A Tangled We
Miserable repeated capitulation in the name of appeasement and so-called peace negotiations have emboldened the terrorists, masquerading as separatists, which has led to a skewed polity, where there is nothing more left to yield.
When I opened a newspaper sometimes back, I saw a picture of a security personnel, lying on the ground and half a dozen young hooligans beating him with sticks, in Srinagar. Nobody was trying to stop such elements from desisting from thrashing the helpless policeman.
I was reminded of my tenure as Inspector General of Police, in Srinagar, during the worst period of 1988, when the terrorists element had kidnaped the daughter of the then Union Home Minister. The Government in a gesture of abject surrender released the Pakistani trained terrorists to secure her release, as did not another Union Government a few years later, to get the passengers of an Indian plane, which had been hijacked to Kabul.
Miserable repeated capitulation, in the name of appeasement, and so- called peace negotiations, have emboldened the terrorists, masquerading as separatists, which has led to a skewed polity, where there is nothing more left to yield.
The central government has been hoping against hope and common sense, that yield, yield and yield will lead to some positive results. Look at the sample of pacification, where even the parents of the killed terrorists in open encounter are given a grant of Rs ten lakh as a kind of rehabilitation money. More is being done for terrorists from the Valley than for three lakhs Hindus and Sikhs, who were forced to leave as a part of well thought out ethnic cleansing. The region-wise data shown in the Table A depicts the picture of J&K on the basis of population (2001 Census) which is self-explanatory.
A position has been reached that any use of force in self-defence by the security forces is not only frowned at, but openly criticised by the State Government that central forces have gone out of control. The hotbed of terrorism are certain areas, where even if a terrorist is killed, their supporters rise up in retaliation.
Every citizen of India has a right of private defence to defend himself or his body, except it appears, the security forces, if what J&K Government says is to be believed. Whether it is the media, or the government, they find the security forces as the villains of piece, who is responsible for all ills in J&K. It is the publicity, to the terrorists, which encourages them to make Anti-India Statements, with which, they can get away. Margret Thatcher, the iron lady of the UK once had rightly said that the publicity is the oxygen of terrorism. It is the publicity, which gives the terrorists a larger than life image.
PLUMB NEW DEPTHS
Once again as Kashmir burns with over 10 killed in several violent incidents in past week, the annual Amarnath Yatra has become a causality of the situation. Within hours as the first batch of pilgrims was officially flagged off from Yatra base Jammu, the winter capital, for the cave shrine, located at 3,338 metre altitude, in south Kashmir Himalayas, it was halted and recalled due to security concerns.
A day earlier, a group of pilgrims was attacked at Anantnag. The victims called the media and stated that the villagers at Khannabal and Awantipur villages hurled stones at their buses injuring at least 10 and damaging over six buses. The pilgrims were attacked in front of Panthan police outpost, around six km from Srinagar Over 2,50,000 pilgrims have been registered for the pilgrimage at 121 designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank across the country.
Though, the state administration has assured adequate security arrangements for the smooth facilitation of the yatra, there is no doubt that the Anantnag violence could cast a shadow on the Amarnath yatra which begun on July 1 and would conclude on August 24. Situated in a narrow gorge at the altitude of 3,888 meters, the holy Amarnath cave is 44.8 km from Pahalgam. The Pahalgam-Holy cave trek is covered in four days. The new Baltal-Holy cave route, discovered recently, is now preferred by the pilgrims since it is shorter though steeper than the ancient route.
Almost 3,000 BSF personnel have been airlifted to Kashmir to guard devotees embarking on the Amarnath yatra and protecting the route. Official sources said the para-military men have been sent by special planes for maintaining law and order and for safe conduct of the yatra. Meanwhile, Intelligence sources have disclosed that under a new game plan, the Pakistan intelligence agencies in hand gloves with Lashkar has formulated a strategy to keep the Kashmir valley on the boil by instigating people to confront Indian security forces.
The aim is to make create the
kind of situation that had prevailed during the 2008 Amarnath Yatra agitation. The new strategy to foment trouble has been devised following the failure to push an adequate number of terrorists across the Line of Control in the past few months, the sources said. The Home Minister P Chidambaram has also said that there were reliable reports to suggest that anti-national elements are trying to exploit the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “Some terrorists might also have sneaked into the Valley to trigger violence,” Home Minister P Chidambaram added.
Home Secretary GK Pillai in Delhi has said that the bullet samples of what were fired upon the CRPF personnel is a clear pointer indication that at some outsiders were involved in the acts of violence. Sources have revealed that at least 50 persons who have infiltrated into the valley are adding to the problem, just when it appears to be dying down, they do their bit to re-escalate the tension.
The cycle of violence refuses to die down even as the government clamped curfew in southern, northern and central parts of the Kashmir. Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir, Petrol and Tankers Association has refused to carry fuel to the Valley due to security concerns. The move by the association comes after 35 tankers were reportedly damaged by agitators during the recent protests.
The association members are demanding adequate security for the tankers and are currently holding a meeting with the state government officials on the issue. The Association’s president Anand Sharma says that the tankers would however continue to supply fuel to the Jammu region. The refusal to carry fuel is likely to hit not only the Valley but also the Ladakh region. Everyday, 200 fuel tankers leave for Kashmir and Ladakh from Jammu. The daily requirement of fuel in Kashmir and Ladakh is estimated to be 24 lakh litres.
Though the opposition parties especially Jammu based are seeking deployment of army to counter Kashmir violence, New Delhi has stayed away from it. “It was decided not to accede to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s request to deploy Army in the Valley,” sources said. As the security agencies snapped SMS of the cell phone operators to prevent spread of rumours and separatist programmes, it was resumed immediately after the intervention of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is once again facing an acid test since he has taken over the reigns as youngest head of the state last year. There have been demands from rival Kashmir based political groups seeking his resignation alleging murder on his hands of Kashmiri youth.
Within a few months of Omar becoming CM in January 2009, two young persons were killed in firing by the army, and this led to street protests. A probe found two soldiers guilty and this pacified the protestors somewhat. The incident was followed by the Shopian rape and murder case (of two women) in May 2009, in which the government was perceived as being party to a cover-up from day one. Meanwhile, Omar in his emotional appeal has asked all political groups, “Let’s not play politics, not at least on the blood of our youth.”
He also appealed to the people to show more restraint. “I would like to condole for the deaths that have taken place in recent days,” said an emotional Omar. “It is a battle of ideologies in which various anti-national forces and vested groups have come together to create trouble. It’s extremely unfortunate,” he added.
The yatra this year from the beginning had its share of controversy. The hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani attempted to revive the ghost of agitation by calling for shorter duration of pilgrimage for “saving the fragile environment” in the Himalayas. Duration of pilgrimage should be restricted to 15 days from two months.
Increased duration of the yatra is causing serious damage to the fragile environment of the area. “If it can be done in Gangotri where you have a limit of 150 pilgrims per day, why can’t it be done here?” he asked. According to him, “extending the yatra to two months was having an adverse impact on the environment and culture of the state, which was in the interests of India.”
In 2004, the then Governor of the state, SK Sinha, had increased the duration of the yatra from 15 days to two months. Geelani threatened Kashmir wide agitations if the yatra’s duration was not curtailed. In
reaction, Amarnath Yatra Sangarash Samiti threatened repeat of 2008 economic blockade of Kashmir and asked Geelani to stop interfering into the religious issues of Hindus.
Leela Karan Sharma, the former convenor of the Samiti, an organisation that enforced economic blockade of Kashmir following the agitation against transfer of State’s forest land to the Amarnath shrine board in 2008, said: “Geelani is nobody to suggest government about the duration of Amarnath yatra. The time, place and duration of yatra are given only by Shri Amarnath shrine board and the representatives of Hindu religious organisations.”
Meanwhile, the pilgrims are undeterred by these attacks and violence, quite optimistic about their pilgrimage. “We are not worried about disturbed conditions at Anantnag district where forward base camp of the yatra, Nunwan (Pahalgam) is located. Bhole Baba will take care of everything. We are determined to perform yatra at any cost’’, observed Ganshyam Patel from Surat, Gujarat. The women were no less enthusiastic about the yatra. Bimla Devi, a pilgrim from village Lalru in Punjab said that she was committed to have darshan of Lord Shiva’s ice Lingam in the first batch along with her family members despite disturbances in Kashmir. Suresh Singh, another yatri from Balia, Uttar Pradesh said that Lord Shiva will take care of his pilgrims. “We are not worried at all about the problems in Kashmir. We are ready to face any kind of problems for the darshan of Lord Shiva in holy cave shrine of Amarnath ji’’, he asserted.
At Jammu, massive deployment of CRPF and police has been made and all along the route on Jammu-Srinagar national highway for protection of the pilgrims. Army, CRPF, ITBP, Armed Police and District Police personnel have been deployed along the highway and other routes for yatra security. Sources said Kashmir Police have also made tight security arrangements for the yatra convoys from Banihal tunnel to Baltal and Nunwan (Pahalgam) besides both the tracks and the cave shrine.
Meanwhile, reports from Kashmir say that people in Srinagar stayed at home amid a strict curfew. Shops were locked up and schools closed indefinitely. Armed forces were stationed every few yards, on street corners and roofs. Kashmir, which was otherwise packed with tourists is witnessing loaded vehicles of tourists leaving at night by road to Jammu to avoid the violence. The coming days would reveal as how successful the state government is in ensuring the safety of the pilgrims and smooth operation of yatra amidst the violent situation in Kashmir, which so far seems to die down soon.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Jammu
The result of all this is reflected in the form of political parties vying with each other to outdo in supporting them. It is very true that the first, second and third priority of all politicians is to win, win and win, whatever be the means and garner the support of even the devil. The common Kashmiri citizen, who wants to lead a peaceful life, is unnecessarily dragged into the vicious circle of love and hate relationships. He cannot defy terrorists, as even the local government is playing double in appeasing them. So he feels that it is no use looking up to the government for protection, as its own leaders due the fear are living, under the shadow of guns.
Nowhere in the world terrorism has been smashed with sweet talks and by dismal surrender. Mao rightly said that the power comes out of the barrel of the gun. No security force has any grudge against any Kashmiri. They are following the orders of the government of the day. If you throw stones, or attack security forces, you must expect retaliation with double the might. Terrorist leaders, whom some call separatists, have been given government security, which is the worst form of submission. Any excuse is good enough for the terrorists, to kick up a shindy, like giving place for temporary structures to the Hindu pilgrims going to Amarnath shrine or the visit of the PM to the valley or killing of terrorists and intruders by the security forces.
The worst sufferer in this matter is ordinary Kashmiri, as nobody would like to invest in any place, where bandhs and riots take place, at the drop of a hat. Tourists also think twice before visiting any such place. It suits the terrorists, to keep Kashmir in a disturbed state, as otherwise, full time pro Pakistani politicians would loose their importance. In one week of June, 2010, five persons died and 65 others, including 32 policemen, have been injured in the provocative violent clashes in the valley.
The way, the small time politicians are going about is wrecking the economy of the state is terrible. No amount of financial assistance is going to improve the situation. Despite Prime Minister’s repeated visits and offers to talk to anybody, to sort out the problem, if any, there have been no takers for it.
The terrorists have got away, with the ethnic cleansing, the genocide of the Hindus and Sikhs from the Muslim-majority valley, with the Government of India, being a mute spectator. If anybody from Kashmir is not happy to be in India, including the so called terrorists hiding as separatists and communalists , it is time for them to quietly migrate to Pakistan or any other country in the world.
It is for the Government of India to accept the reality. In the name of democracy, such elements should not be allowed to get away with murder. Responsibility walks hand in hand with capacity and power, which in the present case does not appear to have been exercised. What we need is a clear, consistent and comprehensive policy. It is a stark truth that those, who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it .
By Joginder Singh
The writer is former Director ,CBI