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Modi govt is riding a tiger in Kashmir. This will only lead to more Kulgam-like violence

Stop the ‘us versus them’ narrative in politics and media, and draw a clear distinction between citizens and terrorists.

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The Indian state has been containing, managing and resolving, wholly or partially, insurgencies for the last six decades. Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and Punjab are stellar examples.

Over the years, a time-tested strategy has been evolved, which entails absolutely no compromise with the unity and territorial integrity, people-friendly military operations, adhering to the law of the land, and respect for human rights. It also involves militarily reducing the insurgency to manageable levels to facilitate persuasion and political dialogue, negotiating with both overt and covert leadership, giving concessions within the Constitution, and signing a formal accord to restore democracy.

This strategy is based on the theory that people seek dignity and well-being above everything else. In a democracy, as long as the state does not use its powers indiscriminately, the romanticism associated with the separatist cause withers away with the passage of time. Finally, people come around to compromise on the ideals’ for a better future.

In Jammu and Kashmir, every government has followed this strategy till 2014.

Also read: Nagas are worried a peace accord without NSCN (I-M) won’t bring real peace

Failing to provide a political solution

Despite containing insurgency and restoring democracy in J&K in 1996, the powers-that-be failed to find a lasting political solution.

The insurgency once again peaked during 2000-2003 and thereafter witnessed a decline, hitting a real low between 2011 and 2015. Post-2015, Pakistan (as well as separatists) has strived to resurrect the insurgency in the Valley, but the scale has remained within manageable limits – currently, about 250 terrorists are active in J&K.

There are many reasons for India’s political failure to resolve the Kashmir issue. The active support of Pakistan, which has kept the hopes of the separatist leadership alive; the over-reliance on mainstream political governments/parties, which have failed to satisfy the aspirations of the people; the failure of the central government to evolve a consistent political strategy to engage with the separatist leadership; and making Pakistan a party to the problem.

Adopting a ‘muscular’ approach

The Modi government initially followed the time-tested policy, but with a ‘muscular’ approach, to deal with terrorists and the separatist leadership. In J&K, the BJP formed a coalition government with Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but it failed to provide the much-needed healing touch to go along with the political process.

There was no worthwhile political engagement. Ideology and nationalism were over-emphasised and special status of J&K was questioned. Political and public jingoism led to the security forces deviating from the time-tested people-friendly operations.

The frustrated people resorted to violent mass protests and even started disrupting the anti-terrorist military operations. The government in New Delhi lost patience and imposed Governor’s rule, with effect from 20 June 2018.

Ideology trumps political wisdom

On the brighter side, the Modi government managed to diplomatically isolate Pakistan and aggressively carried out operations across the LoC/IB in the form of surgical strikes. This government no longer considered Pakistan as a stakeholder in Kashmir, treating it only as a perpetrator of terrorism.

With this backdrop, expectations were running high when the Modi government came back to power with a bigger mandate in 2019. Everyone hoped that the government would go back to the time-tested national strategy to find a political solution to Kashmir.

Post-Pulwama, the security forces through sustained operations had created the right environment for holding fresh elections. Pushed to a corner and facing criminal investigations, the separatist leadership was also amenable to the idea of renewing the political process to find a lasting solution for J&K.

However, the success of a high-pitched national security-driven campaign emboldened the BJP, and ideology trumped political wisdom. Article 370 was nullified on 5 August under the cover of massive deployment of security forces and a ‘communication blackout’.

Also read: Modi govt allows mostly far-Right EU MPs to J&K: Smart diplomacy to counter Western liberals?

Alienation and urge to resist

There was no logical reason other than political ideology for revoking the moth-eaten Article 370. And by so doing, the symbolic hope for political reconciliation has been shattered.

The situation in the Valley has since gone from bad to worse. People in Kashmir feel that their culture and identity are now under threat. The hope of the silent moderate majority for a political solution has given way to despondency and people are more alienated than ever. They believe they have been ‘cornered’ and have no option left but to ‘resist’. In view of the massive deployment of the paramilitary forces, the resistance has manifested into ‘civil disobedience’ and non-cooperation – against which the state is powerless.

More violence likely

Let there be no doubt that the Modi government is riding a tiger in Kashmir. The massive presence of the security forces has ensured that peaceful/violent mass protests cannot take place. But the sword of Damocles is hanging over Kashmir’s future. The international community has pointed at the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Kashmir.

The absolute alienation of the people is being exploited by separatists and Pakistan to resurrect the insurgency. Violence has been on the rise in October, with people from outside the state being targeted in terror attacks – the latest incident took place in Kulgam district on 29 October in which five labourers from West Bengal were killed.

I foresee an increase in Kulgam-like violence and terror activity.

Also read: In Kashmir, grief & guilt after murder of 5 men who were guests of Kutroosa for 12 years

How to get off the tiger?

In my view, there is no other option but to revert to the time-tested counter-insurgency strategy that India has been following since 1956.

Release all political leaders and let normal political activity begin. Stop the ‘us versus them’ narrative – the separatist Muslims of Kashmir versus a nationalist India – in politics and media. Draw a clear distinction between citizens and terrorists. Under no circumstances should the security forces deviate from people-friendly operations and the principle of using minimum force.

The Prime Minister must go to Kashmir and make an emotional appeal to the people in the presence of the political leadership of J&K, the leaders of opposition and the corporate community.

This is a fail-safe approach to heal the scarred psyche of the people. He must announce the following steps:

  • A time-bound, scheduled restoration of pre-5 August ‘normalcy’.
  • Resumption of political activity and holding of elections.
  • Broad outline of a development package with public and private commitment.
  • A stipend scheme for unemployed youth and affirmative legislation to employ them with the private industry in other states.
  • Broad outline of the dialogue process with all stakeholders, including separatists.
  • Concessions within the Constitution to maintain the culture and identity of J&K – it could be a modified version of Article 370.
  • Outlining an education and healthcare package since these aspects are always the closest to people’s hearts.

The Prime Minister has the oratorical skills and a proven track record to not just promise but also deliver. I have no doubt that he can convince the people of Kashmir.

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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  1. Perfect analysis of the situation . who knows better about kashmir than the general posted there. Very dangerously kashmir has been handled . it will explode and then people criticizing this perfect article would come to know. Hitler’s fate is not hidden from anyone. But the pity is that this incumbent government of two people is only inviting violence and only violence by doing all this summersault to show the nationalist indians its 56 inched chest and putting the next generation in grave dander. It will take another twenty maybe thirty years to stitch this hate and bring back the normal India alongwith Kashmir with its kashmiris.
    But with this action I feel there will be a deliberate genocide to wipe out the kashmiris fully only by killings, fake encounters, mysteriously killing or whatever means and till then they will be held captive.
    Why foreigner MP’s that too rightist and not western liberals are allowed to visit Kashmir but our own MP’s and politicians are not allowed. This is hitlershaahi and not nationalism. fake nationalist who in the garb of relegion have been selling wrong nationalist sentiments all across India. They will have to die their own death but unfortunately peole of India would have paid a heavy price and it would be too late by the time they repent and realise their folly.

  2. The honourable General has given his perspective, and we respect that. But then would he also answer a few questions that a commoner like me has not understood so far:-

    What is so ‘special ‘ about Kashmiris( implying only the Muslims) that other Indians lack?

    What about the ordinary rights of the Kashmiri Pundits, who live as refugees in their own country in subhuman conditions? Why doesn’t he or his ilk , who write so voluminously and passionately about the ‘suffering majority moderate Kashmiris’ , have atleast one sentence to talk about their cause???

    What about the rights of the so called lower castes living in J &K with no rights?

    Is vitriolic speeches given every Friday by the so called ‘moderate separatist ‘ Mirwaiz, during Friday prayers, also a ‘time tested ‘ done thing ‘ ?

    Is flashing IS flags and burning The National Flag regularly every Friday thus far , also an acceptable done thing??

    Is the open patronage of separatists by the Pakistani embassy also a done thing and a cozy arrangement??

    The learned General should answer this before sermonising

  3. Only Modi haters forecast for violence in Kashmir as it give them the legitimacy of telling lies. With a make and believe and superficial analysis, the general sounds more like a politician rather than a defence analyst. Government need not give a dam to these anti Modi propagandist.

  4. Over the years, a time-tested strategy has been evolved (1) Give the taxpayers money on Kashmiri politicians and don’t ask what they do with it.(2) Allow them to encourage separatist who were acting as their insurance (3) The political families were allowed to amass wealth and loot the state at will (4) The dignity and well-being was only for the rulers in Kashmir possibly because the rulers at centre were on the take. (5) the use of state power was at the whims and fancies of the local rulers.
    Just like the big time corruption, the Kashmir was a cozy arrangement, which continued for 70 years. The hand picked interlocutors had a good time at the cost of the taxpayer and came out with nothing constructive.
    Modi govt is NOT riding a tiger in Kashmir, it has just got off the so called tiger, which is now running for cover. Anyone who has been indulging in money making and robbing the state, needs to worry, the laws that allowed them the legal plunder as “the good doctor called it” needs to be paid back.
    70 years of violence will not end overnight. No need to show the Threat of violence which no government has been able to put an end to.

  5. India has been too soft on this over last 70 years imo, not a bad thing in itself.
    However if Valley of Kashmir starts BS and violence etc , i hope India settles 50 million of NON MUSLIM landless people for all over the country and swamp the ‘Kashmir valley’. (as being muslim majority is their claim for separation that claim must be wiped out)
    Message being behave and enjoy all equal and nothing special rights as rest of the country and welcome investments along with outsiders and prosper or else.

  6. people commenting here think everyone in Kashmir is Pakistani… Thats the seed that have been sown into the mind of Indians. they even think a decorated army officer is wrong and his nationalism is fake. Kashmiris time and again have said they are more Indian than anyone else but this government has alienated them and Pakistan is trying to reap that… Only two parties benefit from these … Pakistan and ??

  7. Imagine these people were leading NorthCmd and we are expecting the problem will be solved. Islamists don’t give damn about economy. The problem in kashmir is Islam. Deislamisation of that region is the only option.

    • typical mindless bhakts, instead of countering the article with points they ll come and start pissing all over… we have seen enough of this in past 5 years and are tired of it… bring something new….

      • After getting tired for 5 years, you better go to sleep now. Congress sycophants are harmless while sleeping.

  8. With three months having passed, and apples rotting in the orchards, it is becoming increasingly clear that 05082019 and 08112016 are cut from the same bale of cloth. There are some superficial differences : alternate currency was not printed in advance whereas 50,000 additional troops have been rushed to the Valley. However, both initiatives will achieve results very different from what was envisioned.

  9. I am amazed to see how people with knowledge make such statements. I agree with authors point that government should now concentrate on development, treat Kashmiri’s as equal citizens of India etc. But then to start making statements within 3 months of an initiative, when for 70 years the previous formula has not worked. How can you give up so quickly? These things take years to do, but a start has to be made somewhere. This, from a army man is surprising.

    • I agree. For all his brilliance, General Sahab sounds monotonous , harping as he does on only one tune – Govt. bashing – all the time.

      • जनरल साहब, मोदी जी किसी की सुनते नहीं. खुद मुखतार हो गए हैं. देश का बहुत नुकसान हो रहा है. जनता के समझने तक बहुत देर हो चुकी होगी.

  10. why dont you say “Modi govt is riding a pak pigs in Kashmir. This will only lead to more Kulgam-like violence”

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