INDIAN troops launched a “massive anti-terror operation” on May 02 in Shopian district of India Occupied Kashmir (IOK) on the pretext of flushing out ‘suspected militants’. More than 3,000 personnel of the Army, Central Reserve Police Force and IOK police had laid cordon around more than two dozen villages and conducted a house-to-house night searches. Shopian has emerged as a hot bed of resistance after Indian forces killed Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. Indian forces faced fierce resistance and clashes erupted in at least two villages. In recent years, Kashmiri youth have frequently clashed with Indian occupation forces. IOK is the most militarized conflict zone of the World where humanitarian crimes are frequently committed by occupation forces with impunity. In April, Indian army chief had warned that “tough action” would be taken against stone throwers.
A recent Washington Post story has pointed out that the current uprising in the valley was local and the weapon of choice of separatist youth was “a stone — or a brick if they can get it”. Indian soldiers “have their own slingshots too, as well as conventional weapons and pellet guns that have killed and maimed scores.” “Teen girls with stones are the new threat in India’s Kashmir conflict.” Washington Post added. Stone throwing has a long history in IOK. This is the way Kashmiris resist the outsider occupation forces. In 1586, the Mughal imperial army occupied Kashmir. As Emperor Akbar’s troops began consolidating the rule in Srinagar, young Kashmiris started throwing stones at foreign rulers for the first time. Effort was so fierce that Mughals had to build a wall around their capital.
Latest saner voice has come from a former RAW chief A S Dulat whose interview was carried by “Indian Express” on May 03 under the caption “We refused to talk… invited Pakistan back into Valley”. Dulat is an experienced hand in IOK affairs. He was PM Vajpayee’s advisor on Kashmir. He is of the view that “situation there has never been as bad as it is now”. His assessment of the current situation is that “Because of alienation and the anger of youth, young Kashmiri minds have gone out of control. There is a sense of hopelessness. They aren’t afraid to die” He added: “Today, they are proud of being stone-pelters. They are no longer hiding. Schoolgirls and women are coming out to throw stones”.
Describing the ongoing political violence he commented: “The sad part, frightening part and really scary part of Kashmir is that these boys and girls with stones in their hands don’t seem to care what their parents feel. There is so much distrust in Kashmiri families that a father doesn’t know what his son is doing and the son doesn’t care anymore what his father thinks”. He is of the view that “uprising after the killing of Burhan Wani surprised Pakistan. They returned with a vengeance…Let me say that we have invited Pakistan back into the Valley”.
And as to what should be done about, it Dulat suggested: “Talk. In Kashmir, perceptions are so wonky… I would again and again say, please talk. Talking to Kashmiris is not subversive”. He added: “I have never understood why is India afraid to talk about Kashmir with Pakistan? They have more explaining to do …our stand that talk and terror can’t go together is also meaningless” vis-à-vis Pakistan… We have to talk disregarding incidents here and there… the NSAs of both sides are [presumably] talking even now… Dialogue must (also) happen between the foreign secretaries and PMs… it’s easier to talk to Pakistan than to Kashmiris”.
To a question “Kashmir has turned into a challenge for the government. There is a demand for stronger action; do you agree? Dulat said, “My point is there is no military solution for Kashmir. Anybody who had brains in our recent history understood it… Normally, I insist the Army should be kept away and the ground situation should be dealt with by J&K police and paramilitary. It is the state government that has failed in Kashmir today”.
Feeling the heat of violence, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, rushed to Delhi in April to urge the federal government to “announce a dialogue and show reconciliatory gestures”. Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh told her that they could not “offer a dialogue with separatists and other restive groups in the valley”. Clashes with students in the streets of Srinagar resulted in brutal acts carried out by the Indian security forces, caught on video and spread via social media. India responded by shutting down 22 social media outlets. Data released by Kashmir Media Service, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, indicated that occupied Kashmir is one of the most dangerous places in the world where “people associated with the press and media are carrying out their professional duties in the most difficult situation”.
Prem Shankar Jha recently wrote for The Sunday Guardian. “We have faced our moment of truth in Kashmir…The truth is that while the RSS’ distrust of Indian Muslims is born out of rank prejudice, its distrust of Kashmiri Muslims is born out of blind ignorance.” Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah has also called on India to ‘wake up’, and warned New Delhi that: “You are losing Kashmir.” In a hard hitting interview with India Today on April 11, Farooq Abdullah said, “Whether you like it or not, you have to talk to Pakistan”. “You better wake up, and start thinking on not a military solution, but a political way…And come down from your high horses… I am seeing a very bad situation…The youth is on boil, which I have not seen before.” He urged all stakeholders to “start mending our fences and start controlling the present problem.” “Let’s talk to the youth, Hurriyat, other leaders, and come to a solution”, he pleaded.
Recent BBC story “the doom-laden headline has returned with a vengeance: “Is India losing Kashmir?” Highlights the ground realities in IOK. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that time has come when India should realize the volatile situation in the territory and pave the ways for settlement of the decades-old Kashmir dispute. It is interesting to contrast this situation with Indian gimmicks. Recently several poor labourers were hired by an agent of RAW in the guise of a ‘contractor’ for staging anti-Pakistan demonstration outside the UN office in Srinagar. However labourers spilled the beans before media. Hired labourers had argument with the ‘contractor’ over money distribution. After brief arguments, the media men asked the reasons for the exchange of words. As they began to tell media about the facts, the ‘contractor’ ran away from the scene!
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.