A recent issue of weekly magazine, Outlook, carried an article on Kashmir by Dr. Ashish Nandy, whom the magazine refers to as “India’s foremost public intellectual and renowned political psychologist.” There is much that Ashish Nandy has accomplished over the years that certainly add to his achievements, though whether that qualifies him to be considered the “foremost” public intellectual within the country is a matter of debate.
…all the ongoing stone throwing that we witness is nothing but a poor copy of the Palestinian “Intifada”.
One thing one can be certain of though is that he has not added to his reputation with the piece in question (The State Can Only be a Goliath). Not only is his basic premise of comparing the Kashmir issue with the ongoing situation in Palestine wholly at odds with reality, but he is also completely erroneous in his understanding of the manner in which the Army has been employed there over the years and the conclusions he arrives at. Sadly, it is intellectuals of his heft, who play to the international gallery for their own selfish purposes, using arguments which are a mix of half- truths and outright falsehoods, and probably unaware that they are being played by separatist elements, who compound the existing problem.
Take the case of comparison of the Kashmir issue with the Palestinian problem. It is not a particularly novel concept given that Pakistan the OIC and Kashmiri Separatists have attempted to sell this very idea over decades, not just to impact intellectual discourse, but also in terms of the tactics employed. After all the ongoing stone throwing that we witness is nothing but a poor copy of the Palestinian “Intifada”. As a matter of fact if this issue is to be looked at in comparative terms then comparison between the Israeli situation in 1947 and the Kashmiri separatist position would not only be more accurate but appropriate as well.
In the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine the UN established an Israeli State occupying 55% of total Palestinian territory despite the fact that the Jewish population represented only about 30% of the total population, and owned under 7% of the land. By all accounts such a divison was completely unfair and can be considered to be the genesis of the Palestinian problem, though this issue does stretch further back to the Zionist movement of the 19th Century. The ensuing Arab- Israeli War of 1948 in fact resulted in 78% of all Palestinian territory being occupied by Israel, leading to 750,000 Palestinians being displaced. Interestingly, in the 19th Century the total Jewish population in Palestine was just 4% prior to the Zionist declaration demanding a Jewish homeland in Palestine. An action supported by the Imperial Powers subsequently, a Western outpost among the Arabs close to the oil fields.
The fact is that only five of J&K’s 22 Districts, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, Srinagar and Baramullah are affected by militancy.
In Jammu & Kashmir, leaving aside POK, on the other hand, those fighting for “Aazadi” and restricted to the Valley, whose cause Mr. Nandy and a host of other intellectuals so ardently support, actually occupy less than 15% of the territory of the State and are around 38% of the total population. This is borne out by the fact that 85000 sq. Kms of territory of the state does not have a Muslim majority and has never demanded Aazadi. The Kashmir Valley in fact is just 16000 sq. Kms in area, and of its population of 69 Lakhs only 55 Lakhs are Kashmiri speaking, which also includes a sizeable number of Shias, wh oare not in the least enamoured by “Aazadi” under a Sunni majority.The fact is that only five of J&K’s 22 Districts, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, Srinagar and Baramullah are affected by militancy.
So how isit either just or fair for a small fundamentalist minority to ride roughshod over the vast majority and hold them hostage through violence? Mr. Nandy too has had to perform some serious gymnastics to justify his support of a blatantly fundamentalist attempt to destroy our Nation’s secular structure, given his supposed championing of secular causes. While he can recall vague hearsay of how Kashmiris supposedly assisted our forces in 1948,he seems to be blissfully unaware of the rampaging mobs in the valley that targeted and murdered Pandits in January 1990 moving through towns and villages chanting slogans like “Agar Kashmir mein rehna hoga Allah-u-Akbar Kehna hoga”. Selective memory may have its uses, but hard truths cannot be wished away.
Mr. Nandy, as an academician, can probably be excused his ignorance of the subtle differences between an insurgency that is supported by the local population, and terrorism. He is correct in assuming that terrorism is difficult to eliminate. given the fact that it is ideological in nature and requires little support from the local population, especially if it is supported by countries inimical to the one impacted. For example, despite over two decades of the Northern Ireland problem being amicably resolved politically, factions of the Irish Republican Army continue to attempt to cause destruction and mayhem. We face similar issues from Khalistani factions in Punjab as well.
The fact is that even Burhan Wani could not have been eliminated without the assistance of those locals who abhor separatist ideology and tactics and gave the SF information as to his whereabouts.
Insurgencies on the other hand can be controlled and resolved through sustained counter insurgency operations and an equitable political solution. Mizoram and Punjab are examples of this approach that have yielded results. In Kashmir, the insurgency had come well under control by the mid 1990’s, however politicians baulked at putting in place political steps that would have led to a resolution of the situation. Thus, it is the political class that is responsible for the present situation and not actions of the Army, as Mr. Nandy suggests. In fact, between 1996 and the present as levels of violence receded the Army became more and more circumspect in its dealings with the local population. However, if the situation were to deteriorate, as Mr. Nandy suggests it will, then there should be little doubt in anybody’s mind that the Army and the Security Forces will once again initiate all necessary steps to deal with those who propagate violence. Unfortunately further bloodshed and mayhem is unlikely to help the local population achieve anything and will only adversely impact future generations.
With regard to Mr. Nandy’s perception regarding the Army’s popularity or otherwise. He could not be more wrong on this issue. A successful counter- insurgency can only be waged with the help and support of the local population. By all accounts the Army’s counter insurgency operation in all its facets has been extremely successful and continues to be so. The fact is that even Burhan Wani could not have been eliminated without the assistance of those locals who abhor separatist ideology and tactics and gave the SF information as to his whereabouts.
Finally, Mr. Nandy needs to comprehend a simple but unalterable fact that the Army is the nation’s last line of defence. It does not use non-lethal means to counter violence. Thus pellet guns and other such means remain with the Police and Central Armed Police Forces, who are working under extremely difficult circumstances. Pellet guns have extremely short ranges and are used by them as a means of last resort to control situations before more lethal means are used. The vast majority of those injured have brought this upon themselves with their own acts of violence and criminality and while age may be an excuse, it cannot be used to condone their actions or to blame the Police for doing their job.