Security personnel at the site of suicide bomb attack, Pulwama | PTI
File photo of security personnel at the site of suicide bomb attack in Pulwama | PTI
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Things have come a full circle in Kashmir. When militancy declined in the mid-2000s, there was widespread acceptance in the Kashmiri society that violence had to stop. Militancy had given them no azadi from anything, only suffering. The people did not want the militant’s gun anymore.

The national security-types in Delhi celebrated this as the defeat of the Kashmiri insurgency. But today, the gun is back in Kashmir. Friday’s attack on a CRPF convoy, killing at least 37 men, took place in a Kashmir where people celebrate the militant and his gun. We have all seen images of ordinary Kashmiris rushing to encounter sites in defence of militants, without fearing for their lives.

What went wrong? The 10-year rule of Manmohan Singh was the lost decade in Kashmir, when he did not take forward Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s efforts towards a political intervention in Kashmir. A land transfer controversy in 2008, rape allegation against security forces in 2009, and alleged firing at young stone-pelters in 2010 saw the Kashmiri society rise up in rebellion.


Also read: Peshawar to Pulwama, how Pakistan differentiates snakes in its backyard & front yard


Do not listen

The idea that the gun was not the way out had led initially to peaceful protests in 2008-2009, but by 2010 it was all about stone-pelting. When I interviewed stone-pelters in Srinagar around that time, they said they pelted the forces with stones because they wanted to be heard.

When separatists call for a protest, the security forces impose a declared or undeclared curfew, preventing people from protesting non-violently. This encouraged stone-pelting and made it a mainstream activity. Stone-pelting protests, sometimes lasting days, killed and maimed many young boys over the years. This spiral of violence, young protesters complained, was because “India” wasn’t willing to “listen” to them. India wasn’t even willing to “talk”, let alone listen.

And what did they have to say that “India” wasn’t willing to hear? The dreaded A-word? Yes, they would shout, “Hum kya chahtey? Azadi!”, but if you were willing to give them a patient hearing, they would tell you they wanted an end to the conflict. New Delhi thought that putting down the militant’s gun was the end of the conflict. The word “normalcy” that came from Delhi riled up Kashmiris. Just because bullets weren’t flying in the air anymore, didn’t mean they no longer had any problems with New Delhi.

In the northeast and Punjab, rebellion has faced military repression, but resolution has been political, through talks. But on Kashmir, India’s political class has its lips sealed. They don’t even pretend that Kashmir exists politically. It exists only as some distant place on the India-Pakistan border. As long as Indians can take a boat ride on the Dal, all must be well.

From one generation to another

Putting down rebellion by force works for a year or three, but if you don’t resolve it politically, it comes back stronger and deadlier as a young generation of teenagers grows up. The cycle continues from generation to generation as stories and suffering are passed on. While young men are giving up their lives on the streets with stones and guns, grandfathers are sitting in homes in curfewed neighbourhoods, telling teenagers the history of the Kashmir conflict. The seed of anger, anguish, victimhood is planted. The feeling of having being wronged is internalised. A few years later, it bursts out like a volcano.

In Anantnag in 2011, I met a 14-year-old stone-pelter who said he wanted to die from the “Indian bullets” while hurling stones. His shahadat or martyrdom, he said, would bring ‘azadi’ to Kashmir. He won’t be around to see this ‘azadi’, alas, but he would have escaped the prison of life. I urged him to rejoin school, make a life, a career. He said it was revenge he was after. He was two years old when the Indian army, he claimed, took his father in and tortured him. He was lucky to be released alive but has since been a “mental patient”. Growing up with a mentally unwell father, who knows ‘India’ did this to him, the young boy wanted revenge.

That’s how the cycle of alienation and violence perpetuates itself. It finds fertile ground in Pakistani support and Islamism and the Internet. Bringing peace to Kashmir requires New Delhi to reach out to that 14-year-old and make him calm down. But all that New Delhi seems to have for him is the bullet he so craves for.


Also read: Pulwama attack raises questions on Kashmir’s intelligence and security structure


‘Healing touch’

The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party was founded in 1999 by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, a Kashmiri and a former Congress party member. Better known as PDP, the party played an important role in the Valley’s politics. Until its rise, anti-incumbency against the National Conference governments used to be exploited by the separatists. Now, there was a local opponent.

The PDP went a step further, with some encouragement from New Delhi — it adopted soft separatism. It tried to disrupt the status quo by waging the cause of conflict resolution, which involved talking to Pakistan. Azadi-wallahs felt nervous with the rise of the PDP as it had the potential to co-opt separatism into the Indian fold. The PDP was advocating everything that was possible under the sun but without leaving India. Its agenda came to be known best for the term ‘healing touch’. That is exactly what was needed after years of violence.

Unholy alliance

When Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014, there were those in Kashmir who felt he might take the thread forward from the Vajpayee days, and reopen political engagement with the Kashmiri society with the aim of resolving conflict and alienation. This hope was part of the PDP’s rationale behind coming together for an unlikely alliance with the BJP to form a government in J&K.

The PDP-BJP alliance was based on a common agenda that both sides agreed to, but New Delhi didn’t keep its side of the bargain, which included talking to the separatists. Instead, New Delhi, the BJP, and the RSS all went on an aggressive spree to further the Hindutva agenda in Kashmir. When they needed to say resolution, they said muscular policy. Through agitations and courts, they made Kashmiris feel that New Delhi wanted to undo the special status granted to Kashmir under the Indian Constitution.

The BJP, with its Hindutva ideology, was never popular in Kashmir. Modi’s handling of Kashmir, far from being Vajpayee-like, turned out to be more in the RSS’s realm of things. This discredited the PDP completely, making it unpopular even among its core supporters in south Kashmir — the epicentre of the new phase of militancy in the Valley, and identified by the figure of Burhan Wani, whose killing in 2016 sparked another mass uprising.

The PDP, which was seen as an Indian asset by the separatists, was thus politically decimated by a government that claims to own Indian nationalism. This Modi government’s chosen mouthpieces on news TV debates remind Kashmiris every evening how much they hate them and the Muslims.


Also read: Day after Pulwama attack, China again declines to label Jaish chief as global terrorist


Making it worse

Pulwama is in south Kashmir, and the suicide bomber who carried out the CRPF attack, Adil Ahmed Dar, was an Indian citizen from Pulwama, not a foreign militant. Things have become so bad in Kashmir that we now have local suicide bombers. Of course, there’s Pakistan fishing in troubled waters, using the Jaish-e-Mohammed to carry out spectacular terrorist attacks in Kashmir. But the masterminds can’t succeed without local support, not in 2019, when the LoC is far less penetrable than it was in 1989.

Why are the Burhan Wanis and the Adil Ahmed Dars ready to kill and die? It is because there is something called the Kashmir conflict that India’s political class refuses to acknowledge, let alone resolve. If anything, they are happy to make it worse with their jingoism and insensitivity.

This terror attack will be forgotten after some military action. We will pretend the problem is in Rawalpindi and not Srinagar. Security forces will continue to die. Only when more than five are killed in an attack on a single day will we take note. Yet another ‘interlocutor’ will be appointed to pretend New Delhi wants to engage with the Kashmiri society and the separatists. This farce has no end.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. This article is a much ado about nothing! My request to you to come up with something concrete and don’t pretend that the mainstream political parties in J&K have not been fuelling anti-India feelings for decades. Insurgency in Punjab finished because police and paramilitary had a free hand in killing the key militants and political class was united. When we have mainstream political parties fuelling ant-India anger and armchair intellectuals elsewhere supporting anti-India feelings in Kashmi and blaming the security apparatus, this problem will never be solved given also Pakistan’s interest in this region. It’s high time that article 370 be scrapped and Kashmir demography be changed. Article 370 was supposed to be temporary in the constitution but your beloved Congress made it a permanent politics plank..

  2. ANOTHER useless analysis !! NO talk on new radicalism spree which was given shelter by PDP and NC both. This new radicalism was based on to built a caliphate type state in kashmir. BJP with its HINDUTVA agenda just de-hyphenated JAMMU from KASHMIR. This attack was just a trailer real movie begins . After TALIBAN peace process u will see open taliban support to KASHMIR caliphate. AND hence a new era of KASHMIR will begin difference is that DEFENCE sector in INDIA will be privatised for weapons in KASHMIR ! GRAND new game has begun BEHOLD my fellow citizens !!

  3. Clearly told to kashmiri that Islam is foreign culture and it is Muslim who are occupying the Kashmir. It is People like writer are responsible for this mahyem by providing justification of terrorist activity.similar statement coming from Pakistani political class. Told kashmiri Muslim if they can not live in india they can leave india. islamism is not indigenous culture.

  4. I believe that, in 2014 when Shri Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India, he could have taken a leaf out of the book of PM Atal Vajpayee, and begun to do where his predecessor, PM Manmohan Singh had left!

    His took a first right step of inviting the Heads of the Govt of all the neighbouring countries to his oath-taking; however, from the moment the Govt called off the meeting of Foreign Secretaries of the Pakistan and India for the reasons that the High Commissioner of Pakistan meeting the Hurriyat Leaders before that meeting.

    In order to eating the crow, the NSA of India and Pakistan then decided to meet in a foreign country to avoid the above.

    From there, mis-steps continued.

    I personally believe that the talks between the two countries need to continue irrespective of such meetings on their part, as was also happening during the time Atal Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh were the Prime Ministers.

    I also believe India is free to take other actions after any terrorist attack by any means including the use of force against the Pakistan but shouldn’t interrupt the talks which need to continue all the times through back channel as also at the official levels,

    Simultaneosuly, the Central Govt, whichever hue it is needs to keep both the official and unofficial channels of communications open with all the shades of people in the valley.

    The disengagment with Paksitan and the people in valley from all walks of life is a not an option for the Govt at the centre.

    The political future of the political parties in the Jammu region shouldn’t come ahead of the solving the problems in the valley.

    Similarly the TV and Print media which calls for doing away with Article 370 or calls for use of force against the civilians in the valley doesn’t deserve any support from any quarters.

    The problems in J&K can’t be seen from the prism of Law & Order as it is primarily a political problem, therefore, while dealing with the militancy which needs to be taken up the way the experts determine but the poltical side of it needs to be always on the table.

  5. An academic analysis is well and good ! The problem with such articles and their authors is the complete absence of specific actions that they believe ought to have been taken. Writing articles is easy. Making real policy and implementing it is altogether a different matter !

  6. Since the political parties would be frowned upon by the public for politicising the Pulwama attack, the Mahathugbandhan and its Paki backers have gone all out to hire ‘experts’ like Shivam Vij to point hands at the current government. Shameful it is but the people will see through the deceit of both the writer and his bankrollers.

  7. Reality undigested, this article is really an eye opener about ground situation in kashmir, but litrate ignorents continue be on dark side.

  8. As a kashmiri let me tell u This article is one of the most accurate analysis of what is happening on Ground the lesson here is Do not deal with a political problem militarily it only results in allienation And things get worse.The Govt need to take first steps its high time now.

  9. It was worth reading the article, My opinion is to resolve the issue over the table not on the streets, As PM imran Khan has advised Modi to come over table and Indian politicians are always ridiculous sitting for talks which shows their real mindset (RSS), Innocents are being killed and being rapped for decades and policy makers are playing bloody games,
    This will end one day INSHALLAH and India has to think about the ground realities,
    This is new era everyone has access to media/social media and truth wouldn’t be hidden anymore,
    Killing of the innocent must be stopped now and they should decide what they are fighting for….

  10. Crassly politica storyl. India is fighting a sustained war since eighties; rugged election time. Covert game plan of Pakistan 🇵🇰 has been change demography, incite violence & active propaganda, which hv been fairly susseccful. Biggest blunder was release of kidnapped Mufti’s daughter during 1990, which emboldened the militants. Flushing out Pandits, changing demography in districts south of Pir Panjal where population mix was evenly divided btwn Hindus & Muslims. buying large chunk of lands in & around Jammu area, actively inciting youth for violence & supporting unrest, boycott elections initially & later be hand in glove with valley parties to form Govt & spread its tentacle. Most corrupt State Govt with easy fund flow from Centre, dubious money from Pakistan & other international organisation. Arts 35A & 370 preclude actions which Pakistan/China hv taken in POK & Gilgit-Baltistan & Tibet. No easy answers. Combination of tough & soft actions, stop pampering with money. Provide clean administration, enforce discipline at governance will yield results in medium to long term. Influence of Deobandis and mullahs from UP/Bihar should be curbed. No easy answers

  11. Completely agree with the authors analysis. Modi’s policy in Kashmir is a complete failure. Using force invites the use of force. What is lacking is a political solution. Vyajpayee was on the right path and had a near solution to the Kashmir problem. Modi is alienating the population within Kashmir and that in the long term does not work. He may help himself temporarily by his Nationalistic response, which is in iCal to India’ s long term interest. He is obscuring the fact that he has failed to provide the needed jobs to India’s youth. His economic policy is a failure.

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