The mess in Kashmir – Time we addressed it holistically

June 22, 2018 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


Finally, the BJP pulled out from its alliance with PDP on June 19. The alliance had come about after the hung verdict in 2015. It was clearly a marriage of convenience. For BJP, it was getting a foothold in the state government, even though the PDP had come up with the support of Hijbul Mujahideen (HuM). Pakistan-based Syeed Salahudeen, HuM chief was waging terror attacks in India in tandem with the LeT and JuD. Significantly, Mufti Muhammad Saeed (Mehbooba Mufti's father) had publicly thanked Pakistan for his election win, with PM Modi sitting next to him. Recently, Mehbooba as J&K CM threw an Iftar party where the national anthem was played with no one standing.

Certain actions of Mehbooba Mufti too gave rise to suspicion that her underhand links with HuM and other terrorist organizations were active. For example, amnesty to hundreds of stone-pelters timed with major terrorists / anti-terrorist actions, inaction in apprehending and prosecuting of leaders masterminding stone-pelting, inaction against raising of Pakistani and ISIS flags, lodging of FIRs against Army personal, permitting public funerals of terrorists killed as platforms to incite violence by terrorists in plain view, unchecked radicalization by clerics and politicians, and even through school textbooks. The Ramzan ceasefire was bad decision that wiped out gains made of having 200 terrorists killed under Op 'All Out'. The logic "Giving Peace A Chance" was absurd since radicalization continued unabated, the administration remained mute and terrorists could easily regroup with security forces directed not to undertake operations The MHA apparently lacked expertise to evaluate what the result would be even after two CRPF personnel were stoned to death in Srinagar in April.

The argument that number of youth joining militancy would reduce was illogical, given the radicalized environment. Defence Minister Sitharaman stated it is not MoD's role to determine whether the ceasefire has been successful or not, even as militant-related incidents double during Ramzan ceasefire, as enumerated in media reports. The PDP had no incentive for curbing militancy, given the report that J&K received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to States during 200-2016 despite having just 1 per cent of the population, each resident of J&K getting around 1 lakh as per a media repot. But this averaging is incorrect because funds are released to State Government which is traditionally biased against Ladakh and Jammu; the Valley gets the lion's share. In addition are the funds pouring in for terrorism and jihad from within the country and from abroad? So why should militancy not flourish? Not only was amnesty being granted to stone-pelters periodically (cases against 9,730 withdrawn in February 2018 alone), 115 criminals were released from jail on eve of Eid under pretext theirs were not "serious offences". But jails have become radicalization centre, replete with Pakistani flags and jihadi literature, as was discovered during raids, where even minor criminals can be motivated to pick up the gun. The daily visuals on TV showed anarchy on the streets. BJP should have actually pulled out from the alliance in the rise in militancy post killing of Burhan Wani, which indicated underhand links of J&K politicians with terrorist organizations. Apparently, it took the killing of Shujaat Bukhari that forced the decision of BJP.

Logically, Governor's rule should continue till required measure of stability is reached in the 4-5 volatile districts. Will the gloves be off – not really because the army operates in a set of rules that respect human rights and avoid collateral damage – unlike counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations by foreign forces and within their own country by Muslim nations, including Pakistan. But certainly, stone-pelting and display of Pakistani flags should not be permitted, using all possible means. Shujaat Bukhari maintained the problem is political. Mehbooba Mufti had sacked her Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu who said Kashmir is not a political issue but a society which has social issues. Actually it is a mix of both, the social issues having become important with unchecked radicalization, and increasing number of indigenous militants on beck of call of ISI directly or through proxy terrorist organizations. Yes, gloves will be off in the political arena – political parties scrambling for fresh alliances. What J&K requires is: Op 'All Out II' to bring the level of militancy to required levels; good governance – in synch with empowering the lowest level – Panchayats; move Hurriyat separatists out of J&K and progress cases against offenders; monitor and deal with clerics and politicians spreading hate; effective blocking of funds and weapons for militancy; stop public funerals of terrorists killed – preferably they should be burnt at one designated place since terrorists have no religion; break the PDP / NC-terrorist linkages, prosecuting political leaders where charges proved; review text-books and education program to detect and eliminate spread of religion-based hatred; institute vibrant de-radicalization program, reviewed for effect periodically; chalk out and announce a employment generation program linking it with youth giving up, violence; cut out disproportionate fiscal largesse to J&K, giving reason, and make Kashmiris feel they have to work; consider fiscal allocations separately for Ladakh and Jammu; put into motion return of Kashmiri Pandits under armed escort of a militia force comprising security forces veterans and volunteers; make voting by military compulsory as authorized by Election Commission, and; create a special administrative wing of military veterans to inject efficiency in administering J&K. It is for the government to take a call on placing a dynamic Governor in J&K considering the present incumbent has been overseeing deterioration of the situation. And finally, it is high time the irregular war is carried into POK-Pakistan, which should be topmost priority of the NSA.