Monday, 8 August, 2022
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India needs tips from Israel on how to handle Kashmir. Blocking network is not one of them

On Kashmir’s communication lockdown, Home Minister Amit Shah is as mistaken as India’s celebrity commentariat.

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The level of policy cluelessness and national security ignorance that infect Indian celebrity commentariat is nothing short of astounding. In a recent tweet, a certain ‘legal luminary‘ compared the communications blackout in Kashmir to a medieval siege “starving out the population and poisoning wells”. There is actually a solid case to be made against a communications blackout, but when people resort to hyperbole — confusing modernity and the provision of public services to the denial of essentials — to get publicity rather than understanding the problem, one can be assured that the valid criticisms will get drowned out. That is exactly what has been happening with the Kashmir issue after the Narendra Modi government abrogated Article 370.

In fact, the communications blackout is the surest sign of an un-industrialised state, which despite its alleged IT prowess understands nothing about information and its use in security, leave alone crowd control or the psychology of population control.

Also read: To understand Modi’s new Kashmir reality, these 5 liberal myths need to be broken

How Israel dealt with the Second Intifada

To understand this, we need to look at how the Israelis dealt with the Second Intifada and aborted the Third Intifada even before it started. The Second Intifada was a period of great violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli reaction to the Second Intifada (2000 -2005) was exactly how India has acted in Kashmir — curfews to prevent mass gatherings, communications blackouts to prevent organisation of gatherings, shutting down of schools and workplaces to prevent it being used as a ruse for gatherings, and the use of pellet guns and teargas to disperse violent gatherings. Note the common factor in all four actions is ‘gatherings’ — with everything being geared to just prevent these, but causing enormous public hardship and bloating the ranks of miscreants.

Now move on to the Third Intifada (2014 onwards). Have you ever heard of it? No. Guess why the so-called silent intifada never took off? Because the Israelis learnt to get in before gatherings happened and, in doing so, avoided inconveniencing the Palestinian population as a whole. The root of this was not cutting down on communications but allowing communications to flow freely.

When you have illegality being coordinated through mobile networks and internet messaging, then you want these to flow freely so that you can, through computer algorithms, understand what is happening, where it is about to start, who the organisers are, who their controllers are, and what exactly they plan to do. Since the 2010s, when face recognition technology became viable, you can narrow down punishments to individual rioters rather than locking down an entire area affecting people who were probably just as inconvenienced by the rioters. The Israelis found that these kinds of measures, essentially the ability to fine-tune carrots and sticks produced a remarkably effective crowd control strategy.

It is from this that we understand how obsolete Indian security forces are, with a continuing inability to either understand the basics of crowd control, or exploit modern technologies.

Also read: The real reason why Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Shah Faesal are under arrest

Security failures in Kashmir

For starters, none of our security forces deployed in Kashmir are given helmet cameras. These cameras act as a disciplinary device on the soldier and ensure he/she follows procedure, using force only under provocation. More importantly, in terms of morale, it prevents incompetent and corrupt officers from scapegoating their soldiers. It gives the soldier both fear from following an illegal order or acting illegally, but also the confidence to take appropriate action and refuse to follow illegal orders.

Second, there is an absence of security cameras — cameras that either face detect a miscreant, or if his/her face is covered, detect which house they came out of, enabling action to be taken later. Lately, pelters have taken to hiding in houses and throwing stones from there. These cameras help identify such houses.

Third, we lack the software and programmes that use people’s own mobile phones against them. Normally, like during the 2011 London riots, social media posts can add significantly to the confusion — but tracking something as simple as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) can point to patterns. These programmes track where messages are being sent from, where social media posts and WhatsApp messages are originating and pinpoint where gatherings are happening — turning an attempt to confuse into clarity. Finally, instead of demolishing the houses of terrorists and seizing bank accounts, we allow public funerals to act as rallying calls and allow the families of terrorists to reap the financial rewards of their terrorism.

Also read: All lines on this route are closed: Getting my mother out of Kashmir in a lockdown

What about law-abiding Kashmiris?

Now imagine if you’re a law-abiding Kashmiri — not necessarily one that likes India, but follows the law. To start, you’re at the mercy of a possibly incompetent officer or indisciplined soldier. Second, your business suffers when stone-pelting starts in the area. Third, far from the stone pelter being caught and punished post facto, he/she or his/her relative gets a government job. Fourth, the same incentivised stone pelter, automatically becomes the local ‘dada’ telling you when to shut shop and whom to provide refuge to, and you have to listen to him/her, because he/she has both riot organisers on their side and no fear of consequences. Fifth, because a minuscule minority of miscreants is using WhatsApp and mobile phones to organise riots, you suffer when it is blocked and wonder “what did I do”, even though mobile communications is a critical factor in identifying and punishing rioters and their organisers. Finally, you see stone pelters become terrorists, be hero-worshipped, be given semi-state funeral, and their family looked after through financial infusions from the community and overseas funders.

In such circumstances, which normal Kashmiri sees any benefit in being law-abiding? Our incompetent security managers have never understood carrots and sticks, and seem hell-bent on pursuing a course that punishes law-abiding citizens or throws them into the clutches of miscreants and terrorists. Terrorists, for their part, have never had it better. Under the A.S. Dulat doctrine, they are not punished when they start off as stone pelters, and, worse still, get generous government ‘confidential informant’ funds and prime land to construct malls when they graduate to full-fledged terrorists.

Article 370 is gone, but if Home Minister Amit Shah thinks he can pacify Kashmir using rotten security policies that incentivise terrorism and illegality and actively punish Kashmiris for being law-abiding, he’s sadly mistaken. What is worse is that our security establishment doesn’t understand this. And the final ignominy is that those opposing these policies don’t understand head or tail of security and resort to infantile, shockingly unresearched and semiliterate explanations.

This means the choices one sees in public discourse are two mutually exclusive binaries — force or no force. In short, if the establishment has let down Kashmir, so have the pro-Kashmir activists who are just as much the root of the problem despite their delusions to the contrary.

The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He tweets @iyervval. Views are personal.

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  1. No such citizen as law abiding in Kashmir. If it was true than your daddy and mummy were not killed by Muslas in Kashmir just to go to pray for Amarnath Yatra.

  2. Most of the time we fail to understand the perspective of article like this. No government actions or policies ever made taking into consideration of the law abiding people. They were as always taken into granted. If the major population is against the institution, that is coz of the shortcomings of the policies and their implementations. Then you have to restudy your policies and understand their shortcomings.

  3. As of now, we should leave it to Doval and his team to manage the situation in the valley. It is not comparable to Palestine as well. My guess is that many neutral elements will now support the new order and the trouble makers will diminish progressively. However, Amit Shah should announce a new rule that body of any terrorist killed in any part of India will be thrown in Arabian sea or Bay of Bengal and will not be handed over for last rites to the family members. Terrorists do not deserve any human treatment after death in particular. So let’s learn from USA rather than from Israel for the time being.

  4. The moment I read Israel, stopped reading the column. Absolutely the last place on earth India should be looking to for inspiration.

  5. Big difference between India and Israel. Israel can do whatever it wants in their occupied territories. It is out in the open that they have bugged every communication point of every citizen in these occupied territories and eavesdrop 24 X 7 X 365 days. Of course they can and have the “nip-inn-the-bud” capabilities. You can not do that in India. Israel may be an efficient state, and you can praise Israel but it known that Israel is snooping around which exactly Edward Snowden warned of and even if in any imagination, India has such capabilities, it should go there. This is just not right. Not advisable to look for solutions elsewhere, India has enough intelligence pool on its own including thinkers like you who can play this aftermath game post abrogation of Art. 370 in Kashmir in its own unique way !!!
    Let text books be written on our way and studied in detail by other countries.
    My 2 cents from ever optimistic me !

  6. Here it shows that the author lacks intellectual capacity to think issue in security perspective. The author highly mistaken if it puts Palestenians and Kashmiri seperatists in the same pedistrial because one is funded by Iranians who lack tech for info manipulation and are cut from mainland Iran and on the other side we have an efficient network of propaganda handled by country’s premier institution ISI. ISI is too good in manipulating info and operating jihadi activities . They have experience of 30 years in Afghanistan and its too easy when u have a ready made machinery for the sole purpose of propaganda. Communication blackout is the first step in keeping ISI out from the ground zero. Internet is the main culprit here. There is no need of Internet in Kashmir until Indian army secures its position in the black web of Kashmir. And believe me those who are now commenting on Kashmir have no idea how Amit Shah handled 2002 riots. I know how that operation was handled so pls keep your useless opinions to yourself

    • You’re partly right and partly wrong. Right from the perspective that Yes, ISI is not a novice and they’ve 30+ years of experience with this, and probably the covert info and commands would be cryptic in their core. But, that’s exaggerating the ISI wayyy too much, the author here has “suggested” something similar. And who’s to say we can’t decode the information? And Yes Internet is a prestigious and clandestine for Islamic Terror, but I’m sure RAW would also be aware of many such certain patterns.

      And the very thing you’re accusing the author of is the very similar thing you’re doing. Comparing 2002 with Abrogation of a Constitutional Article. I thought you’d have more sense than to comment on the basis that the common ground is Muslims. Anyway, the point is, there should and absolutely must be better security and intelligence monitoring that would be effective in the long scheme of things.

      Also PS : You might know a scenario or two about some of the riots, but that does not definitely make you better and an expert than the Author.

  7. A hotch-potch of an article. Writer is eager to sound clever by using Israeli example but he gets it wrong. The 2000-06 intifada is the reason why the one in 2014 failed… The daily suicide bombings by brutes like Hamas were stopped by erecting 30ft tall concrete barriers. You some times need medieval methods against medieval jihadi enemies

  8. The author has no idea about kashmir. Its very easy to sit in an AC room and write an article than spending time on ground to understand how things work in Kashmir. I am a proud Indian Kashmiri, I have seen the misuse of tech by people in kashmir. What govt did was absolutely correct.

  9. Can Uue the “dissidents” cell phones to track and spy on and catch them. Just fyi China requires all muslims in Xinjiang use a type of cell phone that chineese police can track and have placeed face tracking cameras all over Xinjiang. Plus take China takes muslims to reeducation camps to strip their muslims for any islamic identity and make them Chinese.

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