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Shed blinkers on Pak ‘revenge’ plan

Published : Sep 27, 2016, 12:43 am IST
Updated : Sep 27, 2016, 12:43 am IST

“Grab ‘em by the *****, their hearts and minds will follow.” — An American soldier, Vietnam, circa 1960s

BCCI president Anurag Thakur
 BCCI president Anurag Thakur

“Grab ‘em by the *****, their hearts and minds will follow.” — An American soldier, Vietnam, circa 1960s

The CRPF havildar on unbroken picket duty for almost three months in Habba Kadal or Jama Masjid in central Srinagar, grimly watching hate-filled, “azadi” mobs darting in and out of the warren of alleyways and bylanes, targeting him with stones and the occasional petrol bomb, who couldn’t respond due to compulsions of “minimum force”, might be forgiven if thoughts similar to that of the US soldier in Vietnam in 1965 crossed his mind as well.

A stint on urban pacification duty in Srinagar’s alleys during the “Burhan Wani riots” can be tedious, boring, tense and deadly. Also, the ongoing separatist agitations in south Kashmir and on Srinagar’s streets must be understood for what they actually signify — a strategic variation of pace by Pakistan in its proxy long war with India. This is also accompanied by a switchback to the tactics of violent civil disobedience of yesteryears, of the street-fuelled Moi-e-Muqaddas riots of 1963, and the smokescreen of the 1965 Hazratbal agitations to cover the stealthy concentration of fidayeen infiltrated into Srinagar as part of Pakistan’s “Operation Gibraltar”.

The Burhan Wani riots in Srinagar can be the preliminary stages of a rerun of the same playbook, to combine the lessons of the Palestinian intifada with the Pakistan Army operational philosophy of “jihad-fi sabilillah” (jihad in the cause of Allah). The mass demonstrations in the Valley against the Indian Army’s presence in Kashmir is a reconfirmation that other than a few pandits remaining in the Valley, the “hearts and minds” of Generation X in Kashmir are defiantly separatist. It rejects the “idea of India” no matter how often the olive branch is proffered.

The recent fidayeen attack on the Army base near Uri near the Line of Control, which caused several casualties among the small detachment of troops deployed there, has come as a morale booster to separatists.

The late Burhan Wani has reportedly been replaced by either Sabzar Ahmad Bhat or Mehmood Ghaznavi as the Kashmiri jihad’s operational leader. The new leader is a relatively lesser-known personality, but has issued his first “operational” fatwa with a dire warning of consequences for any Kashmiri found cooperating with the authorities.

India’s democratic culture is conditioned to interact with the political Opposition and resolve all outstanding issues by debate and discussion. But the Indian State is also clear that if externally sponsored “manufactured rage” on Srinagar’s streets — that seeks to swallow the democratic process itself and exploit the constitutional right of dissent to launch a violently separatist, anti-national agenda — it will be stopped in its tracks, by force if need be.

Many people in India are also outraged by the Supreme Court’s recent direction that even those who publicly affirm separation from India and raise the Pakistani flag on the streets of Srinagar can’t be referred to as terrorists. The more cynical among the aam aadmi can well yawn, stretch, and ask: “So what else is new in Kashmir ”

In a sense, they would be correct as there is nothing really new in Kashmir that the Indian Army has not encountered and successfully coped with earlier, right from 1947.

However, intensified trans-border firings by Pakistani Rangers in the Jammu-Pathankot area, and fidayeen raids into India across the international border at Kaluchak, Samba, Pathankot, and Gurdaspur, to name a few, have infused a new sense of volatility generally associated with the Line of Control into the settled international boundary between India and Pakistan in the Jammu-Punjab region. Periodically, Pakistan reiterates that this was a “working boundary”, whose ultimate alignment was yet to be agreed upon.

Perceptions on the situation in the Kashmir Valley depend on the eye of the beholder. There are Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis, once liberal and Sufi, but are radicalised Wahabis now and pro-Pakistan.

We have Gujjars and Bakarwals. The Sunni Pahari-speaking people are a tough, hardy, but impoverished breed from the mountains on the periphery, with little or no political clout. They provide the majority intake into the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry of the Army. The Shias who speak Kashmiri are comparative lightweights in the political circuit. And then we have the Kashmiri pandits, the only pro-India constituency, who are Kashmiri-speaking, rooted in the Valley, but are now evacuees in their own homeland. All these people see Kashmir and the Valley through the prisms shaped by their own experiences.

The September 13 “Curfew Id” was a phenomenon that was unheard of. But with the long war in Kashmir in its 79th year and counting, it was perhaps inevitable. The incomprehension and sheer ignorance of India’s political class, specially liberal “soft-liners”, about the situation in the Valley and the true nature of the enemy was visible during the after-visit conclave of the all-party delegation.

During their reachout tour they had consciously attempted to mingle with “Kashmiris” of the Valley, but mostly with its least responsive elements like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other hardcore Hurriyat figures. Doors were slammed in their faces, but they persisted with their door-to-door attempts at “chai pe charcha”.

India’s opium-like addiction to “reconciliation” is one-way and unrequited. The problem in Kashmir is Pakistan, working to a well-defined gameplan which is often forgotten by India — which is revenge for Bangladesh through jihad in Kashmir.

Do our “pacifists” not comprehend this

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament