POLITICS

We Need To Ask The Home Ministry Tough Questions About The Mess In Kashmir

The Indian government has no clue what to do in Kashmir.

18/07/2016 10:33 AM IST | Updated 18/07/2016 8:46 PM IST
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SRINAGAR, KASHMIR, INDIA: Kashmir protesters tries to throw a sling shot at Indian policemen during a curfew in Srinagar. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images)

These numbers don't come from Pakistan or the Hurriyat: 91 local militants and 54 foreign militants are active in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to the Indian security forces.

After the US-led NATO force withdrew most of its combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, it was widely expected that 2015 would be a bad summer for Kashmir. Like 1989, Pakistan would have a lot of militants freed up to send across the Line of Control to wreak mayhem in Kashmir. This was expected also because Pakistan's militants were turning against itself, and could have been used by the Pakistani Army to be given a new cause, the old Kashmir cause.

For whatever reasons, that has clearly not happened - not yet. Since 2016 is not 1990, it is quite possible that security forces have managed to make infiltration very difficult. Yet as we have seen in Mumbai, Gurdaspur and Pathankot, it is not impossible to inflict considerable and spectacular terrorism from Pakistan.

New Delhi must have been relieved when Pakistan started issuing statements and going to the United Nations last Monday, after Kashmir saw an uprising for the death of militant Burhan Wani. India has now found it convenient to make it an India-Pakistan issue.

If a 22 year old homegrown militant, Burhan Wani, was a hero in Kashmir, it is India's failure, because Wani and the Kashmiris who see him as a martyr are Indians - or so India says.

India would like to pretend that militancy and the popular uprising in Kashmir are both Pakistan's doing.

"There is enough information we have about Pakistan's role in aiding and abetting trouble in the Kashmir region," said Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, last week.

Pakistan also aided the Khalistan militancy in Indian Punjab, but that is nowhere to be found today. Pakistan is unable to make Rajasthanis take up guns and stones against India. Whether or not Pakistan is responsible for what we see in Kashmir today, it is by all means India's failure. If a 22 year old homegrown militant, Burhan Wani, was a hero in Kashmir, it is India's failure, because Wani and the Kashmiris who see him as a martyr are Indians - or so India says.

Danish Ismail / Reuters
Men sit in front of a closed shop painted with a graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

An armed uprising, backed by Pakistan across the LoC, started in Kashmir in 1989. Until 1996, India fought a very difficult war saving Kashmir. It was only after 2001 that militancy began to decline. A ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan in 2003 gave New Delhi breathing space. By 2007, pundits were talking of a post-conflict situation in Kashmir, they were celebrating "normalcy" in the Valley, tom-toming the upside in tourism numbers.

In 2008, 2010 and now in 2016 we have seen almost the entire Valley come on to the streets and shout azadi slogans. We have seen young boys willing to lay down their lives. These are cyclical episodes only to the extent that a new generation of boys feel ready to give and take lives.

In 2010, the Kashmiri narrative was that terrorism had failed to achieve much, and mass uprising, Palestine-style intifada with stones, books and social media would be their weapons. But New Delhi's policies have managed to make Kashmiris look up to the gun again.

India, Indians and the Indian media tries very hard to ignore one word that Kashmiris shout ad nauseam, write in graffiti on the shopfronts and on social media. That word is Azadi - separation from India.

Is it Pakistan's doing or India's failure that it is unable to make Kashmiris see themselves as Indians?

India insists Kashmir is an integral part of India, but has been unable to make India an integral part of the Kashmiri mind. Isn't that a failure? Over a decade after Pakistan stopped mass infiltration of foreign militants into Jammu and Kashmir, India is still facing a conflict. Shouldn't patriotic Indians be asking the Ministry of Home Affairs for an explanation. Hello sirs, our internal security is in your hands, what are you doing? How long will we remain with "Centre rushes more troops..." as the template response.

We don't hold the MHA mandarins accountable because we are told the answer to all our questions is Pakistan.

Kashmiris are people India hold elections for, gives them identity documents and subsidies, integrates economically with the mainland and has seats for them in the Indian Parliament. Is it Pakistan's doing or India's failure that it is unable to make Kashmiris see themselves as Indians?

The local press has been gagged, their equipment taken away, journalists detained, because the truth is ugly. The press has to be censored so that people don't read about the gory stories of young children blinded by pellets. The same reason why Burhan Wani was a prize target - he inspired more rebellion. Ten days into a curfew, locals storm into an army camp, death toll at 42, women coming out to protest - and we still say it's all Pakistan's doing.

Even worse than the government's response is the response of ordinary Indians. So distant they are from understanding the reality of Kashmir, that it is easy for them to explain the problem with a few keywords. Pakistan! Muslims! Terrorism! Islamism! ISIS! Kashmiri Pandits! There is only only solution it seems, maaro saalo ko, just beat them into submission.

Kashmiris show again and again that it succeeds only momentarily. When "normalcy" returns, Kashmiris start counting backwards again, adding the death toll, counting the massacres, chanting azadi in their hearts.

The first step to solve a problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem, but the Government of India prefers to live in denial.

Adnan Abidi / Reuters
A woman holds a placard as she attends a protest against what they say are the recent killings of Kashmiri civilians, in New Delhi, India, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Take this statement of Jitendra Singh, the minister in the PMO. "There is no Kashmir problem. It has been made clear on all the fronts. There is no issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan and we are not ready to accept it."

Pakistan keeps talking of a United Nations referendum in Kashmir, in response to which India brings up the Shimla Agreement of 1972, whereby Kashmir became a bilateral dispute only. The Shimla agreement's last line speaks of a "final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir".

Minister Singh went on to say, "...it was way back in 1994 that Indian Parliament passed an unanimous resolution stating that if at all there is any outstanding issue, it is how to retrieve part of J&K which remains under illegal occupation of Pakistan."

India says the issue is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but does nothing to regain it. It says the issue is internal, but has to go about killing Kashmiri boys to prevent them from shouting azadi on the streets. It says Pakistan is fomenting trouble but is unable to explain why Kashmiris are picking up guns against India.

Truth is, the Indian government has no clue what to do in Kashmir, and we must call it out for that.

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