With the killing of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s top Kashmir Commander, Abu Dujana, in an encounter with the security forces in the early hours of Aug 1, 2017, in Pulwama district of south Kashmir, the anti-militancy operations have scored a great success in eliminating the effective and influential leadership of Jihadis in Kashmir during this summer. Earlier, the neutralization of Burhan Wani, Junaid Mattoo and Abu Qasim had dealt a severe jolt to the command and control set-up of the militants in conducting synchronized operations in Kashmir.
…there was a competition between the mainstream politicians to cozy up to the Hurriyat leadership to gain some crucial votes. This served as oxygen to the separatists whose militant Tanzeems (organizations) were waiting…
It may be mentioned that most of the encounters which accounted for these top commanders and their accomplices have taken place in south Kashmir, where the militants seem to be feeling confident enough to operate with some degree of freedom. However, the same freedom seems to have induced a degree of complacency in the militants, resulting in their elimination, one by one.
It is not the first time that militants in Kashmir are on the back foot. In the early part of the first decade of the new millennium, the tide in Kashmir had turned favorably towards the security forces in its fight against militancy in the State. However, after the political process was resumed in the state, post re-establishment of semblance of normalcy, the situation again deteriorated as there was a competition between the mainstream politicians to cozy up to the Hurriyat leadership to gain some crucial votes. This served as oxygen to the separatists whose militant Tanzeems (organizations) were waiting in the wings for an opportune moment to make their presence felt. This ebb and flow in the Jihadi violence in the State needs some examination in depth.
Ever since the hurried and unscientific partition of the country in 1947, J&K has witnessed terrorism in one form or the other. The Maharaja’s reluctance to sign the instrument of accession in good time, British lack of trust in Nehru to protect its geo-political interests in this part of the world (post World War II), Sheikh Abdullah’s obsession with seeing himself emerge as the unchallenged chieftain of post-partition J&K, and Pakistan’s unwillingness to accept the fact of accession of the State to India, created a situation of permanent hostility between India and Pakistan ever since the British left our shores in Aug 1947.
India’s propensity for magnanimity, desire to project itself as a newly independent model state that respects some perceived norms of international conduct, rather than following pragmatic policies (strictly based on its own interests) , further resulted in reinforcing Pakistan’s belligerence towards India. To add to our woes, others, particularly Britain and the U.S. used this mutual hostility between India and Pakistan to serve their own ends at our cost. All these historical factors combined together, created a permanent state of uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir.
Overlooking some historical factors which hastened the end of Soviet Union, the Islamists in Pakistan saw the development as victory for Islam. They assessed that such victories could be replicated in Kashmir.
There has always been a pattern to Pakistan’s heightened belligerence. This has often coincided with India’s perceived weakening. In 1965, they launched the Mujahideen, following it up with thrust in Chhamb –Jaurian sector, because it felt that post-Nehru, India was considerably weakened, politically and militarily. But at that time Mujahedeen received no public support in Kashmir and were decimated thoroughly. Mujahedeen’s lack of success had also to do a lot with the absence of Islamic radicalism, which lay dormant in Kashmir at that time.
The decade between 1979 and 1989, saw events of far reaching significance taking place in the world. In 1989, Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan and the end of cold war hastened its break-up in 1991, resulting in a large number of countries (many of these Islamic) becoming independent. A decade earlier, the militant revival of Islam in Iran toppled the Shah of Iran; Germany got re-united; Romania, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and many other countries broke free from the influence/ control of the Soviet Union. Overlooking some historical factors which hastened the end of Soviet Union, the Islamists in Pakistan saw the development as victory for Islam. They assessed that such victories, particularly the Islamist victories in Afghanistan & Iran, could be replicated in Kashmir.
Having been chosen as the frontline state by U S and its allies for fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Pakistan was bestowed with all kinds of aid, particularly the huge quantities of sophisticated weaponry. Pakistan utilized the resources of the war to serve its own core interests; capturing Kashmir. To accomplish that objective, it diverted a part of this weaponry, first to creating an insurgency in Punjab as a test case, and thereafter, to Kashmir, as part of a well thought out and planned proxy war in Kashmir against India.
Such ‘political high’ in Pakistan, which defined its relationship with the U.S as a ‘Stalwart Ally’ coincided with the political ‘low’ in India. Internationally too, India found itself friendless; its external prop, the Soviet Union, had broken up; political instability in India, post -Mrs. Gandhi era, gave rise to fissiparous tendencies; two of the strongest leaders dealing with J&K, i.e. Mrs. Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah were no longer available. This emboldened Zia-Ul-Haque and his Islamist supporters to think that the time was opportune to grab Kashmir to fulfill their dream of accomplishing the ‘unfinished agenda of the partition’. The deteriorating political situation in the valley made their dream look even more realistic.
…neither Azadi was Pakistan’s aim nor was JKLF its preferred Tanzeem (organization).Therefore, it decided to change tack and brought in HuM and JeI.
Preparations to start an armed insurgency in Kashmir started in earnest under the direct supervision of Pakistan Army and its ISI, with a continuous flow of the Mujahideen cadres of Jamat-e-Islami to serve as foot soldiers.
Ham- handedness of our political class and the rigged state-elections of J&K in 1987, created wide-spread resentment in Kashmir. This served as a spark to ignite the fire. Thousands of Kashmiri youth crossed over to Pakistan to be trained in the camps that already existed in PoK, NWFP & Punjab. In the meantime, the ground situation in the valley had further deteriorated due to the political instability, corrupt and inefficient administration and mishandling by the Central Govt. India as usual, was caught off guard, but worse, allowed the matters to drift. The militancy in Kashmir started in 1989-90, as a direct result of Pakistan’s planned strategy of getting India involved in a proxy war, as fighting a conventional war against it (India) seemed unprofitable proposition to it.
Pakistan’s strategy of using JKLF, and the slogan of azadi to gain public support for insurgency in the initial stages of insurgency paid huge dividends. Common man identified himself with the Tehreek (Movement). This Phase, which lasted till 1992, saw insurgency spreading all over the valley, both in the rural and urban areas. Within a short span of three to four months, the administration was not only paralyzed but its every instrument of governance was subverted. Azadi became a junoon of young men of all hues; even of those belonging to some mainstream political parties. The newly arrived cadres from Pakistani training camps were thoroughly brain-washed, trained to kill, loot and plunder in the name of Jihad. On their return to Kashmir, they did what they were trained to do. In the first phase, they killed the members of the minority community (Kashmiri Hindus).Threatened with physical elimination or conversion or fleeing from Kashmir, most chose the last option.
Being the aborigines of the valley, they left behind thousands of years of history, culture, and ethos and last but not the least, huge properties, both movable and immovable. Next on the list were those from the majority community who were perceived to be pro-India and those who did not agree with their world-view. During this phase, JKLF continued to be in the good books of its masters across the LoC. However, neither Azadi was Pakistan’s aim nor was JKLF its preferred Tanzeem (organization).Therefore, it decided to change tack and brought in the Hizb-ul- Mujahideen (HuM), the militant wing of the Jammat- e- Islami (JeI). Their cadres were almost entirely indigenous and were ideologically suited for prolonged armed struggle, driven, as they were, by the Islamic concept of Jihad. More importantly, JeI always supported Kashmir’s accession with Pakistan.
Post 9/11, Kashmir got sucked into the vortex of international Islamic terror, thus overshadowing the basic causes that led to its commencement in the first place.
However, by 1993-94, it became clear to Pakistan that HM would not be able to deliver. Therefore, it now started pumping in its own nationals in large numbers. Task of preparing these appropriately trained cadres was given to Markaz-Dawa-wal –Irshad, whose Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT) had fought shoulder to shoulder with the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were a toughened lot, products of the Taliban School, who brought with them the extreme form of Wahabi Islam, religious intolerance and abominable cruelty. The worst manifestation of this religious intolerance was the burning down of Noor ud Din Wali’s Shrine at Tsrara-e- Sharief. Thereafter, the level of violence let loose by the LeT reached grotesque proportions. Thrusting of Wahabi Islam on Kashmiris and treating their local customs with scant respect resulted in large scale resentment and alienation of huge sections of local population from the Tehreek.
Between 1995 & 1998, Army scored great successes in the field, restoring some semblance of order, thus enabling the Central Government to hold Parliamentary elections in 1996. Between 1996 and 2000, insurgents were fighting with their backs to the wall and were on the run. Situation continued to improve thereafter.
Post 9/11, Kashmir got sucked into the vortex of international Islamic terror, thus overshadowing the basic causes that led to its commencement in the first place. Before 9/11, the world community had totally ignored India’s oft repeated pleas that terrorism needed to be curbed by concerted and combined efforts of the world community. But after this watershed event, India’s voice on Jihadi terrorism began to be heard in important capitals of the world, as Islamic terror took a heavy toll of people in many countries across the globe.
During the past few decades, the restored political process in J&K led to the short sighted politicians pandering to the separatist lobby, giving them another lease of life. Pakistan too upped the ante by pushing in more Jihadis into the Valley. To add to India’s woes, the radical Islam’s religious preachers succeeded in bringing the bulk of Kashmiri youth under their sway. Salafi/Wahabi Islam, which used to be confined to few pockets in the Valley, has now turned main stream. Despite a widely representative nature of the existing government in place in the State, the situation within the valley is far from satisfactory.
After the change of government in New Delhi in May 2014, India has used a different approach in dealing with the Kashmir issue, as compared to the one used by the earlier government.
India cannot ignore the strategic cooperation that Pakistan secured from China in many ways during the past three decades. The tight strategic embrace between China and Pakistan reflected in the development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the showpiece of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. A large part of this project passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, which will have a direct bearing on Kashmir imbroglio. China’s other actions against our interests, i.e., vetoing India’s membership of the NSG and declaring the Jaish- e- Mohammad Chief, Azhar Masood, as International terrorist by the United Nations, is a clear indicator of its desire to keep India engaged in low intensity conflict with some of our neighbors as a means of getting India bogged down strategically.
It is quite possible that China’s rigid stand on the Doklam stand-off with India has its roots in China’s desire to come to Pakistan’s rescue at a time when international pressure on it (Pakistan) is building up to stop its territory being used by numerous terrorist organizations to hit at Afghanistan and India.
After the change of government in New Delhi in May 2014, India has used a different approach in dealing with the Kashmir issue, as compared to the one used by the earlier government. On the one hand, it has restricted the freedom of action that the separatist leadership enjoyed during the past many decades and, on the other, it has closed their avenues of receiving funds, which mostly used to come through hawala channels. With greater success being registered by Indian security forces in preventing infiltration along the Line of Control, the operational freedom of the remaining jihadis in Kashmir is likely to be restricted considerably.
India must make use of this opportunity to create conducive environment for lasting peace in the Valley by launching a credible political initiative, while at the same time, giving no quarter to the armed jihadis.
One of the main reasons for continuation of militancy in Kahmir has been the inability of the Central Government, as also the State Government, to rein in the Hurriyat leadership politically. It is well known that Hurriyat receives huge funds from outside the country, as also from within, through hawala channels to finance its activities which directly help its armed cadres, stone pelters and its Over Ground Workers (OGWs).
Recent raids by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) have unearthed large volume of evidence which implicates the top Hurriyat leadership in the nefarious activity of receiving funds through illegal manner to keep Kashmir burning. It is hoped that this time the Government will go whole hog to nail those defying the country’s laws to create mayhem in Kashmir.
In the meanwhile, removal of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief on 28 July 2017, by Pakistan’s Supreme Court following the Panamagate revelations, is likely to have a salutary effect on the situation on the Line of Control. Pakistan is likely to remain occupied with its internal political turmoil and instability.
India must, therefore, make use of this opportunity to create conducive environment for lasting peace in the Valley by launching a credible political initiative, while at the same time, giving no quarter to the armed jihadis.