It is hard to imagine Kashmir without the turmoil today – the gun culture, militants, encounters, defence forces, APSPA, daily funerals and the wailing mothers. Most people born in Kashmir have grown-up seeing it as a region with endless chaos and conflict. Amidst the chaos, Kashmir has become the flashpoint of commotion in which the citizens constantly fight for their fundamental rights which they assert has been snatched by the Indian armed forces. A EurAsian Times analysis
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In an editorial published by Sandeep Bamzai, CEO of IANS, he points out towards the inefficient treatment and outlook of the ruling government towards Kashmir. “The BJP government is ring-fencing its policy of drift in Jammu and Kashmir,” indicating the vehement intervention of powers beyond India involved with the crisis in the region.
“The BJP leadership has over the last few years squandered enough opportunities”, quips Bamzai on the callousness and almost utter disregard that the BJP holds over the state of the Valley.
The situation has come to a point where the entirety of South Kashmir is under the rule of the armed forces. The crisis in South Kashmir is so treacherous that in the absence of the security forces to maintain order, everything could crumble into oblivion.
Bamzai eloquently points out in his article that the BJP leadership has left behind a “shipwreck” in less than three years in power. The State has become unrecognisable as the sizeable amount of violence has risen and there is no viable solution in sight. The reason being a bunch of jackboots have seldom solved anything. Be it the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or any of the extreme measures that are taken within the region, all is in vain if the parties involved do not engage in constructive dialogue.
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The BJP leadership has instead sought to indulge in “Islamophobia and Muslim bashing” instead of engaging in genuine dialogue for a permanent solution. Bamzai lists eight such instances where the BJP has disregarded the opportunity to do the right thing.
The recall of octogenarian Governor N N Vohra when what is needed in Kashmir right now is a fresh pair of eyes and a more proactive approach. An ideal choice would have been sending ex-General Syed Atat Hasnain who was once Corps Commander in Jammu and Kashmir to run the gamut of moving pieces that is Kashmir. A man with prior experience and intricate knowledge of the nuances of a sensitive region like Kashmir especially post 2008 Amarnath crisis.
There is almost no Unified Command meetings held or even structured under the Chief Minister. Instead of being a spectator, such meetings are imperative in that it must be held weekly to contain the damages through incessant violence. For most parts, it has called for more and more boots on the ground whenever possible, the vision for which lacks any practicality. The suppressive tactics hold no ground as is evidenced by the uncontrollable eruption of violence in the region.
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The removal of Shiv Mohan Saha, ADG CID, a veteran of the Kashmir Police from the Valley to below the belt posting at Delhi NCCS is nothing but a waste of asset. Sahai had famously shut down the militant activities in major areas in J&K; he was also instrumental in stamping out organised dissent by CM Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir region. This might have been the biggest setback to the morale of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ruffling of the local populace on the issue of revoking Article 35A sent a wave of anger and hate towards the Centre. With the local groups suggesting that the move was to inculcate increased influence of Central government’s agenda on the region and the removal of the special status given to Kashmir during the accession to India.
The death of Burhan Wani was a major flashpoint in the discourse of Kashmir’s political turmoil. The massive civilian protest that ensued saw the death of almost 120 people, the heavy-handedness of the government only made matters worse. The choice to enforce order through this kind of heavy-handed approach has brought about an angry, resentful generation of youth that feels the political structure has defeated their hopes and spirit.
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The lull in violence during the winter of 2017-18 should have been used for structure and providing some form of dialogue with all the parties in the region to quell the largely separatist tendencies including the Hurriyat party. The peak of violence that occurred in Kashmir after the death of Burhan Wani should have been reason enough to form consensual decision towards a more non-violent approach towards Kashmir.
The coalition of the extremities of political ideologues is almost impossible, the PDP-BJP coalition was one such match made in political hell. This coalition brought with it nothing but attrition by insinuating deep differences between the Hindu BJP and Muslim PDP. This coalition could be blamed for practising soft separatist tendencies and almost leaving no room for any form of alliance; in the process mainstreaming violence. The divide grew deeper after the gruesome Kathua rape.
Sandeep Bamzai, in his article, alludes to the Gowalakar-Maharaja Hari Singh incident in Kashmir history that led to Kashmir’s accession to the Indian Union in 1947. It is an almost unknown fact that the former chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Guruji Gowalkar had an important role to play in persuading the deluded King to join the Indian Union along with Mahatma Gandhi.
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The Maharaja, under the influence of his Guru Swami Sant Deo, wished to set up a separate independent state – Dogristan. The Maharaja would not listen to the pleas of any of the leaders including Congress President Acharya Kriplani, Lord Mountbatten and is said to have even made Gandhiji wait for an audience.
Guruji Gowalkar is said to have gone to the King under the request of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, MC Mahajan, to visit and persuade the Maharaja to accede to India. The Maharaja argued that Pakistan was more accessible and feasible to accede to than India. ‘My state is fully dependent on Pakistan. All routes pass through Sialkot and Rawalpindi. Lahore is my airport. How can I have relations with India?’, was the Maharaja’s major contention.
The Guruji made him understand that he was a “Hindu King” and his Hindu subjects would face grave injustices in Pakistan. The material amenities of connectivity (roads, rail or air link) could be made available in India as well; the people of Jammu and Kashmir would benefit by acceding to India. This idea was even corroborated by J&K Prime Minister Mahajan and after a period of eight days the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession and the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir became a part of the Indian Union.
It can be argued that PM Modi may well be trying to pursue this similar sentiment. But the situation is far more treacherous and the times have changed drastically. The Kashmir struggle has now morphed from not just a socio-economic struggle but also an ideological one that involves a large chunk of the educated urban population of Kashmir.
There is a strong indication that much of the youth breed a strong contempt of the Central government’s handling of Kashmiri lives. Pakistan’s side of the argument has purely been based on religion and have insinuated to fight to the last man until Kashmir has been won. The Indian argument is founded on the grounds of the Accession Treaty of 1947. But what both sides have failed to understand is the need of the people of Kashmir.
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The closest we have come to having a successful alternative approach was the Delhi Agreement of 2005 between India and Pakistan. This was nothing but an accident yet a welcomed error. The idea for a joint council to negotiate and date the infrastructural aspects of the region and provisions for overall jurisdiction and authority to the people of Kashmir.
This autonomy would be at the behest of upholding the existing territorial bifurcations between India and Pakistan. The powers of governance would coincide and constitute regions of Kashmir on both sides of the border. The fall of the Musharraf government and the incited violence in India led to the shelving of the treaty for good. The rejuvenation of fresh engagement along these lines could go a long way in re-engaging the people of Kashmir.
One must not ignore the fact that the Valley is richer than ever with the influx of blood money from all directions. The continued violence in the Kashmir Valley means more money for India, Pakistan and other countries including Saudi Arabia and military industrial complexes with vested interests.
The continued agony of the Kashmiri people has been sidelined by the fact that there will always be war in the Valley. Now that there are large groups of the youth directly recruited and engaged in separatist activities. The reason behind these is aplenty-from unemployment, lack of job security, lack of opportunity to the difference in ideology and utter disregard to authority owing to the injustices meted out to the locals.
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The war-mongers will continue to suckle at the teat of this conflict and milk the Valley to its last drop of blood till the last resonant sound of the bullet. The eradication of the dark web interactions and chat rooms need to be monitored to prevent the integration of the local youth into radical activity. There is a need to focus one’s onus eradicating the terror funding activities and hawala accounts that breed within the internet as proxy funds. The intelligence community can hone in and work towards finding and extensively eradicating the source of the money that is flushed into the Valley.
On a more technical forefront, some decisions need to be made to achieve sustainable peace in Jammu and Kashmir. The workable solutions include the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley and the disarmament and disintegration of the separatist groups in the region.
Before the turmoil, the largely Sufi Islamist community of Kashmir had a more secular existence based on peace, harmony and brotherhood. The constant narrative that is peddled on both sides of the border has been largely to insinuate and perpetuate violence and divide. This mentality needs to be changed if both sides truly wish to make any tangible change in the region. The people of Kashmir have been given the worst deal in a situation that has aggravated to where they are stuck between hell and high water.
There is a strong need for bringing forth law and order within the region, a more negotiated approach between the two countries. These laws would have to pertain not just to the citizens but also to the security forces who have undergone much to maintain the peace in the region in all these years.
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The draconian laws of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) need to be reworded and amended in a manner that protects the innocent citizens of Kashmir. The situation under AFSPA has been a nightmare for the locals with enforced disappearances for questioning and the military rule on the people.
A joint mechanism of law and order across the border can help alleviate the situation in Kashmir. Autonomy needs to be restored in its true sense where there must be proper inclusion and integration of the Kashmiri people and their voices heard in decision-making policies on J&K. The region around the Line of Control (LoC) is the breeding ground for the radicalisation of Kashmiri youth, as confirmed by intelligence reports and sources. The radical sermons in mosques, madrassas need to be curtailed and limitations placed on their influence and activity.
The proper sources of investment and economic engagement within the region can help alleviate the socio-economic standings of the citizens. A region currently devoid of avenues, it can help provide large scale ventures for employment and economic security. A joint venture by India and Pakistan (on their respective sides) in investing in building infrastructure in the region can help curtail poverty and one of the prime motives for radicalisation in the region. The economic development in the region has seen a slight uptake in recent years with railway services picking up and the propagation of basic connectivity avenues made available for people to help set shop.
The brutal violence, the government and security forces crackdown and the incessant curfews make the sustainability of business ventures rather bleak. A negotiated attempt at peace and promulgation of economic endeavours can help the situation drastically.
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In the article, Sandeep Bamzai quotes former CM Farooq Abdullah, who suggests that the deteriorating law and order has led to a situation where the youth are being pushed to a confrontation that they are being a victim of. In the spirit of the statement, Bamzai seems to hesitantly agree with the fact that the statement could well have been political, yet it is not far away from the truth. “Truth so unpalatable that no one wants to deal with it”.
The facts are clear, the plebiscite is a failure and the authorities find themselves in a situation where better solutions need to be found. The preponderance over historical foibles, ungrounded accusations and divide will not only expedite destruction but also incite an indelible scar on the deepening fissures in Kashmir.
It is time that the Modi government, Islamabad, the security forces on either side of the border and regional political parties pay heed to the writings on the wall. The right for peace, security and development rightly belongs to the people of Kashmir; the fight might go on until these rights are realised. Till then blood will continue to flow unabated as the Jhelum turns red.
Rahul Mahesh is a freelance journalist. The views of the author are personal and do not reflect the views of the EurAsian Times