Thursday, August 18th, 2022 11:32:43

Balakot bombing is a job half done, now is time to take on the real enemies of Kashmir in Delhi

Updated: March 12, 2019 11:58 am

February 26, 2019 will always be remembered as a golden day in India’s military history as it set a new precedent in the India-Pakistan strategic scenario. 12 days after Pakistan-based Jaish-e Mohammad(JeM) carried out the gruesome attack in Phulwarna killing 44 CRPF men, 12 Indian Mirage fighter, in a pre-dawn punitive strike deep inside the Pakistani territory, demolished  the terror group’s training camps in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, eliminating around 325 of their cadre, including possibly the JeM chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Maulana Yusuf Azhar.

Ever since the India-Pakistan War in 1971, the Indian armed forces had never crossed the Line of Control(LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Even during the Kargil war in 1999, the Indian Air Force had not crossed the LoC. This time, though, the IAF not only crossed the LoC into Pakistani occupied Kashmir(PoK), a territory that belongs legitimately to India, but also dared to transgress into the Pakistani territory in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to  show its might.

So far the conventional wisdom of the strategic experts was that India will not venture beyond the LoC since that will trigger a full-fledged war, a war that might turn nuclear  because of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and its repeated assertions on many occasions that it will use nuclear weapons against India in future wars in order to deal with the conventional superiority of the Indian armed forces. Under its nuclear shield, Pakistan was waging asymmetrical warfare against India in various parts of the country, Kashmir in particular; its frontline soldiers being Islamic terrorists. Pakistan calculated that its terrorist-soldiers would be more effective than regular soldiers in Kashmir and India would not dare to take any retaliatory actions, thanks to the nuclear deterrence.

Viewed thus, the  successful strike by the IAF in Balakot has shattered the strategic calculus of Pakistan. It is not that the IAF did not posess this power before, but the political leadership in India did not allow it to demonstrate its prowess beyond the India territories. In fact, the IAF, whether during the Kargil War or in the aftermath of the Novemeber 26-attack on Mumbai in 2008, had sought the permission to avenge the Pakistani assaults in our territories, but the political leadership of the day was over- defensive and  over- cautious to call the Pakistani bluff. However, this time, it was different, and the credit for this must go to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has dared to do push the envelope on the deterrence imposed by nuclear parity to defend the country against terror. And his policy is unlikely to be reversed by his successors.

But then, this is only a job half done. The other part that Modi must do – and he is the only Indian political leader who can do – is to ensure that a minority in the Kashmir valley, aided and abetted by the hardcore Islamic fundamentalists inside and outside India on the one hand and the so-called secular liberals in the capital Delhi, does not impose their agenda on the rest of the country. Our so-called Kashmir problem can be resolved if Modi shows the similar guts that he displayed against Pakistan against our internal enemies.

If one goes by mainstream media experts, academicians, retired bureaucrats now gainfully engaged in various think tanks and so-called non-governmental organisations,  if Kashmir remains a burning issue even after 75 years of the partition of the subcontinent, it is because of the incompetence of and wrong policies pursued by successive central governments in Delhi. In fact, such is the irony that a party which till yesterday was ruling from Delhi – the Congress – is now talking of the same logic.

Stripped to essentials, this logic rests on two propositions. One, Pakistan is a legitimate party to the Kashmir dispute and until and unless a settlement is not reached to the satisfaction of Islamabad, Kashmir will continue to burn. In the absence of an acceptable solution to it, so runs the argument, Pakistan will aggravate the situation by aiding abetting terrorism not only in Kashmir but also in rest of India.

Two, the separatists in Kashmir will be happy with genuine autonomy that was promised to them in 1947 by Delhi through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. All those belonging to this school of thought glorify the “separateness” of the Kashmir and would like Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to be made a permanent feature. They recommend that Delhi should have no role in Kashmir other than the ones that involve national security issues. They also find it politically correct to suggest that once the pre-1953 status of Kashmir is restored (whereby, except foreign affairs, defence and communication, Delhi’s writs will not run in Srinagar), all problems will be over.

In my considered view, none of the above is the real path towards the resolution of the Kashmir-impasse. As a doctor cannot heal a person without having the proper diagnosis of his or her ailment, we cannot solve the Kashmir problem without diagnosing what it really is.

Unfinished Agenda of Partition a Poor Logic

Is Pakistan a legitimate party to the Kashmir issue?  “Yes”, say those who argue that it was the “international obligation” of both the countries “to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions”. In fact, there are many even in India who find merits in the assertion of Mamnoon Husain, 12th President of Pakistan, in office from 2013 to 2018, that “Pakistan would continue supporting the right of self-determination of Kashmiris because Pakistan considers Kashmir as an unfinished agenda of the partition of the subcontinent.”

However, a closer scrutiny of both these contentions – the relevant Security Council resolution on Kashmir (which in fact was outdated in 1949) and “unfinished process of the partition of pre-1947 India” will create more problems for Pakistan, contrary to what it claims.

Let us begin with the much talked about Security Council resolution No.47 of April 21, 1948. First, it talks of “ceasefire” between the troops of India and Pakistan. Then it says “for restoration of peace and order” that Pakistan would use its best endeavour “to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the state of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State”.

Only after the withdrawal of these tribesmen and Pakistani intruders to the satisfaction of the then United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, India, said the resolution, would give a plan for the gradual withdrawal of the “bulk” of its troops in phases. Not only this; the resolution also gave the primary responsibility to India to maintain the law and order in the state, to involve all the political parties and people’s organisations and prepare them for the eventual plebiscite(whether to remain with India or go to Pakistan) in consultation with the Commission.

What all this underscores is that Pakistan must remove all its forces first from the Pakistan-occupied–Kashmir, including Gilgit and Baltistan (all these are parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that had joined India through the Instrument of Accession in 1947 as agreed to by then ruler of the state). Besides, it presupposes that all the demographic changes that have taken place all these years in PoK must be reversed. The vacated area will come under the control of India in consultation with the UN. India will maintain the law and order and make conducive the atmosphere by talking to the people of the state and their representatives for the eventual plebiscite.

Is Pakistan prepared for all this? And once it is prepared to do, will it ensure the withdrawal of the Chinese whom it has leased large chunks of Kashmir’s land, ostensibly for the economic development of the region? In fact, if India reversed its earlier decision in favour of the plebiscite, it was only when Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops and systematically changed the demographic composition in the PoK. Instead, it facilitated the setting up of a Constituent Assembly for Kashmir, which, in turn, ratified the Instrument of Accession and said that Jammu and Kashmir “shall remain a part of India”.

Now let us come to question of the incompletion of the process of partition. In fact, here Pakistan is much more vulnerable. Its basic argument, though it does not say so clearly, is that since Kashmir is a Muslim-majority area, Muslims there cannot co-exist with non-Muslims, i.e., Hindus, who are otherwise the majority community in India. And this is exactly propagated by the all the separatists in the state. In other words, we are face-to-face once again with the old shibboleths of the past. The two-nation theory is being revived and revisited upon us.

But then, revisiting partition throws some counter questions: how should India allow independence to Kashmir Muslims or allow them to join Pakistan; what would be the modus operandi of this exercise; would it be conditional or unconditional?

These questions are pertinent because when India was divided in 1947, the population figures were roughly 330, 27 and 30 million in India, West Pakistan, and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) respectively. In terms of area, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (then East and West Pakistan) constituted roughly 1.3, 0.3 and 0.06 million square miles respectively. Thus, population percentages were 85 percent, 15 percent and land percentages 75 percent and 25 percent for India and united West and East Pakistan respectively.

Now — and this is critical – the united Pakistan of 1947 was clearly intended to be for “all” Muslims of the subcontinent, just as Israel was created for all Jews of the world. Thus, if all Muslims of pre-August 1947 India had migrated to Pakistan, they could not have been refused by the new Pakistani rulers. Partitions in other parts of the world were always accompanied by a carefully supervised exchange of populations. This was the case with Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia and Croatia-Serbia, where full-scale exchange of populations were organised, sometimes by the United Nations itself. In fact, none other than late BR Ambedkar had raised this vital point.

In the case of India, however, the British appear to have deliberately botched things up, and the kind of supervised population exchange that could have averted chaos and bloodshed simply never happened. Between the sheer incompetence of Louis Mountbatten and the pomposity of Jawaharlal Nehru, the partitioned-on-religious lines India was actually left holding more Muslims than either Pakistan or Bangladesh! Thus, it turned out that India of 1947 was forced to accommodate over 85 percent of the population (Hindus + Muslims who stayed put) in 75 percent of her original landmass. Pakistan got a much better land deal. This was a double injustice to the dismembered India.

It may be noted here that the father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had talked of a Pakistan where every religious community could reside, and that he did not insist on Hindus and Sikhs quitting Pakistan despite the horrendous ethnic cleansing in some states at the time. But that seems to have been a diplomatic nicety, as Jinnah was the architect of the Lahore Resolution of 1940, and the Great Calcutta Killing of 1946, which made Partition inevitable.

Be that as it may, the situation today is radically different. In 1947, Hindus constituted over 20 percent of the population in West Pakistan and 36 percent in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Today, ethnic cleansing and forced conversions have reduced them to less than 1 percent in Pakistan and about 6 percent in Bangladesh. In sharp contrast, in India the Muslim population has risen from about 10 percent in 1947 to nearly 15 percent today. So Pakistan and Bangladesh have a disproportionate share of the original land vis-à-vis India.

In such a scenario, any talk of revisiting partition by granting “azadi” for Kashmir reopens the prickly issues the 1947 Partition. If Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan argue that the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims cannot coexist in Jammu and Kashmir and, therefore, the Muslims must either join Pakistan or form an independent country, then they should convince their Muslim brethren in the rest of India that they have done wrong by staying back in India and that they all should migrate either to Pakistan or Bangladesh, failing which India should demand that Pakistan and Bangladesh must adjust the excessive land handed over to them at the time of partition.

In fact, all our Muslim brethren must rise to the occasion and say that they and their parents/grandparents made the right choice by opting for a secular and pluralist India than Pakistan, and, therefore, Pakistan must return the excessive land that it got in their name. And how about getting back, in the process, Lahore and Karachi in lieu of the Kashmir Valley?

Thirdly, it is a huge myth that Pakistan will shed its hostility to India if Kashmir issue is resolved on Islamabad’s terms. Even if Kashmir joins Pakistan, Islamabad will find out another issue to trouble India. Because, Pakistan’s antipathy towards India is deep-rooted. In fact, Pakistan’s very existence as an entity depends on hostility towards India. Take India away and Pakistan’s justification as a separate country in the map of the world will hold no water. As pointed out above,  India was partitioned in 1947 to create a homeland for Muslims under the name of Pakistan. But it so happened that more Muslims stayed back in India than those who joined Pakistan   and this explains why the Pakistan Army promotes fundamentalist Mullahs in the country and uses them in tirades against India terrorist organisations like the LeT and JeS. This fundamentalist Wahabi Islam negates the Sufi tradition that promoted Hindu-Muslim amity and coexistence in the subcontinent for centuries. So much so that many Pakistanis now suffer from some identity crisis – they are not sure whether they should retain their age-old cultural roots (that are obviously influenced by Hinduism) or develop totally new “Arab identities”.

In “Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State”, a highly readable volume, edited by Dr Maleeha Lodhi, a leading Pakistani academician, who once was her country’s ambassador to the U.S., one comes across how Pakistani nationalism is India-centric; Pakistan is scared of multiple identities, it rejects indigenous cultures. Worst of all, it is confused. It often plays jump rope between being Muslim and being Islamic, being Indian and being Arab.  Of course, the book reposes great faith in the rising middle class of Pakistan, which, it argues, is going to have a more rational brand of nationalism, not tied with India-centric history (that is full of venoms against Hindus). What this book has  emphasised is the need to bring the country’s politics in sync with the social, economic and technological changes that have been transforming the national landscape and creating a more ‘connected’ society. Electoral and political reforms that foster greater and more active participation by Pakistan’s growing educated middle class will open up possibilities for the transformation of an increasingly dysfunctional, patronage-dominated polity into one that is able to tap the resilience of the people and meet their needs.

But is that going to happen? At the moment, it looks a Herculean task, given the rising fundamentalism in Pakistan. In a country, if a serving governor of the largest province (Punjab) and a central cabinet minister are assassinated by the fundamentalists but none in the government dares to attend their funerals, the judge who pronounces punishment for the murderer is forced to be banished from the country, and yet the urbanised middle class tolerates all this, it speaks volumes of its capacity. And when one talks of the fundamentalists, they are very clear that Pakistan’s real enemy is a democratic India. They cannot be satiated by their victories just over Afghanistan and Kashmir. They want to rule over the entire Indian subcontinent. The Pakistani Army, particularly the ISI, is perfectly in tune with this philosophy.

Oblivious of India’s size, population and potentials, Pakistan’s obsession right since its inception has been seeking “parity with India”. And how to seek parity? One has to do everything that India does. If India has nuclear weapons and missiles, Pakistan must have them even if in the process, as late the Z Bhutto said, “The Pakistanis have to eat grass (to survive).” The other thing to do is to work towards the disintegration of India so that India comes down to the size of Pakistan. This policy, as Bhutto said, was “essential for Pakistan’s national survival and unity”. Therefore, he further elaborated, Pakistan’s policies against India should be closely coordinated with China.

Fourthly, and this is a corollary of the above point, erosion of Indian power, dismemberment of its territories and consolidation of an anti-India geostrategic nexus are Pakistan’s predominant foreign policy goals. Pakistan’s war against India is no longer confined to Kashmir. Pakistan wants to balkanize India by cutting off the country’s northern, eastern (North-East) and southern (Kerala) wings. In fact, Mushahid Hussain, once a former information minister under Sharif, has argued that Pakistan should work towards the division of India into three or four independent countries. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s ISI machinery will concentrate on widening the Hindu-Muslim divide, spreading hatred and destroying India’s inherent ethos of communal harmony.

The moral of the story is obvious. Unless the typical mindset of the Pakistanis is changed, India will remain their eternal enemy. Any amount of  unilateral concessions that India may provide to Pakistan is not going to change the situation, at least in foreseeable future.

A Question of Relevance of  Article 370

As far as making the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution a permanent feature is concerned, the proponents say that Delhi should have no role in Kashmir other than the ones that involve national security issues. They also find it politically correct to suggest that once the pre-1953 status of Kashmir is restored (whereby, except foreign affairs, defence and communication, Delhi’s writs will not run in Srinagar), all problems in Kashmir will be over. In effect, it will mean that thousands and thousands of crores that we ordinary tax-payers pay every year for the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be spent without any accountability. It is not that it is accountable now, but at least the country has the formal power to scrutinise. That this formal power is not being used judiciously is a different story. Going back to pre-1953 days will also mean that ordinary Kashmiris will not have the opportunity to knock at Indian judiciary, one of our great institutions, some failings here and there notwithstanding. That will also mean that our Election Commission will not be able to ensure clean elections which the state has witnessed in recent years.

Whatever one may say, the truth is that Article 370 is an instrument of appeasement to the separatists.  And appeasement, by its very nature, is like a pain-killer tablet. It suppresses the pain for the time being but does not stamp out the disease. On the other hand, it further encourages those appeased to demand more and more. And worst, it legitimises the “separateness” of those appeased. It gives them the feeling that they are different from the rest. And with the passage of time, the situation will reach a point when they will succeed in completely separating themselves from the appeasers. Unfortunately, Kashmir is undergoing this process, which we can neglect at our peril.

Can any central government afford to restore the pre-1953 position?  Let us see the consequences. Suppose, for the sake of “defence”, the Army needs a base there in the state but the state government refuses to give the required land, as it knows pretty well that in the absence of the Article 356, it cannot be dismissed by the Governor.

Similarly, in the absence of the writs of the Supreme Court and Election Commission, imagine what will happen when it is well established that the Kashmir valley dominates in resources, powers and representations over Jammu and Ladakh? People of Jammu and Ladakh have legitimate grievances when they point out that over the years the power-structure in the state has permanently tilted in favour of the valley-elites. For instance, Jammu is 70 percent larger in are than Kashmir and has 45 percent of the state’s population. But Jammu has only 32 seats in the state Assembly, while Kashmir has 42. In fact, if one adds the areas of Jammu and Ladakh together, and here the people have no quarrels with Delhi-establishment, and leave the Shias living in the Kashmir valley, the valley-based agitators turn out to be the least-representatives of the people of the state as a whole.

As stated above,  given the quantum of the central funds that goes to Jammu and Kashmir every year, imagine what will happen to the concept of accountability and probity if the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) has no job in the state. According to a recent analysis by the Hindu newspaper, Jammu and Kashmir has received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 percent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 percent of Central grants in 2000-16. “That means Jammu and Kashmir, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period,” said the paper, adding, “ Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of Central assistance. The state received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the Union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the Central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period.” Broadly speaking, nearly 75 percent Jammu and Kashmir’s revenue comes by way of the transfers from the central government in some form or the other year after year. But the valley-based elites will not like a single question from Delhi as to how the money is being spent!  No wonder why   despite huge natural resources, the state government has always been approaching the Centre with a begging bowl and  why  corruption is rampant in Jammu and Kashmir. Because thanks to Article 370, no question can be asked to the valley-based elites.

In fact, now it is high time we at least debate the usefulness of Article 370  – whether it has been beneficial or detrimental to the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a whole. And here one is talking of Jammu and Kashmir, not the Kashmir valley alone.  We must see whether the Article 370 is  “the law unites J&K with the other states and it serves as a bridge between the state and the rest of the country” that is advocates claim, or has it become the instrument of exploitation of the people of Jammu and Ladakh in the hands of the elites of the valley.

It may be noted that thanks to this very Article, permanent residents of  Jammu are second class citizens in the state. They may vote in the central elections, but have no right to participate in the Assembly elections. They cannot even apply for the central government jobs in the state. It is because of this Article and its associated provisions that  children of the daughter of the state cannot inherit properties if they marry outside the state.  As Prof. Rekha Chowdhary rightly says, “Article 370 has nothing to do with this issue. It is the issue of Permanent Residents of the state. This was a local law passed in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh. According to this law, only the state subjects were entitled to certain privileges including state employment and ownership of property. The discrimination against women was a later phenomenon. The Permanent Resident Certificate (a terminology used for ‘state subjects’ in post-1947 period) for women was stamped ‘valid till marriage’. After their marriage women, in order to enjoy the rights of Permanent Residents of the state had to be reissued the certificate, in case they married the Permanent Residents. Women who were married outside the state were not issued such certificate. This administrative practice was challenged in the High Court of the state and in 2004 decision came in favour of women. As per the present legal position, no distinction is made between men and women in their right to be the Permanent Residents. This is despite the fact that successive state governments have tried to undo the High Court decision by introducing a bill (twice) for disqualifying women to be the Permanent Residents of the state if they marry outside the state.

Whatever its advocates  may say, the fact, however,  remains that if there are certain rules or laws in Jammu and Kashmir that are not in tune with the laws prevailing in the rest of the country, it is precisely because of the Article 370, whether directly or indirectly. In its essence, the Article 370 limits on the legislative power of the Union over Jammu and Kashmir. There are strict limits to what Parliament can legislate for the state.  The state has a separate constitution and a separate flag, something no other state has. The tenure of its Assembly is six years, whereas in the rest of the country it is five years. Not every Indian citizen in Jammu is allowed to contest Assembly elections in the state. Even the Supreme Court has only appellant jurisdiction here as it is not vested with the jurisdiction of a Federal Court and can only hear cases on appeal.

The Article 370 article specifies that except for “Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications”, (matters specified in the instrument of accession) the Indian Parliament needed the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians. Of course, similar protections for unique status exist in Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland and there are some constitutional  safeguards   for the backward regions of some states such as Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh  in the  matter   of development  and  also in the matter of employment  opportunities  and educational facilities for the residents of that area. But the difference lies in the fact while the Parliament amend these laws on its own, in Jammu and Kashmir nothing can be done without the consent of  its Assembly.

Consolidation of Radical Islam

What is then the real diagnosis of the Kashmir situation? It is very wellknown but then politics and the unpalatable truth rarely go together. And this has been the real tragedy with Kashmir for years. The recent instances  of this bitter reality was the sacking of Haseeb Drabu as the finance minister by Jammu and Kashmir by the last chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also happens to the head of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to which Drabu belongs. What was the truth that Drabu spoke? “Jammu and Kashmir shouldn’t be seen as a conflict state or a political problem, but as a society with social issues,” Drabu had said while addressing the “Ambassadors’ Meet” hosted by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi on March 9, 2018.

“Jammu and Kashmir is (also) a society which has social issues right now. We are trying to find out our own space. And we are going through a process which many other countries are going through. It is not like we are the only ones. It is not a political issue as far as I can see. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree talking  for the last 50, 70 years about the politics of it, the political situation, how it has never been improved. I think we also seriously need to correct in terms of how it is a society in search for itself,” the sacked minister had emphasised.

One also remembers in this context how Mehbooba Mufti had also sidelined another senior party leader and former  deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Like Drabu, Baig  at the all-party meeting in Delhi in August 2016 had also spoken the  unpalatable truth  how in Kashmir “a narrative of religious extremism” is witnessing “the revival of Khilafat which has taken the form of Islamic State. Let me quote Baig.  “I told (the all party meet) that there is a narrative of religious extremism. This narrative is created in madrasas. Our teachers and schools don’t have such commitment or reach. These kids are trained in the religious texts without context. Now there is a revival of Khilafat, which has taken the form of ISIS. It is bound to influence the youth of Kashmir. I told them (All Party meeting) that what is taught in Madrasas is not real Islam. They teach them politicised Islam. They (the students) get two sets of kameez pajamas from their families and these vulnerable minds are told that if you die in Jihad, you will go to paradise and if you survive you will be a hero. We should have had a counter-narrative (in Kashmir)”.

“I reminded Prime Minister (Modi) of his speech during election campaign at Kishtwar (in J&K). I said Vajpayee had used Insaniyat and Jhumhuriyat only. In Kishtwar you introduced and added Kashmiriyat. I was happy to see you introducing Kashmiriyat. For us, it means a centrist between Shaivite Hinduism where unity of God, fraternity and equality of human being are its foundations, which was later supplemented and enriched by Sufism. That is Kashmiriyat. It has two facets– one is civilisation value and other is the political status. The unique status of Kashmir in Indian Union was necessary to preserve and foster its civilisational values and tradition. It isn’t a Muslim identity but a mixed identity. We need to build a counter-narrative centered around this Kashmiriyat.”

For this writer, Baig was 100 percent right. 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. The unpalatable truth, which our bleeding-heart-liberals in the intelligentsia and political parties ignore, 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.

The Saudi-funded and Pakistani-supported Wahabism has been on a forward march in Kashmir ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Its primary purpose in the beginning was to stem the Shia uprising, but over a period of time, Wahabism with generous Saudi petrodollars gathered its own momentum.  Their main aim is to establish their type of Islamic rule, with no scope for co-existence with those having  different belief-systems.  It is in this context that one agrees fully with  Bangladeshi scholar Abu Taher Salahuddin Ahmed that over the years, Kashmir has been witnessing  three principal trends – Indianness, Kashmiriness and Muslimness.

The Indianness has been propagated by the federal forces, be it the Central Government or national parties such as the Congress and the BJP. However, the problem in the State is due to the tussle between those believing in Kashmiriness and those loyal to Muslimness.

Kashmiriness is an offshoot of the much-talked about Kashmiriyat, which, while co-existing with Indianness, talks of inclusive or composite identity, binding all groups together and not offending any section. Of course, some scholars now point out that there were always differences between Muslims and Hindus (essentially Kashmiri Pundits) in their interpretation of the concept of Kashmiriyat. But undeniably, the concept did promote coexistence. Majority of the Kashmiri Muslims, therefore, had no problems with the Hindus or for that matter with the Buddhists. And, the key factor to the success of Kashmiriyat was the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Kashmiri Muslims believed in Sufism or what is said the “Rishi tradition” that believed in saint and shrine worships. Of course, it was greatly facilitated by the fact that as was the case in other parts of the subcontinent, Muslims were essentially converts from the fold of Hinduism. No wonder why despite being a Muslim-majority area, beef-eating, until recently, was virtually non-existent in the Valley.  Majority of the Kashmiri Muslims  had no problems with the Hindus or for that matter with the Buddhists.

In contrast, the Muslimness always advocated the exclusive concepts in the valley. Promoted by the Wahhabi and Ahl-i-Hadith sects, this school relies more on the authority of the Quran and Hadith and is totally opposed to the concept of saints and shrine worships. This tradition or school has always been in minority in Kashmir, but has always been there. It was behind organisations such as the Muslim Conference and the Kashmir Jamaat (KJ).

Needless to say that almost all the separatists and terrorists, including the so-called moderate elements like the Hurriyat Conference, belong to the school of Islamness. They have nothing to do with India. They have nothing to with Kashmiriyat either. For them, Kashmiri as a distinct and proud language does not exist. No wonder why Kashmiri children are no more encouraged to speak, read and write in their mother-tongue; they are forced to adapt to Urdu.

In other words, Kashmir’s present woes are essentially because of the diminishing phenomenon of “Kashmiriyat” based on the “Sufism”, the principal feature of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Sufism talks of coexistence with, not total domination over others as propounded by the fanatic Wahabism, financed by Saudi Arabia and implemented by Pakistan in Kashmir. The disturbing elements in Kashmir thus  are essentially Islamists, not freedom fighters that they claim to be. Just see the videos of the speeches of any Hurriyat leader to realise this point.

Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khudune Sahid brilliantly wrote once in The Nation, one of Pakistan’s leading dailies, that Burhan Muzaffar Wani, whose killing three years ago  triggered the present wave of violence in the valley, was “the offspring of the global jihadist movement that emerged in the last quarter of the previous century, hammering Muslim-majority freedom movements into Islamist struggles wherever the occupying force was ‘non-Muslim’– including Palestine, Kashmir and East Turkestan. And the problem with any Islamist ‘freedom’ movement is that it intrinsically contradicts the very idea of freedom.”

Let it be noted in this context the fundamental fact that the Islamic State (preaching the deadliest form of Wahabism or Sunni fundamentalism) has an anti-Shia genesis. It came into being during the post-war Iraq, when the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad and the US started the de-Baathification by removing from government positions of all those associated with Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Party. This caused a significant backlash from those Baathists who were Sunnis; they now cooperated with Islamic extremists, led first by al Qaeda and now by the Islamic State. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam’s right-hand man, and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a former Iraqi Army general, assumed key leadership positions in the Islamic State.

Islamic State shows no mercy to other religions and is particularly brutal to Shiites. It is true that the Saudi establishment and even al Qaeda have distanced themselves from Islamic State, of late. But that is not due to any major ideological differences. There may be differences among them over the degree of savagery and barbarity based on a distorted interpretation of the Quran, but not in overall content of their ideology. The tussle among them is over who will be in control to lead “the Sunni-world”. And in this world, there is no question of pluralities and peaceful coexistence with other religions and even other sects of Islam like the Shias.

These radical Islamists (Wahabis) may be categorised into three distinct but connected groups. The first group is the main body that claims itself an ‘Islamic State’ that is fighting for its supremacy in territories in Northwestern Iraq and Eastern Syria. The second group is comprised of those based in the Islamic or Muslim majority countries, including Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and Pakistan. Here, one finds the above-mentioned tussles between the prevailing regimes and some outfits owing allegiance to more “puritan” organisations such as Islamic State and al Qaeda. For instance, the Pakistani Taliban and Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia have declared their support for the Islamic State.

The third group consists of radicalised Muslim immigrants in the Western democracies and indigenous radicalised (or radicalising) Muslims in democracies in Asia and Africa. Mostly, they are the disaffected Muslim youths. It is difficult to establish whether there is an organised chain of command between the Islamic State central leadership and the latter two groups. Rather, experts on terrorism believe that both the second and third groups attempt to opportunistically utilise the brand name of the first group in order to gain publicity. And this is precisely what is happening in Kashmir today, though the Saudi-funded and Pakistani-supported Wahabism had been on a forward march in Kashmir ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979,its  primary purpose being  to stem the Shia uprising. Now,  over a period of time, Wahabism with generous Saudi petrodollars has gathered its own momentum.

Therefore, it is a huge myth that Kashmir will be normal once the government starts dialogue with the separatists. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held three Round Tables with all the stake holders in the valley. He had set up five working groups as a result of the round table initiative, including one on Centre-state relations. But when things were to be implemented, came the stone-throwing incidents in 2010, inviting police retaliations that resulted in 112 deaths. In fact, that time, there was some genuine reason for the eruption of the crisis – the Indian Army claimed to have killed three “Pakistani infiltrators” but it was later revealed to be a case of a fake encounter. But this time, there was no such reason – the security forces killed Wani, a known terrorist. Besides, the forces have demonstrated exemplary restraint.

In fact, it is a myth that  the armed insurgency in Kashmir that began in 1989-90 was a result of the election rigging of 1987. The rigged poll might have been a catalyst, but the fact remains that  during this poll campaign, the MUF had made it clear that its aim was to establish ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (rule of the Prophet) in Kashmir. One of its constituents , the Jamaat, under the leadership of one Maulana Syed Maududi (1903-1979), always urged its followers to see Islam as Nizam-e-hayaat (a code of life) and to struggle for Islamic rule. Democracy was seen as ‘haraam’ or unIslamic. It may be noted that the  Jamaat in Kashmir had severed its ties with the outfit in India and Pakistan and became an independent entity in 1953. The same year, one of Maududi’s earnest admirers, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, became a full-time member of the Jamaat. The Kashmiri Jamaat’s rejection of India and its focus on Islamism formed the core of the separatist movement in Kashmir. As early as 1980, the Jamaat had declared Indian forces stationed in Kashmir to be an ‘army of occupation’ and appealed to the Kashmiri Muslim youth to ‘throw out’ the Indian occupiers and establish Islamic rule in the state. In 1987, the candidates who fought elections under the Front’s banner included Geelani and a Jamaat teacher, Mohammed Yusuf Shah, whom we now know as Syed Salahuddin, chairman of the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council!

Since then, the political Islam has made firmer roots in the valley. The Pakistani support and assistance to the cause has greatly facilitated the cause. All the separatist leaders would love Kashmir to be run by Sharia, not by democratic tenets. They want mosques or mosque-approved leaders, not any elected representatives, to control their lives. Just see the roles the mosques are playing in aggravating the crisis in Kashmir today. It is the loudspeakers from mosques that instigate people to gather and agitate. It is in the mosques that the terrorists take shelter, knowing pretty well that the security forces will not dare enter there. Because, the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988 is applicable to all over India except in Jammu and Kashmir, thanks to the Article 370.

In other words, the separatists want Kashmir not only to be the sole preserve of the Muslims, but be guided by a particular brand of Islam. They want Shias and  non-Muslims, if at all they are allowed to live, to be second-class citizens. This is the precise reason why they want azadi from a democratic India, which, otherwise, houses 130 million proud Muslims. But what has really helped the Political Islam in the valley is the virtual politics of appeasement on the part of the central and state governments to the separatists. The likes of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh wrongly believed that by pandering to the demands of the Huriyat and civil right activists, the situation would  improve. But appeasement will never work with forces of “Muslimness”; it will rather embolden them and strengthen the cause of “Kashmir for Muslims”. Do not we hear the likes of Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, both former chief ministers,  saying periodically that Kashmir must not compromise its Muslim character?

Dangerous role of the “Liberals”

In a sense, the Islamic- insurgency  in Kashmir may turn out to be the most difficult to handle in the days to come because India happens to be a democratic country where the bleeding-heart liberals – most of them being arm-chair “pacifists” – project Indian Military as aggressor and Kashmiris as underdogs fighting for their human rights — and where  reality is dwarfed by perceptions based on layers of inconvenient truths and convenient lies. In fact, under the influence of these liberals, some important national dailies have now even stopped using the term “terrorists” altogether; instead, they now prefer to use the word “militants”. Let me explain this point in details.

Do you remember what our so-called liberals were recommending when Punjab was literally burning during the Khalistani agitation? Had the then Punjab director general of police KPS Gill listened to these liberals, dominating our think tanks, universities and national media, Khalistan perhaps would have been a reality by now! Similarly, if we go by the recommendations of these liberals for Kashmir now, it will become the surest way towards the country’s disintegration.

Let us see the intellectual hollowness of these so-called peaceniks. Their first characteristic is that an overwhelming majority of them are not comfortable with the government of the day. Most of them are political adversaries of the ruling party and its associates (Modi for them is fascist and fundamentalist). Almost all of them question everything that the Modi government does – strong actions against terrorists and agents of Pakistan, contemplating hard measures against the Maoists in central India, setting up nuclear plants for clean energy and attracting foreign investments to set up industries in various parts of the country, to cite a few examples. The habitual plea of these peaceniks, or opponents of war, is that the government is violating human rights, depriving the poor of their livelihood and compromising on environmental laws.

The second characteristic of the peaceniks is that their important leaders may be leading politicians, but they do include prominent non-governmental personalities, with or without links to the policy-makers, at their own initiative. Under this category fall retired civil servants, former military officials, academicians, businessmen, media personalities, professionals who organise and attend seminars, and NGOs or civil rights activists.

Invariably, they also attract high-profile celebrities to their cause. We have Bollywood celebrities like Mahesh Bhatt and Gulzar, who have supported the peaceniks for whom Pakistan is a paragon of virtues and Kashmiri-separatists are first-rate Gandhians. Likewise, in the United States, we have seen Hollywood actor Sean Penn and soap opera stars such as Alison Whyte and Kerry Armstrong criticising American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These celebrities are solicited to be with the peaceniks, not necessarily because they really understand the intricacies of the involved issues but because their support attracts media coverage, which, in reality, is the guiding principle.

The third characteristic of these peaceniks is that invariably their source of funding is dubious. After all, it costs money to attract high-profile academicians, retired officials and media personalities who love “free” travels to foreign countries for seminars in five or seven-star hotels, let alone other hospitalities. And, in most of the cases, the money is provided by the foreign NGOs and foreign intelligence agencies (the two happen to be interlinked in most of the cases).

We know how the ISI-funded Pakistani-American Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai’s Kashmiri ‘azaadi’ conferences and luxury retreats attract leading Left academics, editors from India. We also know from American scholar Christine Fair’s recent book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, how Pakistan’s ISI supports and funds peaceniks from India to further Pakistani interests in India, all in the name of peace, of course. Similarly, we also know how some international NGOs are virtually funding the anti-nuclear, anti-development and pro-Maoist peaceniks in India.

The fourth, and the most important, characteristic of the peaceniks, whether in India or abroad, is their inconsistencies or double standards. Invariably, they use the truth selectively.

It may be emphasised here that peaceniks often describe themselves to be the Left and liberals. But it is not perhaps fully realised that almost all the major wars in the last 100 years have been fought and caused by liberals in power.

American global interventionism during the Cold War began under a Democrat (liberal) president, Harry Truman. The most savage phase of America’s war in Vietnam (the mid-1960s) coincided with the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat. In fact, the Vietnam War was ended not by the peaceniks but by the conservatives, under the Presidency of Republican Richard Nixon.

It may be noted that in America, the idea of compulsory military training had emerged from the progressive movement – the spirit of nationalism and of service to the central government was fundamental to American progressivism. As Raymond Robins, the famous American economist and writer who advocated organised labour and diplomatic relations with Russia under the Bolsheviks, wrote, “compulsory universal military training will do more in one generation to break down class and section prejudice, develop disciplined, vigorous and efficient citizenship, and to unify the diverse groups of our national life in a vital Americanism than all other forces combined.”

The same has been the case with the Left peaceniks. Did you ever see them criticising the Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan? Have you ever noticed them (including their Indian brethren) condemning “Islamic jihad” (that manifested during the recent attack in Manchester), ethnic cleansing by the Pakistanis in Sind, Baluchistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir? Have you seen these peaceniks or liberals  ever supporting publicly the rights of the Muslim women? Have they ever denounced fatwahs against “the wrong kind of Muslims”, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus?

The biggest problem with the peaceniks, notwithstanding their “libertarian” claptrap, is that hard facts do not match their ideological predispositions. They may criticise today’s “Brand Nationalism”, but they are doing exactly the same thing by promoting their “Brand Peacenik”. In the process, they are becoming really dishonest.

Way Ahead

Good-governance and restoration of Kashmiriyat are keys to the peace and prosperity of Kashmir, not talking to the Islamist separatists. The latter need to be dealt with as sternly as possible, not pampered as they are now with crores of rupees spent on their security and health. And for this, the state needs judicious use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), not its total withdrawal as demanded by our so-called liberals and peaceniks.

Contrary to what the habitual army-bashers say, if Kashmir continues to be with India and if any organisation that the ordinary Kashmiri, as distinct from the separatist, is most comfortable with, then it is the Indian Army. In the process, the Army has made tremendous sacrifices, both in terms of men and material. Abrogating the AFSPA or removing some of its key provisions in an attempt to make it ‘humane’ could place the Army (and other security forces) at a great disadvantage in their fight against a vicious insurgency that has now religious overtones. Any watering down of the Act will result in de-motivating the troops whose lawful actions may expose them to decades of litigation in civil courts.

Let us be proud of our armed forces. They need to be encouraged and strengthened, not maligned at. 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.

By Prakash Nanda


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