In the aftermath of the historic decision to scrap Article 370 and the subsequent bifurcation of J&K into UTs, the onus now is on the Government to ‘win the hearts and minds of all Kashmiri Muslims’. Perhaps a long haul lies ahead for the government
Those who nurture fond hopes of “WHAM of the Kashmiri Muslims” in short term context, what with 70-years of long distrust and hatred fed and bred in Madrasas and in the more recent past on the social media, are living in a fool’s paradise of their own making – a myth or illusion.
To revisit Bismarck’s quote: “Fools learn from their own experience; Wise learn from others experiences”. Undeniably, the national mainstream including political leaders and parties, bureaucrats, intellectuals, civil society activists and “We the People” have dismally failed in the past 70 years to win over the Kashmiri Muslims. If any, Kashmiri Muslims alienation has been cumulatively compounded.
Wake up, oh blind men of Hindostan! Particularly those cronies belonging to the Congress Party Dynasty! Deradisalisation of Kashmiri Muslims is a Himalayan challenge. No one can deny the mood of the nation and also those in the Jammu and Ladakh regions, applauding the bold decision by Modi-led NDA Government.
Nonetheless all would realise that Pakistan through the ISI, proxies or snakes bred in their backyards will not relent but continue to conduct the most heinous 24x7 hybrid war offensive with renewed vigour. Their propaganda machinery and indoctrination aided by funding across the borders will continue to induce and incite unemployed youth to either take to the gun or to engage security forces in stone-pelting demonstrations whilst simultaneously stepping up cross border fire exchanges along LoC.
Viewed in such a context, “WHAM” is a Himalayan challenge to overcome. Whatever political initiatives may be attempted it cannot regain the trust and confidence of radical groups overnight. A generational shift or transformation of mindset needs to be induced by countering adversaries besides political leaders and parties with vested interest in J&K and also nationwide.
Nation, particularly armed forces and other security forces, must be prepared to make more sacrifices with “both hands tied to the back” to counter highly provocative terror and stone-pelting incidents. They must strive for most effective operational “synergy” against terrorists, separatists and their sympathisers and also those sitting on the “fence”.
“We the People” must also remember that Pakistan appreciates that India would race disproportionately way ahead of them in the “National Power” projection capabilities by 2025. For them, it is now or never or do or die situation.
Pakistan has made no bones about converting Kashmir into Palestine. And, they are bound to divert the “Taliban-JeM-LeT” elements currently operating in collusion with Afghanistan Taliban to Kashmir to “bleed India through a 1000 cuts”. Add to them, the ISIS and Al Qaeda threat that may erupt!
The pakistanis have made no bones about their intention to turn Kashmir into a palestine after india finished off the kashmir problem. now The ‘Taliban-jem-let’ terror outfits will rope in afghan talibans, IS rats and al-qaeda elements to foment terror in kashmir to frustrate india’s efforts
Who will be the victims? People of Kashmir for the political and separatist leaders alike would hide behind security personnel at the cost of tax-payers or their handlers across the borders.
Kashmiri Muslims must understand and realise that they should not allow Srinagar and other towns and villages (from Paradise to Hell) to undergo the same fate as infrastructure damage in 16 towns and cities across Syria to include Aleppo, Raqqa, Mosul, Palmyra and so on as well Duma, Arbin, Harasta and Misraba in the Eastern Ghouta region.
At the same time, Kashmiri Muslims must also realise that India is unlike the US Kashmir is also unlike Afghanistan. Indian troops are not aliens like the US troops in the Middle East. India’s patience, punishment withstanding capability and resilience is far greater than Pakistan and its cronies in India.
Ironic but true, status quo ante of crisis is the desired choice and option of vested interests for political leaders like Abdullah’s and Mufti’s but also the separatist leaders. And, they fail to realise that they would be chased out of Kashmir valley if their adversaries gain an upper hand.
Like the Afghanistan’s cliche “War is Employment; Peace is Unemployment”, so also the 70-years’ conundrum best suits the interests of political leaders, parties and separatists: Abdullah Dynasty; Mufti Dynasty; Ghulam Nabi Azad Dynasty; Lone Dynasty; Geelani Dynasty; Mirwaiz Umar Farooq; Yasin Malik; and so on. What is more, it also suits those political leaders and parties who are masquerading as champions of secular and liberal ideology to remain relevant in public eye.
Let none suffer from illusions on the above count including the Congress Party and its allies crying hoarse and invoking slogans like “Cardinal Blunder, Great Betrayal, Catastrophic consequences in the subcontinent, Darkest Day in Democracy” and so on.
My question to the Congress Party in particular and its allies in opposition is simple – “Why the failure of “WHAM of the Kashmiris?” Who is responsible or accountable for the distrust and hatred of Kashmiri Muslim and the explosion of such a “CRISIS of Confidence particularly after 1989”?
The real life ground realities are different. In 1989, as per well informed sources in J&K, radicalised component in the valley was at best only 10%. Today, in Srinagar and the towns of South Kashmir, the percentage of radicalised elements appears to have doubled or tripled. Is it possible to deradicalise the so called fringe or fundamentalist elements ably tutored, aided and supported by Pakistan and its ISI and other non-state actors?
Impossible by any stretch of imagination, if the current crop of KLEPOCRATS like Abdullah’s, Mufti’s and others are allowed again to dominate and strangulate politics in the name of democracy what with the separatist leaders calling the shots at the behest of their handlers from across the LoC.
Today the ground realities are different. in 1989, kashmir extremists comprised of just 10 per cent of the population. Today in 2014, the radicalised kashmiris seem to have doubled or even tripled. deradicalising seems like a formidable task
So, the Abdullah’s, Mufti’s and others besides the separatist leaders must be moved out of Kashmir valley. Some can be sent to a remote corner in Ladakh to cool their heels; and others to a remote uninhabited island in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Otherwise, only fools can live in the expectation of success of “WHAM of Kashmiri Muslim of the present generation.”
Let me also share my personal experiences of my three tenures in J&K. I entered the Valley in 1962 to attend a training programme in the High Altitude Warfare School in Sonamrag followed by nearly 8 years of active operational duty (three tenures - 1967-1970 in Krishnaghati and 1975-1977 in Poonch and 1989-1992 in Nagrota). Not to be left out is my stay in Gulmarg to guide students preparing for Staff College Entrance Examination.
In 1962, as students in High Altitude Warafare School, we were given permission to visit Srinagar once only. The orders issued were simple. Be careful – even if a chicken is over run by your vehicle, the crowds will attack you with vengeance. Be extra careful not to hurt the people by any word or act that may provoke them to pounce on you.
On induction in 1967 into KG Sector as OIC Advance Party of my unit, I was given a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that included a ban on breeding “PIGS’ in units. And, the advisory was sent to my unit asking them to dispose Yorkshire breed pigs reared in the unit for use during unit celebrations.
On arrival, the Unit established a Medical Aid Post at the entry gate to provide medicare and treatment to locals, which was highly appreciated, but yet failed to make any dent in people’s psyche.
In 1975-1977, as a company commander in Degwar village area on the LoC in Poonch, the tasks assigned and executed by me personally were to: 1) establish a MAP (Medical Aid Post); 2) organise and run a school. Although the unit’s initiatives were highly appreciated, yet its influence on the psyche could not be ascertained. During the height of crisis in 1990s, the Pakistani artillery destroyed the School. Nonetheless, every effort was made to praise the locals for their invaluable contribution to thwart Pakistani attempts in 1947-1948, 1965 and 1971 wars providing intelligence and logistics support to the posts under the threat of artillery fire.
But the most disturbing deviation was realised in 1989 during my interaction with the Kashmiri Muslim drivers stuck on the road in Jammu-Nagrota when the Banihal Pass was closed to traffic due to heavy snowfall in 1991. Without exception almost all Kashmiri Muslim drivers were full of praise for the assistance provided to them. The officer accompanying me belonging to Jammu explained to me not to be hoodwinked by their appreciation. He said cryptically, “once across the Banihal Pass the same drivers would pour venom against India”.
Finally, the Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Vijay Bakaya, Kashmiri by birth, at a social event mentioned that three “Pundit” migrations were forced by the Kashmiri Muslims from the valley to include the one during 19th Century which forced Nehru’s ancestors to abandon their homes and flee. His remarks made a lasting impression on my mind on the Kashmiri Muslim psyche. Kashmiri Muslim nurtures a “Hate-Love” relationship with India.
That brings us to the question that I have been asking myself. What is wrong if Kashmiri Muslims are forced to migrate to Pakistan, particularly, separatist leaders with family linkages to flee to Pakistan.
Be that as it may, less publicised are deeds of yeoman service of the armed forces and the Central Para Military and State Police Forces rendered in the past in pursuit of “WHAM of Kashmiri Muslims”. For example, in 1998 the army institutionalized “Operation Sadbhavana – meaning harmony and goodwill.” It was launched especially in rural areas near the LOC where insurgency and militancy had caused destruction to property and a sense of alienation prevailed among the people. The catchphrase of the operation is "Jawan aur Awam, Aman Hai Muqaam" (peace is the destination for both the people and the soldier).
Hardly the Kashmir political leadership or the local media ever covered the yeoman service rendered by men in uniforms in pursuit of WHAM to include: infrastructure development, medical care, women and youth empowerment, educational tours and sports tournaments among other initiatives. Over Rs. 450 crore has been directly spent and more funding provided through donors.
Army Super-30, 40 and 50 Initiatives launched in 2013 has enabled students to clear the difficult IIT-JEE. The Army has also established 53 English medium Army Goodwill Schools in places in Jammu and Kashmir such as Rajouri, Poonch, Boniyar, Uri (Baramulla), Khanabal (Anantnag), Karu (Leh), Kargil and Chandigam (Kupwara). Assistance has also been provided to approximately 2700 public schools. More than 10000 students in the Kashmir Valley itself and over 14000 students in Jammu are enrolled. Educational tours are organized annually to promote awareness of different states and cultures.
Next, the focus in the Women Empowerment Centres includes: skill development, awareness is raised about health and birth control, information regarding banking and loan procedures, basic education is imparted including operating computers, fashion designing and craft related skills. Under this initiative centers such as the Women's Vocational Training Centre, Poonch, Usha Fashion Design School, Baramulla and Women Empowerment Centre, Baramulla have been set up.
Medical Camps are conducted on a regular basis by the Indian army. A Military Hospital in Kargil has also been set up with services being free of cost. The Pritam Spiritual Foundation (Poonch) has provided artificial limbs free of cost to over 3100 people who have been victims of militancy, mine blasts or crossborder firing. Even veterinary aid camps and free treatment to civil animals are also offered.
Add to them, Model Villages set up under Operation Sadbhavana include Chandigam Model Village, Lolab (Kupwara) and Sagra Model Village, Mendhar (Poonch). Even sport events are conducted under this initiative includes the Baramulla Girls Badminton League, Baramulla Cricket Premier League, Kupwara Premier Football League, Gingle Volleyball League.
India is now caught at the crossroad of epoch-making milestone. A long haul lies ahead. As a nation, people need to be mobilized to make more sacrifices to overcome the threats and challenges that lay ahead them. Strategies must be identified, formulated and effectively implemented striving to develop full synergy of the full government machinery in pursuit of success in “WHAM of Kashmiri Muslims”. The “Hybrid Warfare” strategy to counter Pakistan in Kashmir simultaneously project it inside Pakistan to pay back in the same coin – Bleed Pakistan by a thousand cuts”.
(The writer is a Hyderabad-based Columinist and Strategic Analyst)