Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seems to be doing an apt job on the front of Kashmir these days. He sounds convincing when he says that normalcy will return to the troubled valley in the “next few days”, indicating that political groundwork is also underway to find a way forward by involving the people of Kashmir. Singh has managed a good rapport with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. As a result, there is now a perfect understanding between the central and the state governments on the very nature of the ongoing protests –that a marginal group of separatists and other pro-Pakistan elements have lured teenagers and kids to take to stone pelting on security and police personnel to further their own agenda and that the security forces have no alternative other than using force against mobs who try to burn down police stations or make murderous assaults on security personnel on duty.
Secondly, Singh and his ministry is in close coordination with the Army, which has been asked to ensure that Pakistani terrorists who have managed to infiltrate into South Kashmir, the nerve centre of the insurgency, are isolated, punished and their supply-lines from Pakistan effectively disrupted.
Thirdly, the Home Minister is fast changing the perceptions that he is essentially inward-looking. Having solid confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in him, Singh is now is well set to take on Pakistan, its propaganda and its nefarious activities in the Kashmir valley internationally. He is about to visit Russia and then the United States for a fortnight during which he will make it amply clear that India is not a banana republic to compromise on its unity and integrity and its principles of democracy and diversity. India’s message for the world is that it is also a home to the Muslims, world’s second largest, and therefore under no circumstances it will succumb to the demands of the Wahabi extremists, who are leading the protests in the Kashmir valley, that they need to go to Pakistan because they constitute the majority of population in the state. Viewed thus, it is in fitness of things that India has rejected the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein’s decision of sending a team to monitor the so-called violation of human rights in the valley.
In my considered view, Rajnath Singh has perhaps realised that he was asked to go on a wrong course by the likes of Sitaram Yechuri, D Raja and Sharad Yadav ( and in a sense the Congress party too), a course that suggested an abject surrender to the separatists as so-called stakeholders. For the Congress party, the situation deteriorated in the valley the day the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People,s Democratic Party (PDP) formed an alliance to govern the state of Jammu and Kashmir. For the two Communist parties – the CPM and CPI – and the Janata Dal (U), the valley is burning because of the “blood” of the “innocent” and “young” allegedly shed due to excesses committed by the security forces, which the “vulture” (Pakistan) is relishing on. For these three parties, the central government and the state government, not Pakistan, are the real culprits.
The likes of Yechuri, Raja and Yadav got a disproportionate mileage in the television and the English media – their only constituency now after their respective parties have been rejected by the people of the country in successive elections, of late (Sharad Yadav of the JD U may have some clout in Bihar, but Yechuri’s CPM and Raja’s CPI are all spent forces) – as members of the All-Party Delegation that had gone to the valley under the leadership of Singh. They refuse to believe the ground reality in the valley, the reality that was summed up the other day by senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, that “a narrative of religious extremism” is witnessing “the revival of Khilafat which has taken the form of ISIS. It is bound to influence the youth of Kashmir’’.
As I had argued once in this column, the current unrest in Kashmir is not necessarily due to the so-called alienation of the people because of poor governance, lack of development, and violation of human rights. In fact, Kashmir is one of the “prosperous” states of the country in terms of per capita income. The conditions of the people in Indian hinterlands are more sickening than what one sees in Kashmir.
The unpalatable truth, which our bleeding-heart-liberals in the intelligentsia and parties like the CPM and JD(U) in the polity gloss over, is that in Kashmir, the youth is fast becoming radicalised, seeking total Islamisation of Kashmir. Aided and abetted by outside powers, the current phase of militancy is aimed at turning Kashmir into an Islamic state. They provoke security forces by throwing stones and burning police stations. They destroy schools, courts and bridges. And they fly defiantly the flags of Pakistan and Islamic State. No amount of concessions to these separatists and their leaders will ever appease them, their real goal being secession. They will never reconcile with a secular India. And that, in turn, makes any negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue almost impossible.
In a sense, the Islamic State-inspired youth in Kashmir may turn out to be the most difficult to handle in the days to come because India, and this may sound ironic, happens to be a democratic country. Let me explain this point in details.
Democracies are easy targets for terrorists due to their open, pluralist, and responsive systems. In democracies such as India, any attempt at controlling radicalisation of Kashmiris will not be allowed by the so-called secularists and liberals. For instance, it is well known how mosques in Kashmir valley are being misused to radicalise and mobilise the youth through their loudspeakers day after day. But can any authority dare to stop electricity to these mosques?
Secondly, it is well-established these days that the cyberspace serves as a bottom-up recruitment tool for radicals and assists in proliferation of their networks. Online recruitment and mobilisation play a vital role in this regard. But whenever the authorities suspend the internet and mobile services in the valley, the bleeding- heart-liberals in Delhi, not to talk of those in Srinagar, make a hue and cry in the name of freedom of thoughts and expression.
Thirdly, in the name of democracy, these so-called liberals (in fact, politicians like Sitaram Yechuri, D Raja and Sharad Yadav made this point loudly) argue that these radicalised youth may kill hundreds of security personnel, but the latter cannot use even pellets, let alone bullets, against them. For them, the blood of our security personnel from the rest of the country does not carry any meaning. They do not seem to consider that if the Kashmir valley is still a part of India, it is by and large because of the sacrifices made by our security forces over the years. Instead, they would like the security forces to be withdrawn from the valley as far as possible.
All this is not to belittle the argument that more than economic empowerment, long-term social integration of the Kashmiri youth is crucial to thwart their collective radicalisation. But then, in doing that, it must be borne in mind that the process will take a long time and require tremendous resources. And during this process, the Indian democracy will be forced to sacrifice some freedoms for the security, unity and integrity of the country. We cannot afford to make Kashmir another Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. We cannot let Kashmir turn into another hotbed for religious extremism of the Islamic State variety. All told, these misguided radicals may be targeting the security forces and the Hindus today, but time is not far off when they will start attacking the Shias, Buddhists and liberal women as well.
In a nutshell, the need of the hour is effective counter measures not only against the Kashmiri radicals’ friends and mentors like Pakistan and Islamic State internationally but also against their sympathisers in Delhi. In fact, these sympathisers in Delhi are the bigger threats than Pakistan and IS to Kashmir’s integration with India. Does Rajnath Singh have any plan to deal with this sordid reality of Delhi? Only time will tell.
By Prakash Nanda