordon and search operation at Sangrama near Sopore. There I interacted with the villagers gathered in an open space, while the army carried out the search of the village. On being asked as to what the Kashmiris wanted, the unanimous answer was ‘Azaadi’ or freedom. When further queried on the subject as to meaning of Azaadi, most were confused. When asked whether they had freedom of speech, movement, faith, the answer was a reluctant yes. Then a school teacher amongst them came forward to say that by Azaadi they meant no army presence and no cordon and searches! In counter insurgency parlance, the conflict at that stage was a ‘realist’ one, with tangible material demands for autonomy and freedom from army operations.
In my many travels through the entire state of J&K in the 1990s, one also came across rural poverty that led to many to take up jobs like ferrying ammunition from across the line of control for a princely sum of Rs. 200 per trip. Much water has flowed down the Jhelum in all these years and J&K has seen poverty decline to barely 6% of total population, the least in the country. Economic rationale for insurgency no longer exists, yet in the popular narrative it is still regarded as the main driver of violence. The current spate of economic packages and goodies being given by the Central Govt. is like treating a Cancer patient with drugs for TB! No wonder it does not seem to work.
Many analysts are coming to a conclusion that Kashmir problem is purely political in nature and needs a political solution. If one looks at the wider national canvas, one realizes that one measure that has held a diverse India together is the accommodation of local or regional nationalism. Classic example is to be found in Tamilnad. Indian states enjoy sufficient autonomy to further cultural and social urges of the population. Linguistic based re-organisation of the states of erstwhile Princely States has played a major role in this. The state of J&K is one of the few exceptions to this rule. It is the only state where three major linguistic groups, Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladaakhi are tied together in an unholy alliance.
It is time to correct the historical wrong and assert de-jure that Kashmir is an internal problem of India…
Reorganization of the state of J&K faces a major hurdle due to its internationalization by us on 1 January 1948 when we took our complaint of Pakistani aggression to the UN. It is time to correct the mistake made by Mr. Nehru and withdraw our complaint from the UN forum. This will serve a twin purpose of shutting out Pakistan from any discussion on Kashmir issue and also serve as a stark reminder to the Kashmiri separatists that J&K is part of India and will remain so for ever. This single act will send a more powerful message than many assertions or statements by the PM of India.
In the short term there will be turmoil in Kashmir and a reaction from Pakistan. Neither is beyond the capability of the Indian State. This will be the first step towards an eventual solution of Kashmir problem. Logically the time to take this step was at Simla in 1972, but for reasons best known to the then PM we shied away from it. It is time to correct the historical wrong and assert de-jure that Kashmir is an internal problem of India and neither the UN nor Pakistan have any business in interfering in our internal affairs.