Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Another summer of unrest in Kashmir?

Street protesters running away from teargas during last summer's widespread agitation across the Kashmir valley. The protests took off after a young student, Tufail Mattoo, died after being hit by a teargas canister


By Ajai Shukla
Srinagar
Business Standard, 19th Apr 11

This summer will witness a clash of wills in Kashmir, the outcome of which could reshape New Delhi’s engagement of Pakistan and its dialogue with the Kashmiri secessionist leadership. In the blue corner, so to speak, is Kashmir’s new generation of hard line separatists, a tiger of unknown stripe, on whose back Tehrik-e-Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani precariously perches, pretending to ride it. In the red corner is Srinagar’s security establishment, a myopic leopard that never changes its spots, which firmly believes that old-style preventive arrests can staunch any flow of passion.

It may just be possible that the security czars win by walkover. In a meticulously implemented plan, the coordinators and leaders of last year’s street protests are being picked up and jailed in Jammu, while the J&K Police’s new cyber cell is monitoring websites like Facebook that were used to coordinate last year’s protests. The police calculate that taking away protest coordinators like Masarat Alam would prevent the focusing of popular anger into the violent public demonstrations that grabbed news headlines over the last three years.

But more likely, the government has gotten its calculations badly wrong. The clumsiness with which the government has suppressed demonstrations since 2008, and the potent symbolism of young children killed in police firing, has midwifed the emergence of a younger, more radical, more dissipated separatist leadership. A new Kashmiri generation, deeply disillusioned with their leaders and with the going-nowhere armed militancy that fruitlessly claimed thousands of Kashmiri lives, has taken ownership of the public protest. Masarat Alam himself was only a symbol; taking him away will give rise to another.

The government of India can claim credit for having allowed the baton of separatist activism to pass smoothly from one generation to the next, ensuring thereby at least one more generation of unrest in the valley. Every Kashmiri leader that might have settled with New Delhi on acceptable terms --- from the Hurriyat moderates, to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front’s Yasin Malik, to the current crop of young firebrands before they were radicalized --- has been systematically discredited. Every one of New Delhi’s Kashmiri interlocutors earned the label of quisling without the consolation of a single concession to take back to their people. They seem likely to spend this summer watching the drama from the sidelines.

The government, meanwhile, is congratulating itself on the (so-far) successful Panchayat elections in Kashmir. Even though the robustly contested 2008 elections were both preceded and followed by angry violence, New Delhi inexplicably continues to mine consolation from the Kashmiri proclivity to vote, believing quite erroneously that an embrace of democracy is an embrace of India. But the populace has adequately demonstrated that it can go straight from the polling booth into an anti-India demonstration.

In the by lanes of Srinagar, the discussion is not about whether there will be mass protests this summer, but about when and over what. Mr Geelani, in an attempt to salvage relevance --- of Kashmir’s older-generation leaders, he alone has some left by virtue of having never engaged New Delhi --- has been talking up the issue of the Dogra Certificate, which the government generously provided, just as it had provided the Amarnath land issue in 2008, the controversy over the Shopian killings in 2009, and the police firing on demonstrators last year.

As backup, Geelani is mobilizing opinion on the “occupation” of private land by the Indian Army, which he sharply criticized during the India Today conclave in New Delhi in March, and in a district-level mobilization programme earlier. All this may be a wasted effort on his part. In the emotional tinderbox that is Kashmir, a chicken coming under the wheel of an army truck can set off a local riot. And, as was evident last year, a mishandled public protest can trigger a chain of events that sets the whole valley alight.

Pakistan, meanwhile, does what it can to keep the pot bubbling and believing as always that victory in Kashmir is just around the corner. Talk to any young Kashmiri, however, and it will become quickly clear that the valley hardly relishes joining a country that is itself disintegrating. Kashmiris cheered for Pakistan in the World Cup semi-finals and would probably vote for Pakistan in a two-choice referendum. But that is less Pakistan’s success and more anti-incumbency against India.

New Delhi has not left itself with many choices. It must begin a focused engagement of the Kashmiri leaders that it wants to deal with, starting with the Hurriyat moderates and the JKLF. An all-party mechanism, comprising senior political leaders from across the political spectrum, must represent New Delhi so that every political party has ownership of the process. The current self-destructive confrontation between Jammu’s Hindu grievances --- exploited by the Congress as much as by the BJP --- and Kashmir’s Muslim interests, has to be managed without letting the contradictions spiral, Amarnath style, into fratricidal conflict.

Yet, a bloody summer may be inevitable. At that moment, it would be important to react with the knowledge that India is in Kashmir for the long haul and any bridges that you burn in your relations with the local population while dealing with the protests, will need to be painfully rebuilt.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its also time to make a stand.First,that the the Valley alone is NOT Jammu &Kashmir.Second,deal with protests firmly.There is a section in the valley which will never reconcile. No matter what we do.All this talk of alienation etc etc is a load of BS.For them,the thought of living under a non-Islamic system is anathema.The inherent feeling is that as Muslims,they have no place anywhere but with Pakistan.There is a perceived sense of superiority amongst some in the valley, racial and cultural:a sense that somehow they cannot live under the 'inferior' Indians(Non-Muslims?) This is in line with the oft repeated Paki line that Pakis are superior in all ways to the average Indian.

Lets make it clear,accession of Kashmir to India is a done thing and there will be no further partition of India.Let there be no guilt feeling of any firm action against trouble maker. Any talks within the above with the valley Kashmiris , is no problem.

Anonymous said...

Why govt is not daring to stop these non-patriotic buggers .which they(hurriyant) distributed Rs.400/- per week for each person for stone throwing in streets , which has been sponsored by pakistan . these unrest has been created by pak and our govt freely allowing it.once these peoples killed pandits in favour of pakis , now they peetling stones against them itself . i think the time has come for pak to end its history

Sandeep said...

bravo...one of the most objective viewpoint presented here. I guess the last line of the blog say it all about a possible way out of the mess. I wrote on this topic (http://nanocreator.blogspot.com/2010/09/kashmir.html) and its not strange thats its one of the most disliked posts

shyam said...

I would say appointment of this person is far more useful to bring back peace than the appointment of those interlocutors

var_a_dark said...

Col. Shukla,

Very informative articles (all three of them). I have a few questions for you.
1. During the protests, what looked very odd was that police used real bullets. In the rest of the country, they normally deploy RAF against the protests (which supposedly specializes in anti-riot operations). Anti-riot operations normally involve use of lathi charge, rubber bullets, water cannons etc. Why were they not deployed?
2. Congress's "secularism" and BJP's "Hindutva" has been causing quite a bit of problem in Kashmir. However, you do not mention the role of local parties such as National Conference in your article. What is their take on Kashmir? Also, the arrests you mention (under the PSA) are done by the J&K Police. Policing is a state subject. So, by arresting people is the National Conference being an agent of the Congress/Union of India instead of the populace of Kashmir?
3. The Sayeeds (Mufti Mohammed and Mehbooba) seemed to be pro-stone throwers. Was this just political mileage gaining or was it their true stand? What is their take on Kashmir?
4. Is there atleast one party in the elections which is pro-secession? (I would guess the answer is a no, however it is good to clarify than assume).

Thanks

Keep these articles going.

Leonuh1 said...

Dear Ajay,

May I ask a question?

What about the Kashmiri Pandits that have been thrown out of kashmir. Will Ajay Shukla or Barkha Dutt or anyone from the media ever listen to them?

Or perhaps a non muslim life is not as important as a muslim one.

Thats certainly what the Sikhs in Kashmir and the majority of the people of Jammu feel. But who will listen to them? Certainly not Ajay Shukla and the mainstream Indian media.

Perhaps they should all convert.

rgds

Akshay Kapoor

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shukla has been so wrong in his prognosis on Kashmir and international relations, but I admire his dogged pursuit of trying to be someone which he is not.

In his case, and with so many others, the Indian law of scholarship persists: if you are experienced in doing one thing you ought to believe that you know everything.

Leonuh1 said...

Anonymous April 19th, 10:17,

You are right. Its the elephant in the room that no one in India addresses. I live in London, have been out of India for several years and have been repsonsible for businesses in the Middle East, Israel, North Africa and Turkey and in Asia and Europe. Have an extensive network of international friends and contacts including Pakistani so I believe I have some perspective.

As you say it is a very simple issue - religion. Ofcourse there are nuances and local issues and even a class system (Shia vs Sunni, Pak vs Bangladeshi vs Arab vs African etc etc) but its actually a very simple issue. That of Islamic superiority and cohesiveness. The mosque unites. The book unites. And then says covert.

The west is waking up to this. Even in the UK where there is a very strong muslim lobby, there is a lot of concern and policy is changing. Please see recent immigration policy directives and speeches by David Cameron. Or the speeches by the Pope or the Archibishop of Canterburry's - if they had said these things in India the 'secular' media would have flayed them alive :)

So the issue is simple, the world is increasingly relaising that. But India is not. Its quite a deep rooted cultural thing.

And whatever happens in J&K, this underlying relaity will not stop. Assam will follow, so will Tripura and Kerala.

rgds

leonuh1@gmail.com

ps before the 'secularists' jump on me I am an atheist.

Mr. Ra said...

Those in kashmir who do not want to remain with India, shall be given free option to go to libya and take any sides there as per their free choice again. Hope this may help at least resolving the libyan problem.

Mirza said...

Throw them in to Pakistan, let them have taste of Pakistan than we talk!

Anonymous said...

@19 April 21:33
My take is:
1)Stone throwing looks like an innocuous activity.But,when done by a mob,in a deliberate and targeted manner,stones can be lethal and deadly too.
In other places in India,stone throwing is often a sporadic and mostly spontaneous incident arising out of a fight, or a demonstration or sometimes communal incidents.They are rarely a sustained campaign.More importantly,in Kashmir the protesters went out of their way to provoke the forces,particularly the CRPF.The remarks range from anything from being called dogs, or blackies or Bhooka nanga to deliberate communal remarks or acts of spitting.Unlike other places,the crowd in Kashmir did not back down upon cane charges or tear gas.The aim was to continue to hit out,until the use of deadly force was inevitable with its tragic consequences.Nevertheless the forces have taken steps to acquire more crowd-control devices in a hope of reduced casualties.
2)The state Govt.is a constitutional body which is discharging its duties to maintain law and order.It is not an agent to anyone.
3)They like most politicians are primarily opportunists.
4) pro-secessionist leaders have taken part in elections on an individual basis.

Gaur said...

An enlightening article. Lt Gen A S Kalkat had once said some very wise words. As I think they are applicable here, allow me to quote him
"Application of military force will never bring peace, anywhere in the world."
"Peace in the minds of the civil population is the perception in the minds of the common man on his environment, on the kind of governance he has, on his basic needs being met, on his rights being protected."
"These are all political matters, not one of them is a military matter."
"The military can only create a condition for the political actions to take place."

Clearly Army has done its job to perfection. However, the political system is not taking advantage of this. On the contrary, it is damaging all the goodwill Army has spread in the valley.
Take last year’s AFSPA removal demand for instance. I was watching a program on NDTV where Barkha Dutt was interviewing young people of Srinagar and they were all going on about how Army daily harasses and beats them at every check post. So, they argued that AFSPA should be repealed. The funny thing is that Army has all but withdrawn from J&K cities. The locals cannot differentiate b/n different camos and think that all of them are Army. So, because of the insensitivity and utter foolishness of the political system which cannot keep the central and state police forces in check, it is the image of Army and India which gets damaged.

Anonymous said...

I am a kashmiri by blood and I want to be free to make my own choices. I want to see my own army, my own police. Not somebody else's. I want someone who understands my language of urdu, my culture without having to read up on us. I want to fly my flag on my house without fear. I want our sisters to go about without being molested by the outsiders. I want to be able to protest, march without fear of being shot. I don't want to fear my childs death each time he is home late. I don't wish to see my brothers totured and found lying dead in canals. Most important of all we have never assented to be part of india...we the people of Kasmir. We are only now waking up and believe me even if it takes another 10 generations we will never be part of india.

Avenger said...

"Violence breeds violence", Pakistan was founded based on threat of violence, and behold what it has become, a godless Naa-Pak'istan. On the other hand, India was founded based on non-violence, and behold the fruits of success, peace and prosperity "most" Indians (compared to "most" people of Pakistan) are enjoying. To those in Kashmir, who cannot read or understand such short-term history are bound to face the same fate. There is no
pure anything, man and women being less than god, are themselves imperfect. Hence those who profess purity are absurd. It is high time, that those in the state of Kashmir seeking peace and non-violence, be protected and brought into the Indian side, those who seek to overthrow, and use threats of violence, and commit violence, be given their separate piece of land to fend for themselves. Let them join the pure-breed, the master race as professed by our neighboring country. Only future will judge who made the wisest choice. Let's not decide, who is right or wrong, maybe militant are right, or maybe Indians are right, only time will decide. Indians should focus on development of science and technology, let the barbarians worry about the absurd.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 21 April 02.:28.
Unless you are a Paki masquerading as a Kashmiri, You are talking as if Kashmir is on the moon and the rest of us know nothing about it!!!
Who is 'We'!
Does it include Jammu,Doda,Leh,Ladakh,Kargil,Rajouri,Poonch,Kathua.Pathankot.etc etc.Does it include all Pandits,Buddhists,Hindus,Shias,Dogras,Baltis,Gujjars.Dogras and even all of Sunni Muslims of the valley.Urdu is an official Language of India and of many north -Indian states.So where is this challenge of Urdu being not understood.Any Hindi speaker has no problems with Urdu,since the Hindi we speak in any case includes a lot of Urdu words.And what is your culture?What is so alien about it to us rest of Indians?????We have many languages and customs elsewhere,so??And if you are the type who equals Muslim or Islam to a separate culture/nation ,we have many many more Muslims than in Kashmir than anywhere else,perfectly patriotic Indians.And where is any Kashmiri being stopped from worshiping or not learning his language or not being able to go about his daily life.If you really want to know what restriction is ,check how the Chinese deal with the Tibetans and how Han culture supplants local people and traditions OR how the Turks deal with Kurds.Did you know that Turks do not allow that Kurds even to have Kurdish names or speak their language.
Under section-370,you have your own legislature, your state symbols,flag,language.Other Indian cannot settle or buy property in Kashmir.You get fat-ass lazy on Billions of Rupees from the Central govt,which YOUR own Kashmiri Politicians control. And YET,you bewail that your culture is being throttled.Sometime i wish we were a China.All we'd do then is throw Kashmir open to all Indians,like the Chinese flooded Tibet with Han Chinese, and the problems of Kashmir would disappear in a generation.
About your fears on being killed.
Easy, do not take up arms against the state on notions of separation based on religion or blood or culture. There is nothing in Kashmiri culture or history that either is not a part of Indian tradition elsewhere or does nor predate Islam or Kashmir itself.And BTW the scenario of insecurity you point out seems to be related to Pakistan!!!!Where suicide bombers or drones or the Paki army or the pak taliban ensure a daily death toll.BTW ever seen how your beloved pak army has dealt with the Balochis or the FATA problem.If we did the same in Kashmir,the valley would not have been left standing.
Frankly, the Kashmiris are given so much freedom, that very few in the Muslim world enjoy.And yet they crib?For what ! A clam that you are Muslims,direct descendants of the great Mughals who brought civilization and enlightenment to this dark and barbarian land that had no history till Bin qasim arrived in India???

If Kashmiris of your ilk can reconcile with the Idea that India as a civilization and entity is here to stay and that living in it as Muslim does not automatically mean subjugation, than perhaps there is a hope.

Otherwise, we are in for the long haul.