In the third week of June, we heard a buoyant Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh telling the world that “There has been significant improvement in security situation in J&K.” He went on to add that “There is significant decline in level of violence there. Not only this, there is 25 percent fall of terror incidents.” Just a week later, the media carried news reports regarding some sort of appraisal that has been conducted by security experts on the situation in Kashmir. While there may be nothing unusual about such a study being undertaken, but its overall assessment that all may not be well in Kashmir certainly is, as it outrightly contradicts the Union Home Minister’s optimistic outlook. Moreover, when a veteran spymaster and an expert Kashmir watcher like the former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat seconds the Kashmir study report assessment by saying that “There are dark clouds on the horizon and some things seem to be not right,” then there is certainly a cause for worry.
Considering the recent turn of events that unambiguously indicate that Kashmir is sliding back into the quagmire of violence with alarming rapidity, one does not have to be security expert to conclude that the future of this strife stricken State is certainly grim, if not utterly hopeless. News reports tell us that the primary cause of concern expressed by security analysts is threefold. The first relates to a significant increase in the number of local youth who are taking to militancy and with nearly fifty boys having reportedly “disappeared” from their homes (to enlist as militants) during the last four months, this figure is indeed alarming. Their second concern is what security experts believe to be the heightened level of radicalisation or “Pan Islamisation” due to which the fear of death is no longer preventing Kashmiri youth from picking up the gun. The third issue worrying the security analysts is that despite curbs, large amounts of money from Gulf countries is still making its way into Kashmir through the ‘hawala’ (fraudulent financial transaction) route and the same could lure gullible youth into militancy.
I am sure that what the security analysts have concluded would please the separatists and militant groups to no end. In fact, I can even guess what they would say. The separatists would no doubt laud the ‘freedom fighters’ for their sacrifices (like they always do) and by reminding the youth that it is their solemn duty to ensure that the “blood of our martyrs does not go waste,” obliquely encourage the development of a violence dominated psyche . The UJC chief would claim that the grim picture painted by security analysts regarding the situation in Kashmir is undisputable proof that the mujahideens have got the better of the security forces and thus broken New Delhi’s resolve to hold on to Kashmir by its muscle power. Claiming that since ‘azadi’ (independence) was now just around the corner he would request more people to become part of the ongoing ‘jihad’ for hastening the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir from “occupational forces.”
However, even while the separatists and militants may be rejoicing, I’m convinced that the pessimistic outlook of this ‘security analysis’ is nothing but a web of deceit spun by New Delhi to suit its own long-term game-plan in Kashmir. I have a lurking suspicion that the security review report has intentionally hyped the actual situation to convey an erroneous impression to the international community that security conditions in Kashmir are deteriorating solely due to “Pan-Islamisation” of militancy. You may ask as to why New Delhi would trash the Union Home Minister’s proud proclamation regarding return of ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir by ‘fixing’ a security report which predicts that things were likely to go out of control in Kashmir in the days to come?
This question is but natural as New Delhi’s behaviour appears to be something bordering on diplomatic insanity. However, there is much more to this than what meets the eye. Firstly, if it wanted, New Delhi could have easily kept the alarming assessment of this security review under wraps and thus save itself from political and diplomatic embarrassment. However, it didn’t and that is exactly why we should not start celebrating as it appears that this is New Delhi’s well thought out ploy for surreptitiously enlisting international support for what it is doing in Kashmir. To get a clearer view of New Delhi’s devious plans, we may consider pondering over what Pakistan army’s former Chief of General Staff, retired Lieutenant General Waheed Arshad said recently while speaking at seminar conducted by the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.
Though speaking in context of the options available to Pakistan for dealing with the belligerent leadership of the BJP led NDA Government, General Arshad made an extremely pertinent observation which has a direct bearing on Kashmir. A news report published in Dawn (June, 24) mentions that General Arshad expressed the view that “Indian reluctance to engage with Pakistan was understandable given that its mantra of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan was finding receptive ears.” What the erudite General has said may hurt the sensitivities of those who support militancy, but his forthright observation is unadulterated truth- something that we all already know but obdurately refuse to acknowledge!
It is unfortunate that the separatists, the UJC chief or even members of civil society have failed to see through New Delhi’s Kashmir game plan. It is even more heartrending to note that while we seem have all the time in the world to debate on meaningless issues like Zubin Mehta’s musical concert, we never consider it our moral duty to seriously deliberate the issue of militancy which is consuming our youth like a wildfire. Why are we shy of asking those who support ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir as to what has militancy given to us and to New Delhi? Would it be wrong to say that while militancy has (to borrow Mirwaiz Umar Farook’s words) only “created more graveyards,” it has given New Delhi a ‘legitimate’ reason to maintain heavy presence of security forces in J&K as well as impose draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and The Public Safety Act (PSA).
Can we abdicate our moral duties and social responsibilities by holding New Delhi responsible for what are basically our own failings? Is the Hurriyat (G) statement attributed to its chairman SAS Geelani that “due to the rigid and stubborn approach of the Indian government, the youth are opting for gun instead of pen and this policy is costing further precious human lives in the region” really convincing? Even though it may sound clichéd, but I think the time has come to once again ask our leaders, militant commanders and members of civil society as to why aren’t their kith and kin “opting for gun instead of pen” due to the “rigid and stubborn approach of the Indian government” ? Is it not a fact that the more militancy flourishes in Kashmir; the more it suits New Delhi, separatists as well as the militant commanders? While militancy gives New Delhi the justification for large security force presence in the State and imposition of black laws, it gives the separatists a ready platform to make anti-India speeches whenever a ‘freedom fighter’ is killed. As far as militant commanders are concerned, ‘armed struggle’ gives them the relevance they so desperately need!
Let us not remain hapless onlookers and thus give an impression that life in Kashmir is cheap. We cannot continue to sit silently while our youth continue to die in encounters with security forces. If we seriously want security force presence in J&K reduced and the AFSPA to go, then all that has to be done is to eschew violence. Remember, before militancy erupted in J&K, neither did the State have such a massive presence of security forces nor the AFSPA. What J&K had then was a robust and peaceful movement for the ‘right to self determination’ that automatically attracted support and sympathy of the international community. Thanks to militancy and irresponsible statements such as “We never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle” made by some separatist leaders, the movement for ‘Right to self determination’ has lost its ideological sheen and that is why, despite UN resolutions to back our demands, we still stand isolated!
Post Script: Though it is yet not too late, time is fast running out for us. Our leaders may keep reiterating that there is no place for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups in the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir, but then it is their word against that of New Delhi. And with ISIS flags making regular appearances during protest rallies nowadays, who would believe our leaders? Conversely, this will make it all the more easier for New Delhi to convince the international community that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir has acquired a “Pan-Islamisation” character!