Violence in the Valley sponsored from across the borders has continued without respite despite actions by the Governments and the security forces.
Unfortunately most of these actions have been reactive, tactical and predictable. We have been naïve and soft in our approach in dealing with the problem in J&K. Stone throwing is aimed at interfering with an ongoing anti – terror operations and social media messages are meant to subvert the people’s mind. These are not forms of protests but acts of war against the state.
Pakistan has adopted a three-pronged strategy to keep the unrest in the valley alive and is hoping to attract the attention of the international community in the bargain. With the Lok Sabha bypolls for the Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies coming up in the second week of April 2017, Pakistan has intensified its efforts to escalate the disturbances in the valley so as to deter the electorate from voting. Separatists have already called for a boycott of the elections. The aim is to project low turnout in the elections as an indication of people’s unhappiness with the Indian rule.
Pakistan’s plan for the valley covers actions inside the valley, moving resources from across the border besides a well-orchestrated propaganda strategy to target people in the valley and to mislead the world.
Within the valley crowds including women and children are being mobilised under coercion to project the assembly of people as a sign of spontaneous protest and resistance to Indian rule. Here the coercion aspect needs to be understood. The security forces leave the scene after carrying out operations. The people on the other hand have no option but to live in the same place under the watchful eyes of the gun wielding militants and the over ground workers leaving them with no choice but to submit to their dictates.
Injuries to people are advertised as brutality and human right violations by the security forces. The J & K police operating in the valley are being projected as anti – Islam and anti-people and the people are being provoked to target them. The aim is to demoralise the local Police who have been doing a tremendous job despite their vulnerability and threats to their families. Social media messages are being sent to spread rumour, exhort people to come out of their houses to distract the security forces, disrupt anti – terror operations and assist holed up militants to escape. The larger aim is to subvert the minds of the people. Stone pelters are being paid to keep their interest going.
From across the border infiltration bids have escalated three fold in 2016 as compared to 2015. The aim is to flood the valley with trained and motivated militants to enable their ISI masters to control and direct operations from across the border and ensure that the pitch of violence doesn’t taper down. Weapons, ammunition and explosives are transported across the borders using the infiltrators as carriers.
Press briefings by the spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign office provides a clear spectacle of Pakistan’s efforts in misleading the international community into believing that while the trouble in the valley is indigenous, India is fermenting strife inside Pakistan. Anti – terror operations are being projected as acts of human rights violation.
China has been carrying out anti-terrorism operations in Xinjiang since at least 2013 and have placed sever restrictions in the people practicing their religion. Political expression has been curbed in all its forms. Pakistan has carried out Zarb- e-Azb in North Waziristan and is presently engaged in carrying out Raad ul Fasaad across the country. During these operations artillery weapons, attack helicopters, and air powers have been freely used. Till date the names of terrorists and civilians killed and wounded in these operations have not been revealed. None of the dead bodies have been handed over to their relatives or have they been permitted to carry the dead bodies in a procession like in the valley. No one even knows if the dead have been given a decent burial in accordance with their religious beliefs. Similar anti-terror operations have been carried out by Western countries as well, where, suspected terrorists have been arrested or where necessary shot dead.
Have there been any protests or stone pelting in these countries? Has anyone including the human rights organisations raised any questions of human right violations? Police forces and the Army in these countries have been firm in handling these situations.
In India situations like in J&K are beyond the capabilities of our police forces. The Army unfortunately has been employed like a Police force. Loss of deterrence effect of the Army and the situation in the valley today is a direct result of this confused employment of the Force. Despite the fact that the Indian Army till date has not used anything beyond small arms in these operations, we have allowed everyone to question everything that the Army does in the execution of its task. Questions of mistrusts raised on the killing of Burhan Wani, a patented militant in an encounter and about the Army’s integrity when it carried out the ‘Surgical Strike’ across the border are cases in point. The deployment of Army and the imposition of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in these areas have been repeatedly contested by the peace brigade who has been silenced for the present and will in all probability start its tune once the situation is controlled.
The Government has a responsibility to maintain law and order especially in a troubled state like J & K bordering a hostile neighbour. Winning the hearts and minds cannot be at the cost of violence or soldier’s lives. The Army Chief has very clearly articulated the need to treat the stone pelters, over ground workers and those interrupting the operations as anti-nationals and they need to be treated as such. The sanctity of ‘Red Lines’ once defined will have to be maintained. Empty threats are counterproductive.
As for the propaganda through social media, while messages and social network accounts operating from Pakistan needs to be blocked, those generating and circulating these messages within the valley need to be identified and punished. Blocking social media or internet in the valley cannot be sustained for long periods and may have negative implications.
Need for strategic thinking
It is time India shifted the battle to Pakistan’s soil. Pakistan needs to be targeted where it hurts the country most. The fault lines in Pakistan’s cupboards are many and the most sensitive one being the status of ‘Durand Line’ bordering Afghanistan.
The plot behind Pakistan’s plan to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a neglected area where over 95 percent population are Pashtuns, with Pakistan’s province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) needs to be viewed in context. A large number of this tribe also live in the neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern Baluchistan.
The British demarcation of the Durand Line was a deliberate strategy designed to divide the Pashtun territory along the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today 1.3 million Afghans continue to remain as refugees in Pakistan of whom majority are Pashtuns. The world is aware of the profiling of Pashtuns being carried out by Pakistan. These refugees are expected to leave Pakistan and settle in Afghanistan but without these tribes being allowed the right to their own land.
The Durand Line and Pashtunistan issues have been raised by different Afghan regimes in the past. None of the Afghan Governments including the Taliban Government which had briefly ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 have ever accepted the Durand line as the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India needs to recognise the aspirations and sufferings of the Pashtuns and support their demand.
Declare Pakistan a terror state and snap economic and trade relations
It is time India enacted the Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s ‘State Sponsor of Terror Bill’ and broke all economic and trade relations with Pakistan. India granted Most Favoured Nation’s (MNF) status to Pakistan in 1996, barely a year after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into being. Despite two decades having gone by, Pakistan is yet to reciprocate the gesture. What are we waiting for and what are our compulsions for not rescinding the agreement yet? Rail, road, sea and air traffic between India and Pakistan needs to be cut down to bare minimum.
The diplomatic establishments at both ends needs to be downsized and the relationship with Pakistan downgraded to a minimum inescapable level.
Annul Indus Water Treaty
The treaty was signed by India as a good will gesture to Pakistan in the hope Pakistan will reciprocate the token at some point in time despite India receiving just about 20 percent of water from the system. It is an unequal treaty by all counts. Pakistan on the contrary has been raising motivated objections to the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects being built in India. Pakistan has not respected the Shimla agreement or the Cease Fire Agreement signed in 2003. Sticking by the Indus Water treaty any longer stands to no logic. The water sharing arrangement needs to be renegotiated so as to ensure that India derives equal benefit from the river systems as Pakistan if not more.
Handling of separatists
India has been blind to the activities of the self-proclaimed separatist leaders who have been hostile to India’s interests. Money laundering cases against Hurriyat leaders Syed Shah Ali Gilani, Yasin Malik, and Shabir Shah and the others involved needs to be probed on priority and the cases brought to their logical conclusion. Their wealth and properties acquired beyond their known sources of income needs to be probed. A special investigation team and a court need to be constituted to speed up the proceedings. The venue of investigations and trials will have to be shifted out of the valley to provide an atmosphere conducive for the investigations and trials.
Syed Shah Gilani controls the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) elements besides the Jamaat-e-Islami cadres in the valley. These cadres act as over ground workers and form a part of the logistic infrastructure which caters to support militant outfits including those who infiltrate into India from Pakistan. Similar set ups are working for the other Hurriyat leaders. These elements need to be identified and prosecuted for they work against the country’s interests. For this purpose a time bound programme needs to be drawn and an independent set up created irrespective of the costs involved. The separatists are not elected and represent no one and as such there can be no talks with them which provide legitimacy and status to these elements.
The Security and other privileges provided to these individuals and those similarly placed need to be withdrawn without any further delay.
There are paid elements in the valley who repeatedly deny Pakistan’s hand in the present situation in the valley and assert that the disturbances are spontaneous and are reflective of the people’s disillusionment with India. The question is where did the over a lakh weapons and thousands of tons of explosives and an assortment of military equipment captured by the security forces come from?
Kashmir Valley was very peaceful without any disturbances ever since Independence in 1947 till about 1980, a period of over three decades. Disturbances over the plebiscite issue or Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan were never witnessed. What has changed? Obviously militancy in Kashmir is result of direct interference by Pakistan in India’s internal affairs from across the border. The seeds of dissent were spread after Zia ul Haq became the Pakistan Army’s Chief in 1976.
Though it may sound cynical, the answer to peace in Kashmir may lie in keeping Pakistan and the separatist leaders under constant multiple pressure with no letup in sight.
Updated on: April 3, 2017