IHK—‘the most militarized part of the world’



M Ziauddin

MERCIFULLY, so far India has failed to implicate Pakistan in what is happening inside the part of Kashmir that has remained under its military occupation since independence. Let’s hope the State of Pakistan is smart enough this time around to resist the temptation to meddle. It was because of this unnecessary meddling that we lost our Kashmir case in the world capitals, especially after the Kargil misadventure.
In fact it is time to pass the responsibility of even providing moral support to the on -going freedom struggle across the LoC to the leadership of the state of Azad and Jammu Kashmir. Soon after the new government is installed in AJ&K after Thursday’s election, its main task should be to mobilize the Kashmiris the world over and launch a world-wide campaign focusing on bringing to the attention of the international media and the global opinion leaders the excessive human rights violations going on in the IHK.
Indian journalist Sandeep Bamzai—visiting Fellow at India’s Overseas Research Foundation— in one his recent columns (Imperiled Kashmir) has drawn a bone chilling picture of the occupation: The (Indian) Army has a grid that functions like a concentric circle right across the Valley starting from the LoC right into the innards of Srinagar city. There are over 300,000 Army soldiers both along the border and for counter- insurgency operations in Kashmir Valley. While the northern army command is based in Udhampur, there are three Corps — 14 (Leh), 15 (Srinagar), 16 (Nagrota), with around 60,000 troops each. They are on the outer periphery of the concentric circle as it winds inwards. Add to this the counter-terrorist force — Rashtriya Rifles, drawn from the ‘ghatak’ platoons of the Army which has 62 battalions (all told around 70,000 soldiers).
“This is the dreaded element of the Army, which is involved in combing and search-and-destroy operations against insurgents. The Rashtriya Rifles itself has five division-like headquarters — Delta force: Doda, Kilo force: Kupwara and Baramulla, Romeo force: Rajouri and Poonch, Victor force: Anantnag, Pulwama, Badgam and Uniform force: Udhampur. Over and above this, the 26 Infantry Division (approximate strength of 20,000) is based in Jammu which comes under the Western Army Command headquarters in Chandimandir.”
What is baffling is that the Indian Army, according to Sandeep, which has redrawn Kashmir boundaries into tight concentric circles for better vigil and management, thereby exercising better control, is suddenly facing a brand new threat percept.
“The jihad factory has clearly upped the ante with a dramatic change in tactics and there is empirical evidence of that. The attacks against the maladroit Army and paramilitary have intensified in the last few months. Using the old tactic of fidayeen attacks, they are now targeting vulnerable and high visibility military and para military convoys, choosing the locations with precision and deflating morale by exacting high number of casualties. This new stratagem of real, deadly, dangerous and persistent attacks has the security grid in a twist. Dovetailed with the mass uprisings of 2008 and 2010 in the form and shape of the Intifada have altered the discourse somewhat amongst the dissatisfied youth, yearning for a better life.”
He lets out an interesting clue to a new twist in the war of independence while complaining desperately that unlike her father Mufti Saheb, Chief Minister Mehbooba ‘is pro separatist and actively seeks Pakistan’s participation in deciding the future of Kashmir. She believes that both are along with the people of Kashmir, not just stakeholders but credible answers to this gigantic riddle. The case in point is her amnesty for 634 stone-pelters on the occasion of Eid.’
In a recent NDTV commentary (Why Kashmir needs a touch of Vajpayee’s ‘insaniyat’)Mihir Sharma, another Indian journalist—Distinguished Fellow at ORF— says that the ‘eruption’ has been coming for some time.
“New Delhi largely wasted a decade of uneasy quiet, imagining that it meant that peace had returned to the Valley, and in the years since 2008, as anger has built up, it has shown itself bereft of any ideas other than those that it used to quell militancy in the 1990s. Vajpayee’s new beginning, when he promised to treat Kashmir with “insaniya”, has been betrayed by New Delhi’s complacency.
“As the Valley’s mourning of Wani’s death shows, New Delhi has been fooling itself if it thinks Kashmir is moving towards “normalcy” — or that it is edging towards acceptance of its place within the Indian state. The wounds of the 1990s were deep; the state was angry, but it needed time to recover. Yet those wounds stayed open, and so the state stayed angry. In fact, a whole new generation arrived, even angrier, and radicalized itself on Facebook.
“Kashmir is not going to be normal while it is the most militarized part of the world, with one soldier for every 15 or so residents. It is not going to be a normal Indian state while basic Indian rights are suspended, and those omnipresent soldiers know they are above the laws that constrain them in the “mainland”. It is not going to be normal, or even slightly Indian, till the state holds itself accountable for its actions, the way it would in other parts of India.
“After all, why bother to understand? Flood a few thousand more troops into the Valley, shoot more people, declare more curfews, and look again away when tortures and rapes happen. Did we not, using overwhelming force and abandoning our principles, crush this anger when it was last expressed?
“But a lot has changed since the 1990s. For one, Pakistan has been relatively uninvolved this time around. (So far, that is — let’s hope they’re smart enough to resist the temptation to meddle.) For another, global jihad is qualitatively and quantitatively different from what it was in 1991. And finally, there are young Kashmiris all over India’s cities now, even in our smaller towns.
“… if this incipient intifada is to be prevented, we need something different. We need a touch of understanding — understanding that making people feel that they are occupied, that subjecting them to humiliations at the hands of representatives of the Indian state, that allowing state violence without accountability, has dangerous consequences.
“We need, perhaps, a touch of Vajpayee’s “insaniyat“.”
Manoj Joshi another Indian journalist writing (Kashmir: Government need to do more than slogans) in Scroll In says that there is need for the (Indian) government and the political leadership to understand that the need of the day is astute and sensitive political leadership. The Kashmir problem was not created today — nor will it go away in a hurry.
“Unfortunately, in the past two years we have seen little signs of the Modi government applying its mind to the Kashmir issue. True, Modi was instrumental in pushing the state BJP to tie up with the PDP. However, the Union government has not taken up the larger dialogue which had been initiated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and followed up by Manmohan Singh.
“Like it or not, a resolution of the Kashmir issue requires a settlement between India and Pakistan as well as the Union government and the State. On both these tracks there has been some progress in the past, but at present there seems to be a stasis. This does not make for a particularly happy situation — and things are being allowed to drift once again.”

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