Monday, February 6, 2023
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After Article 370, Modi’s first test in Kashmir will begin once curfew is lifted

Armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir must gear up for the long haul to deal with revived insurgency.

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The irony is hard to miss. While the nation celebrates the Narendra Modi government’s move to abrogate Article 370 and bring about the ‘final merger’ of Jammu and Kashmir with the union of India, people of the state are in quarantine imposed by unprecedented deployment of Central Armed Police Forces. The state itself has been divided and its status reduced to two union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The Modi government will face its first big test in J&K when curfew is lifted and people hit the streets to vent their frustration. The protests will be unprecedented with separatists and mainstream political parties of J&K joining hands. The heavy deployment of security forces is anyway unprecedented and, therefore, there is every chance that the situation may spiral out of control.

How the government and the security forces handle these protests will determine the future course of events in J&K.

Also read: Narendra Modi has chosen the BJP’s interests in Kashmir over the national interest

Opting for the crude way

The writ of the Constitution prevails over the territory, but not necessarily in the hearts and minds of the people. The abrogation of Article 370 is nothing more than an ideological and emotional victory for the BJP government. It is likely to give impetus to the insurgency in Kashmir.

Articles 370 and 35A had outlived their life and deserved to be abrogated. But as a responsible constitutional democracy, we should have done it with finesse and constitutional propriety. We should have secured the willing cooperation of the people rather than pushing it in a crude manner.

Upholding the Kashmiri identity

The merger of J&K – the only Muslim-majority state to willingly merge with India – was a result of the ‘Kashmiri identity’ prevailing over the ‘Muslim identity’. Articles 370 and 35A symbolically upheld the ‘Kashmiri identity’ and ensured that the religion of the majority did not occupy centre-stage in the state. It was the political failure of successive governments at the Centre that led to religious identity becoming the primary motivation for the insurgency in J&K since 1989.

While political parties in the state and at the Centre have always tried to politicise Article 370, people of Kashmir have always seen Article 370 as an emotional bond with the rest of India.

Recall the thunderous applause received by then-Prime Minister Vajpayee when he coined the slogan “Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat” as part of his Kashmir policy. People of Kashmir welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he invoked Vajpayee’s Kashmir vision during the 2014 assembly election campaign.

The Vajpayee vision for Kashmir, once the pride of the BJP, has been flouted with impunity on all three counts – Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat.

Also read: This is General Bajwa’s dilemma after Modi govt’s Article 370 move in Kashmir

A deliberate insult

Now with Article 370 set to be abrogated, the ‘Muslim identity’ will permanently prevail over the ‘Kashmiri identity’ and fuel the insurgency. To reduce one of the largest pre-Partition princely states of India into a union territory will be seen by the state’s majority as a deliberate insult.

This will polarise the state’s Muslim population. In the last decade, insurgency was restricted to the Valley. Now, I foresee a return of the insurgency in the Muslim majority areas in southwest and southeast of the Pir Panjal Range.

Further, in the last five years, the regional parties in J&K have been politically sidelined by the BJP. With Article 370 gone, there is little to distinguish them from the separatist political entities. Cadres of both are likely to join forces to emerge as the political face of the revived insurgency.

Push from Pakistan

As an ‘honest broker’ in Afghanistan, Pakistan is back in favour with the US. Far from being isolated, as it appeared post-Balakot, it is now in a pivotal position in the region, enjoying the support of US, China, Russia and the oil-rich Islamic nations. Pakistan will seize the opportunity created by the abrogation of Article 370 to upgrade the proxy war.

I foresee infiltration of better-trained Pakistani terrorists and smuggling of arms and ammunition in greater quantities in J&K to give a boost to the proxy war. The religious polarisation will also be exploited by pan-Islamic terrorist organisations, like the al-Qaeda and the ISIS.

Stick to time-tested model

Given the ease with which the BJP-led government was able to ‘scrap’ Article 370, backed by an emotionally charged nation, it will be tempted  to come down on terrorism with a heavy hand, making no distinction between terrorists and sympathisers, as seen in the recent past.

But it would be prudent for the Indian Army to continue with its time-tested people-friendly model in Kashmir. The armed forces must gear up for the long haul to deal with revived insurgency. The government, instead of riding on military strategy, must begin the political process to win people’s trust.

Also read: Modi took Kashmir’s special status away. He must assure people it won’t become a Palestine

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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    Our esteemed PM Modi has said than more then 40,000 deaths have been caused by the conflict, but this may be a gross underestimate
    I would like to summarise these deaths taking the UN’s own figures
    Between 1989-2009, the actions of India’s military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir have resulted in 8,000+ enforced and involuntary disappearances and 70,000+ deaths, including through extrajudicial or “fake encounter” executions, custodial brutality, and other means.
    Lawyers have reportedly filed 15,000 petitions since 1990, inquiring, largely unsuccessfully, into the location and health of detainees and the charges against them.
    The conventional and recognized cemeteries that hold Kashmir’s dead are maintained and cared for by local people and organizations. Alongside these cemeteries are other clandestine graveyards, often unnamed, unmarked, undecorated. They exist amid habitations, next to schools and homes, by the roadside and town square, in prayer grounds and forests, at the edges of fields and community cemeteries across rural and urban space.
    Army Brigade Headquarters Rampur, Uri Baramulla district
    One grave.
    The grave contained numerous bodies.
    The bodies were entombed in a ditch, reportedly 7.62 metres deep, inside the army camp.
    The bodies had been deposited in the ditch between 1991-2003. No outside person is permitted to visit the camp.

  2. We must remember the congress rigged the 1987 elections to get Farooq Abdullah into power.
    This is what started the insurgency, well what goes around comes around.
    India is a flawed society, the poor in India never did deserve its politicians.
    It’s a pity in addition to Kashmiris 12 million population, the 170 million Muslims in India a feel that they are second class citizens.
    Unless this is addressed as a matter of urgency, things will only get worse.

  3. With Kashmir, as the only Muslim state to opt for India, this was the chance to show the Muslims of the valley that they were better off than being with Pakistan.
    Did we really do anything to win their hearts in 70 years,
    The mistake we made was that mistook the land came to us instead of the people. It’s never about the land, it’s always the people on it.
    Given the treatment of Muslims in the rest of India, the riots in Gujarat, the lynchings, the spewing of hate and venom, the open discrimination in housing, the removal of citizenship in the NE etc.. we Muslims in India face, how can any rational person expect the Kashmiri Muslim to think India the better choice.
    That is why those that support the BJP are alienating not only the Kashmiri Muslim, but Muslims in the entire country.
    This will have very sad consequences for the future of India.
    The present government via its Hindutvs ideology is doing more harm to the unity and integrity of India than their supporters can ever imagine.

  4. I don’t think it’s which side and one must respect any view point. He tried to show another aspect and which is absolutely fine to assess and act upon.
    Hope and pray that the situation remains under control , people don’t take law into their hands and this bold and historic action of government resolves this 70 year old issue which was not seeing resolution is resolved once for all.

  5. The constituency for Article 370, represented by PDP and NC, is extinct. BJP obviously is against them. However, the real problem is that India’s elites abandoned their own nation by not taking on the communal agenda of the Islamists and the separatists. It’s not just at JNU where support for the separatists is widespread, people like Arundhati Roy, Pankaj Mishra, Prashant Bhushan, Ananya Vajpeyi and a cast of a thousand have for decades provided intellectual sustenance to these communally driven terrorists. In the process, they helped marginalize the PDP, NC and Congress in the valley. All of those who claim to speak for secularism have never taken on Islamic fundamentalism. Ironically, they have helped pave the way for this overdue step today.

  6. General Panag as a soldier and man of law you are aware,.
    The people of Kashmiri as per worldwide democratic norms have the full right of self determination in their own land. The people who have occupied and owned this land for centuries, have the right to resist what they see as the brutal colonial oppressor India.
    It is time for India to Quit Kashmir. The Kashmiri want their Azadi, The Kashmir population has had enough, from the BJP Muslim haters.
    We have had enough of the fascist Narendra Modi the butcher of Gujarat, who rose to power on the hatred of Muslims, – every Muslim notes the lynchings in India, and the plan to make Muslims into second class citizens, we note the removal of citizenship from Muslims of the NE. We no longer wish to be with India. You have got your wish BJP you have alienated Muslims.
    End this occupation, for God’s sake go home Indian soldiers to your families in India. You are not wanted here, go home to your own. To your own towns and villages in India, You commit an injustice by being here.
    Do not underestimate the Kashmir freedom struggle, The youth of Kashmir supported overwhelming by the population will resist India’s occupation.

  7. Gen Panag is prescient. But this seems like a self fulfilling prophecy.

    Even a child can say with certaiity that there may be extreme unrest in Kashmir.

    Gen Panag’s forecast is mischeivious.

    Whose side are you on, Gen?

  8. Softy softy approach never works with Terrorists. They only know the language of the gun and should be answered ONLY with bullets.

  9. Baat toh phir ghoom phir kar waheen aa jaati hai na, political process to win the people’s trust. Two municipalities, to be headed by a Joint Secretary, who will be appointed LG. That comes from the DMK, one of the original fierce upholders of the federal principle and state autonomy. Everything has been tried in J & K. It is fashionable today to mock the dynasts of the mainstream properties. It is the Abdullahs , the Muftis and some deep sources in the ranks of the militants ( Kallol Bhattacharjee) who helped India navigate the lethal 1990s. 2. One prays there will be no serious loss of life when people come out on to the streets. Or that some of the other predictions this column makes do not come to pass. The path ahead is not strewn with rose petals.

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