Kashmir: Spinning the Ball Beyond Comprehension
NEW DELHI: Lt General Ata Hasnain, formerly GOC of the Srinagar based 15 Corps and now with the Vivekananda International Foundation has written an analysis of the current situation that probably is the first article, since the current phase of violence hit the Valley, to showcase what can roughly be described as the military perspective. Significant, as writings on Kashmir by men in uniform are rarely challenged by the establishment besides which General Hasnain was, for a while at least, in the running for the post of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir after he retired with his ‘Hearts Doctrine’ spelling out a military over reach to the common Kashmiri at the time.
In his article Hasnain follows what is emerging to be the official line---as voiced by the establishment television channels Times Now, NDTV, India Today and the rest----that Pakistan is responsible for all that has gone wrong in Kashmir this time around. To support this point he stresses what TV channels and some of their invited ‘experts’ have been saying, that Pakistan involvement was evident in the speed with which the protests after Hizbul militant Burhan Wani’s death spread across the Valley. “The focus with which 17 police stations were targeted on the first day appeared almost like a military plan,” the General wrote.
And went on to make the following two points:
- Improvement in Pakistan’s internal security situation has turned its focus again to Kashmir;
- Pathankot was the first attempt; Handwara and Sainik colonies the next “attempted triggers” by Pakistan to de-stabilise Kashmir;
Pakistan has never shifted its attention from Kashmir, and the only time when it has lowered the decibels on the issue is when it has been involved in dialogue with India. It has never relinquished the ‘focus’ on Kashmir, not even when just before 2010 it was clear that it had lost popularity amongst the new generations of Kashmiris for whom ‘azadi’ was and remains a more potent slogan, than accession to Pakistan that was the agenda of senior Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
It is also clear from even a cursory look at Pakistan’s trajectory vis a vis Kashmir, that it ratchets up the conflict levels when relations between New Delhi and Islamabad dip. The attack on the Pathankot air force base is a recent example, and what General Hasnain does not point out that despite this India cleared the visit of an investigation team to the site, that included an officer from ISI.
General Hasnain has laid the alleged sexual molestation of a young school girl in Handwara and the ensuing violence at Pakistan’s door. This is interesting, as the state government or for that matter the centre has not come out officially with any such statement. It will be interesting to know whether 1. The girl was lying at Pakistan’s instance and a army jawan had not been involved in the case or 2. The incident did happen but the ensuing protests were at Pakistan’s behest.
The same questions pertain to the Sainik colonies issue, as again General Hasnain again seems to be stating that the protests about the setting up of such colonies in the Valley were also instigated by Pakistan.
There is probably not a single person, in or out of uniform and conversant with Kashmir, who would deny the involvement of Pakistan at different levels in the Valley. This is a fact recognised since decades, with the Kashmiri cracking black jokes about the influx of intelligence men from both sides in the Valley. As they say for every one Kashmiri there are three shadows, one his own and the other two of intelligence chaps from the two countries following him.In the 1990’s terrorism that turned the Valley into a hell hole for the ordinary Kashmiri was clearly pushed and nurtured by Pakistan, a fact that no one even in Kashmir denies. Over the years the intelligence agencies in the Valley have fractured society to levels where Kashmiris have lost trust in each other, and suspect not just the ‘outsider’ but their own neighbours of being informers for one or the other country.
In brief, Pakistan's intervention or interference or presence is a given. It exists in the Valley. But so do a host of Indian intelligence agencies including military intelligence with the purpose of countering them, picking up crucial information, and feeding into strategy to keep the Valley peaceful. So as sources said, that Pakistan will try and meddle is a given. But the two points that arise from this are:
The creation of the ground to allow the neighbouring country to stoke fires is indigenous.
And the overriding tendency of the authorities to ward off the blame that has come to lie at their doors by giving exaggerated powers to Pakistan needs to be curbed with reality checks.
No one is denying the possibility of pro-Pakistan elements joining the protests, and wherever possible giving it that twist and sustaining capability. But to say that the thousands who poured out on the streets of Kashmir for Wani’s funeral, or for some of the protests, are all dancing to Pakistan’s tune is not correct. There is no point in denying the spontaneity of the protests, as in doing so the authorities again ensure a wrong reading of the situation that then does not allow a holistic policy to emerge. And more importantly, by blaming Pakistan the authorities here are trying to shrug off their responsibility in the current crisis centred around the absence of restraint while dealing with the young Kashmiris of whom 37 are dead, and hundreds seriously wounded.
Besides, in blaming Pakistan to the point of being able to influence the level of protests the authorities here, including the military, are negating their own efficiency, and branding the Indian intelligence as so useless that it is unable to one, pick up leads well in advance; and two, effectively counter the now ---if television can be taken at its word---super efficient ISI machinery! In fact in her media review column in the Indian Express Shailaja Bajpai---probably the best media monitor currently---has pointed to select footage carried by all the channels to insist that the violence in Kashmir now is all the handiwork of Pakistan. And that it was left to Rajya Sabha television that through a panel discussion placed the violence in perspective and pointed as Bajpai wrote, “the disconnect between the youth in Kashmir and the major political parties, the very high political awareness in the Valley and the lack of faith amongst the youth in the administration and the government.”
In the last part of his article General Hasnain interestingly does admit, after the rest of the article talks of just Pakistan links, the lack of trust, the disconnect between the people and the political parties, the rabble rousing clergy and a couple of such issues that have to do with the situation on the ground in the Valley.
The general is hopeful that the Unified Command will come up with answers to this present crisis, but it will go woefully wrong if it tries to find the answers through its ‘it is all to do with Pakistan’ prism.
The answers have to come from the politicians and civil society of which the media is a part, and this can only happen if there is not just realisation but admission that the violence in Kashmir today has more to do with ‘us’ than with ‘them.’ There can be no solution without a free and fair analysis of the problems leading to this scale of violence. The blinkers being handed out currently will not just muddy the sight but result in responses that will complicate the situation and turn what could have been a cycle of peace into a vicious cycle of death and conflict.
Perhaps now what we need is for those handing out the blinkers to explain how the last will benefit India.
(Cover Photograph: Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a jail van while trying to break the house arrest cordon. By BASIT ZARGAR)