The Kashmir Valley has been on the boil for nearly three months now following the killing of Burhan Wani – a terrorist – by the security forces. Efforts by the ruling political parties at the Centre and the State as well as by various functionaries including Shri Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister and the All Party Delegation to the Valley have not helped to assuage the people’s hurt feelings. Quick fix solutions like clamping of curfew in affected areas, assurance of replacement of pellet guns by non lethal means of crowd control, induction of additional companies of security forces etc. have not helped. That Pakistan has been providing fuel to this smouldering fire of discontent is quite clear to all and sundry.
The Uri attack has been one of the worst since the insurgency broke out in J&K in 1989 and the most audacious one targeting the Army personnel.
The Establishment has been feeling helpless and groping in the dark to find some solution which can bring the situation under control. It hasn’t succeeded so far. In the meanwhile, number of casualties, many of them being children, resulting from the clashes between the locals and the security forces have been rising with each passing day.
As though the internal problem within the Valley was not grave enough, four terrorists heavily equipped with weapons and ammunition infiltrated from across the border in the Uri Sector and launched a lightning attack on an Administrative area of the Army, near the Uri Brigade Headquarters, in the wee hours of the morning of 18 Sep 2016 and killed 17 soldiers of two infantry battalions engaged in handing/taking over of operational responsibilities. More than two dozen soldiers were seriously injured with bullet and burn injuries, one of whom later died in the hospital.
The attack has been one of the worst since the insurgency broke out in J&K in 1989 and the most audacious one targeting the Army personnel.
The commando type modus operandi adopted by the terrorists and the type of ammunition used clearly establishes the complicity of the Pak Army in training and equipping the terrorists. An analysis of the entire operation launched by the terrorists indicates that they were surely assisted by some locals/insiders up to the point of attack. The maps captured, after the terrorists were eliminated, revealed that their plans were far more audacious and the casualties would have been far greater had they succeeded in their plans fully.
Media, including the social media, has been abuzz with advice to the Govt to avenge the killing of the soldiers immediately and with equal, if not with greater, ferocity. There are divergent views on whether it be termed a terrorist attack or a proxy attack by the Pakistan Army. The tempers of the entire nation have been boiling, helplessness of the common man is evident as he feels that the present Govt, like many others before it, would do nothing other than making noise and the whole incident would die a painful death after a few days, like it happened after the Pathankot incident and scores of them before that. Security in and around the sensitive installation will be tightened for a few days or weeks and we will all wait for the next strike to take place before the whole cycle is put into motion again.
Is it a law and order problem? Certainly not. If it was so, we would have certainly found some solution to it over last 27 years of its existence.
Let us, for a moment, keep the Uri incident aside and talk about the situation in the Kashmir Valley. The Central Govt has been maintaining that J & K has a democratically elected Govt in the state and it should deal with the law and order problem there as such. The opposition parties and the intelligentsia have been calling it a political problem, not a law and order problem, and goading the Govt to find a political solution to bring the situation to normal. Interestingly, the opposition, when it was in power, did not consider the Kashmir problem as political and was loathe to find a political solution to the vexed problem. It has, however, been generally agreed to by all that Pakistan has been waging a proxy war in Kashmir as part of its strategy of weakening India by the low cost option of supporting insurgency. Let us analyse what the problem actually is.
Is it a law and order problem? Certainly not. If it was so, we would have certainly found some solution to it over last 27 years of its existence. We have had law and order problems in other states of the Union (like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh to name a few) at different times and have solved them within a reasonable time frame. It is not the first time that the Kashmir Valley has erupted with violence and it is also not the worst violence of its kind since 1989. It is also not that Burhan Wani has been the tallest leader whose killing has evoked such wide-spread violence. It is also not the use of pellet guns which is being resented en-mass.
Pellet guns have been used in crowd control operations earlier also since 2010. It is just that the miscreants and their mentors have used the incident of Burhan Wani’s killing to raise passions and evoke violence over a longer period of time. They have found enough fuel in the issues to keep the flame of violence alive. There are enough CAPF and state police forces in J & K to deal with any law and order problem and the Centre can send more, if needed. After all it is an alliance partner of the ruling party in the state.
Is it a political problem? We will not go into the well known history of political journey of J & K State – jailing and exiling of Sheikh Abdulla, fighting of four wars, rigging of election in 1987 which became the catalyst for the Kashmir insurgency, appeasement of the terrorists by the PDP-INC Alliance Govt in the early 2000, release of the most dreaded terrorists in exchange for the daughter of the then Home Minister, enforcement of President’s rule at different times, coming together of PDP and BJP in 2014 – two ideologically divergent parties – to find a solution to this question.
A poor hungry stomach would go to any limit to satisfy its hunger and a large number of such stomachs can create trouble for the strongest forces confronting them.
What J & K has lacked all along is political stability? Every party that has come to power has tried to bake its selfish bread in the cauldron of commonality of religion and corruption. After the Kashmiri Hindus have been driven out of Kashmir Valley, Pakistan claims that Kashmir should merge with it due to commonality of religion.
Corruption has been rampant in the state for decades. Very little funds received for development are actually spent as such. Nothing has been done by the successive Govts to promote activities which will create employment. Level of education is high, but the jobs are missing. A poor hungry stomach would go to any limit to satisfy its hunger and a large number of such stomachs can create trouble for the strongest forces confronting them. That is what the British did to us for over two decades – keeping us hungry, then giving us just enough to satiate our hunger, but not our other needs, and making us their slaves. That is what Pakistan is doing to the Kashmiris – giving them money to satiate their hunger (physical support) in exchange for creating trouble there and feeding them with the psychological stew (commonality of religion). Add to this the educated, unemployed and frustrated youth, the influx of weapons and drugs and you have the most deadly concoction available.
Sadly, our Govts have failed to realise this and continue to consider the unrest in the Valley as the law and order problem. While all is not lost yet and it is still not too late, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to reverse the tide of this raging torrent.
Is it possible for the present Govt at the State level to create a marvel in a state that is vertically divided politically? J & K State is not only divided into three segments geographically – Jammu Region south of Pir Panjal, the Kashmir Valley between Pir Panjal and Great Himalyan Range and the Ladakh Region nestled into the Great Himalayan mountains – but also ideologically. Last elections have very clearly laid bare this reality where Jammu (predominantly Hindu) and Ladakh regions (predominantly Budhist) have voted for staying with India whereas in the Kashmir Valley (majority Muslim) the mandate was in favour of secession from India. Any solution found for one region, therefore, may not be acceptable to the others. The only saving grace is that the other two regions are peaceful and are equally keen – like the rest of the nation – to find a solution to the vexed problem of the Valley.
In the initial stages of this strategy, Pakistan employed militants from other nations also as proxy to intimidate and drive Hindus out of Kashmir as also target security forces and their sympathisers / informers.
It would have been easier to find a political solution to the Kashmir problem, if it was not for a constant irritant in the form of our western neighbour. Pakistan’s problem is older than the current Kashmir problem. She has been seething in rage for nearly 45 years since it division into Pakistan and Bangladesh, making untiring efforts to avenge its humiliation. It was presented, by India, with an opportunity in the form of rigged elections of 1987, which led to formation of a large number of indigenous militant wings by the defeated political parties, actively supported by Pakistan (ISI) and its militant organisations.
Pakistan had adequate number of trained militants available, from Afghanistan, to be pumped into India after Russia withdrew from that country around the same time. Keeping them in Pakistan would have meant trouble for itself, so what better way to send them to Kashmir. In the initial stages of this strategy, Pakistan employed militants from other nations (Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia etc) also as proxy to intimidate and drive Hindus out of Kashmir as also target security forces and their sympathisers/informers. Disenchanted Kashmiri population in the Valley welcomed these insurgents/militants with open arms, provided them with sustenance, guided them towards their targets and protected them. Having failed in its efforts to foment trouble in Punjab in the 1980s, Pakistan was looking for new play grounds for its dirty game. Getting disproportionate dividends vis-a-vis the resources employed, Pakistan got encouraged and has never allowed the situation to die down whether it was governed by a politically elected Govt or a dictatorship.
Kargil War (1999) fits well into this grand Pakistani design of increasing the area of conflict and keeping Indian Armed Forces embroiled for a long time. When the problem is so complex (internal strife exacerbated by a foreign power), it cannot remain a law and order problem. Sooner the Govt admits it, easier it will be for it to find a political solution to it.
How does one find a solution to a problem when some of the stake holders are not prepared to sit across the table and discuss the problem or when the goal posts are shifted every time some ray of hope emerges? Who prepares the ground for the implementation of a political solution? All organs of the Govt and Non Govt agencies like the Central Armed and Police Forces, Armed Forces, media, various ministries of the Govt (Home, Foreign, Finance and so on), social groups, track II diplomats and so on. It must be known to everybody that no army, howsoever strong, has ever been able to provide a permanent or prolonged solution to a conflict. All that the Armed Forces do is to create an environment where in the warring parties/factions are able to sit across a table and find solution(s) to their differences.