On June 12, 2019, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik asked terrorists to give up arms and invited them to hold talks, saying dialogue is the only way through which they can get what they want within ambit of the Constitution. He also said India cannot be made to bow through violence and the problem of militancy exists in Kashmir not only due to unemployment among youth, but also because politicians have been misleading the people for the past several decades. Malik exhorted the militants to drop their guns and come have lunch with him in Raj Bhawan. He also added, “In every insurgency, there comes a time when fatigue sets in. That time has come in Kashmir.” This last bit of fatigue having set in was sure to invite reaction from the terrorists and their supporters, and this is precisely what is happening in the Valley.
What followed was the encounter in Anantnag and the IED bombing of an Army convoy in Pulwama. Reports about the casualties, as usual, had many versions through TV channels, newspapers and social media. The figures continue to wary from one officer, two jawans and two civilians killed. Other news reports say two officers killed and 23 jawans injured, besides some more killed etc. Figures wary because among those reported injured, some are grievously injured, who succumb to their injuries soon after, en-route to hospital or after being admitted to medical facilities.
Pakistan claims its ISI is sharing intelligence with India about likely terrorist attacks in Kashmir, citing warning of a likely bombing in Awantipora in South Kashmir was shared through an anonymous call to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. But if there was any real intention of intelligence sharing, why an anonymous call, why not an official communication, and what about details of who is planning the strike? It should be quite clear that with the present state of the Pakistani military smarting under international focus for generating terrorism, with India as the vanguard, any so called intelligence sharing would be subterfuge. In fact, these could be to lead Indian security forces into a well-planned ambush to draw more blood.
Interestingly, the abovementioned anonymous phone call warning of a purported terrorist strike in Awantipora, was also conveyed through anonymous phone calls to diplomatic missions of other foreign countries, including the US Embassy, in Islamabad. Wonder if the ISI overshot its charade of sharing intelligence by making calls to diplomatic missions of other countries? With Pakistan failing to meet the FATF watch list, is the intelligence sharing drama being enacted to show intention of curbing terror? Besides, with the US seeking Pakistan to help bring Taliban into reconciliation, enough CIA-ISI channels exist to pass on such information to the US, if not directly to R&AW.
Despite Imran Khan’s repeated cries for talks, it is clear that he is sitting in the military’s lap with a lollipop supplied by Beijing. The military commands Pakistan completely. No one crossing the line, not even through criticism is spared. A recent example of this is Muhammad Bilal Khan, 22-year-old Pakistani blogger-journalist hacked to death on June 17, 2019, due to his criticism of the Pakistani army and the ISI. The power of the Pakistani military can be gauged from the fact that Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed replaced Lieutenant General Asim Munir as DG ISI, overnight in a sudden move, cutting short the latter’s tenure.
Presently, the Pakistani army is going after politicians who some day may emerge as power blocs. Their relatives are also being rounded up. Whether Imran Khan’s neck will also be on the block eventually may depend on his pliability. But things may come to a head if Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistani army chief, does not want to retire coming November when his tenure gets over. Relevant to India is the fact that the Pakistani army continues to nurture pathological hatred towards India, and given the radicalization that was permitted to flourish over past years in J&K because India’s lack of cohesive policy, there are enough indigenous youth ready to dance to the ISI tune.
Satya Pal Malik has rightly pointed out that terrorism in J&K is also continuing because politicians have been misleading the people for the past several decades. But the question is how we are dealing with these politicians, including top level like Mehbooba Mufti whose sympathies lie clearly across the border? Where is our strategy of ‘sam, dam, dand, bhed’? Is arresting Yasin Malik (JKLF), Asiya Andrabi (Duktaran-e-Milat), Shabir Shah (JKDFP) and Masrat Alam (Muslim League) in a 2017 terror funding case enough? Given the state of our judicial processes, how long it would it take to prosecute and convict them (if at all), and what would be the conviction? Are we not ashamed as a nation that Yasin Malik was never convicted for murder despite him boasting to Tim Sebastian on ‘Hard Talk’, BBC years back that he had killed four IAF personnel?
Governor’s rule has been extended in J&K by six months. There is full-page coverage in national dailies titled ‘Jammu and Kashmir New Vision New Horizon – Towards Socio-Economic Transformation’, listing out a slew of measures; all in all 23 comprising more reservations, financial relief and doles, housing, child and women development and protection, more schools, trusts, boards, committees etc. This vision also talks of “Action plan formulated to expand avenues of employment, livelihood and education for youth”. In the overall plan, establishment of ‘Nine Eklavya Model Residential Schools for Tribal Youth’ is mentioned, but who will explain to the gun-wielding youth what avenues of employment and livelihood (in terms of numbers) are planned at education of non-tribals?
Is publishing the above mentioned action plan in newspapers enough? Who will take the details of the plans to increase avenues of employment and livelihood, and education of non-tribals by word of mouth – how the roll-on plan would be executed? The Valley politicians never reached out to the public other than during elections. But with Governor’s rule, is there a plan for the state-level administrators to contact and address the youth directly? Surely, invitation for lunch by the Governor cannot suffice, especially with underhand links with terrorists, the politicians are bent upon showing the Governor and the Centre in poor light; playing to Pakistan’s plot to ‘keep the pot boiling’.
But the most important question is whether the abovementioned action plan comprises the ‘total’ government response? What is the de-radicalization plan of the Centre and the Governor? De-radicalization plans have to be specific and dynamic, addressing different sections of society, for example, clerics, teachers, women and the like. Such plans must also be periodically reviewed to keep pace with the radicalization, generated internally and from across the border. Leaving this vital issue to security forces with schemes like ‘Sadbhavna’ is inadequate and amounts to shirking responsibility by the politicians and bureaucrats. The need for de-radicalization in madrassas and ‘schools’ must be addressed speedily, and ‘hate’ education in the Valley stamped out (http://www.spsmai.com/experts-speak/?id=702&q=The-Education-Radicalisation-Connect).
From the above it should be clear that a more holistic approach for J&K is warranted, particularly in the radicalized districts of the Valley, over above the noises about removal of Articles 35A and 370. Unless we do this, casualties amongst security forces will keep mounting. Media hype like “Pulwama Mastermind Killed” is justified, but it hardly compensates for corresponding casualties the bomber or terrorist (s) are causing. Finally, it must be understood that insurgencies don’t end overnight and certainly no fatigue has set in the Kashmir terrorism in the instant case, with Pakistan lighting the fuze.
Finally, loud-mouthing has always attracted violent reaction from terrorists-militants-insurgents, whether in J&K or in the Maoist belt. We could desist from such sloganeering even as the proponents themselves are surrounded by layers of security and their wards don’t join security forces. Successive Union Home Ministers have bragged that the Maoists problem will be over in next two-three years, but the recent demonstration by 10,000 armed tribals in Chhattisgarh against more mining indicate the ground reality vis-à-vis rhetoric.