In the early hours of February 14, the nation was horrified to see the worst ever Fidayeen terror-attack on a 78 – CRPF convoy at Pulwama in South Kashmir. A suicide bomber belonging to the ISI-controlled Jihadi outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus carrying CRPF personnel, turning the bus into a mangled heap and killing as many as 40 of our jawans.
The suicide bomber, Adi Ahmed Dar, a Kashmiri youth from Pulwama, was a class XI student. He dropped out of school to join Jaish in March last year. He was said to be inspired by Taliban “victory” over the US in Afghanistan.
Regrettably, New Delhi has once again paid a heavy price for lopsided policies pursued by Washington in Afghanistan. As for China, it has been playing dirty games in the UN by blocking attempts to list Jaish Chief operating in Pakistan as a “global terrorist”. In fact, with the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan’s political table, it has been yet another story of Disadvantage India, probably for a short while.
One redeeming offshoot of the cowardly Fidayeen attack is that Indians of all political shades, colour and class stand up as one Nation with the resolve to eliminate the terrorists operating in the Valley.
It is no secret that Jaish-e-Mohammad has been trying desperately to revive itself in J & K after a protracted lull. Police sources suggest that in 2015 JeM had zero cadre strength in the Valley. In 2016, it had a cadre of six. However, things came to such a pass that this year alone Jaish was responsible for as many as a dozen attacks, two in Srinagar on the eve of the Republic Day.
We do not wish to indulge in any blame game, political or otherwise. Our main objective is to make the authorities take the necessary corrective measures to curb terror activities. Governor Satya Pal Malik has, however, admitted “intelligence failure”. How come? He told an correspondent that “We could not detect the vehicle with explosives moving on highways. We must accept we are a fault”. I appreciate the Governor’s frank statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also made it clear that the Army would decide the time and place of the counter-action. As for India’s political and diplomatic response, a number of steps have been taken to expose Islamabad’s terror face to the international community.
Pakistan has lost its most favoured nation status. Two hundred per cent customs duty has been imposed on goods imported from Pakistan. Civilian vehicles won’t be allowed to run during the movement of convoys. In a welcome move the security cover of the Hurriyat leaders has been withdrawn. Enough is enough. There is no room for any meaningful dialogue with the “terrorist country” of Pakistan.
It is gratifying that the entire world, barring China, stands behind India today. Still, we have to fight on our strength and resolve for counteraction against the “masters of the proxy war” from across the border.
Let us not be apologetic of the fact that Kashmir has been part of the Indian civilization from time immemorial and this position cannot be changed. It is a pity that as a soft state, we have allowed a situation of perpetual conflict of one kind or the other. This is the Dead Sea process, our political process.
I recall the words of fundamentalist Poet Mohammed Iqbal. He once exhorted the Muslims: ” (Allah’s lions know no cowardice).
Mohammed Iqbal was not a Sufi saint who could show the path of love and brotherhood. He was a fundamentalist who asked the Muslims to take to the path of violence and use the sword to achieve their mission. The signs of radicalization among Kashmiri youngsters in the Valley could be seen as an increasing influence of Iqbal’s exhortation!
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a respected Muslim scholar and a sane voice today, says by setting up the imaginary lion as an ideal, Muslims have opted for the path of confrontation on the mistaken premise that this is what is meant by bravery and this is what seems to be drawing them to the cult of jihad!
Can this process be reversed? We could not do it in the past 70 years. With the BJP government at the Centre, politico-religious and ideological processes have become more complex and complicated in the absence of an all-inclusive vision for Modern India.
The militancy in Kashmir took off formally when the Plebiscite Front was launched in August 1955 by Mirza Afzal Beg on Sheikh Abdullah’s instigation. The Front worked among the young, and turned their frustrations against India. Soon, it linked its fortune with the fundamentalist forces, such as, the Jamat-e-Islami. The Front fully exploited the emotional outbursts of the people in 1964, when the holy relic of Prophet Mohammed disappeared from the Hazratbal mosque.
The event also stirred up the mullahs, who were then dormant. However, since then they have occupied the centre-stage in Kashmir. We also cannot ignore the presence of a formidable pro-Pak group in Jammu and Kashmir ever since the partition. There is enough evidence to prove that Islamabad has been organizing the training of militants and arming them over the years.
Against this backdrop, what has of late been worrying me most is the increasing radicalization of young Kashmiris. There are obviously serious flaws in the way J & K is being handled, both at the Centre and in the State. The much talked about PDP-BJP alliance flopped, though young BJP leader Ram Madhav tried to reshape the destiny of Kashmir. That could not click because of the “fixed mindsets” of Mehbooba Mufti and her party leaders and local BJP leaders. They all looked at the state affairs from their respective political and religious angularities, and not in a larger national perspective. The rising of militancy in recent years could be attributed to political failures of the leaders of PDP-BJP alliance partners. They did not work in a coordinated manner. The Pathankot and Uri attacks from across the border then made matters worse.
Interestingly, in New Delhi’s cocktail circles these days one often hears some whispering voices: Is Kashmir slipping out of India’s hands? I don’t think so, though there are serious loose ends in handling Kashmir affairs, administratively, strategically, politically and socially. This state of drift is mainly due to adhocism in policies and decision-making on critical issues facing the state. So much so that crises have become endemic to Kashmir and virtually everything in the Valley has got paralysed.
Some young Kashmiris are even giving up their studies and taking to guns. They seem to be taking over the centre-stage in South of Kashmir and enacting a macabre drama since the terror infrastructure across the Line of Control (LoC) remains intact with full support of Pakistan. Islamabad is operating as many as 16 terrorist camps on its territory and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
According to Northern Army Commander Lt. General Ranbir Singh, “450 terrorists are operating in J & K”. He also said that “191 youngsters have joined terrorist groups in the Valley”.
The security forces are making concerted efforts to reach out to these youngsters, their parents and teachers so that they could prevail upon them not to join militant outfits. We have to wait and watch how far they succeed.
Can a “surgical strike” help to destroy these training camps? This is not an easy task today, though we have had a number of such opportunities in the past. I am not sure if such an operation at this stage could lead to a larger Indo-Pak war at a time when the country is getting set for the 2019 poll.
In any case, the militants cannot be allowed to dictate their own terms to basic issues of Kashmir by their guns. Even otherwise, there are no easy solutions to most of the problems, whether political or economic. Such attempts in the past only created Utopias, with disastrous results on the ground. All the same, we have to bring the militants to their knees through the process of attrition, however slow might be its progress. The militants too, know that their terror card hardly carries any conviction.
One major problem in the Valley today is the local people react angrily and come out in large numbers on the streets when their kith and kin are killed in encounters. Indian security forces and sensible political and social leaders ought to think seriously about strengthening the voice of sanity in the Valley. Right now, this seems to be almost impossible task since Jammu and Kashmir is full of opportunistic leaders. They play dangerous games with their own people with a view to enriching themselves politically and otherwise. Small wonder that the militants continue to rule over the minds of people through fear or through acquiescence. Which of the two factors has been decisive is difficult to say.
In this complex setting, the Central leaders have invariably given the impression that they know the answers best. Alas, they know so little!
The illusion about one’s own self could be highly dangerous for a society in a state of drift. Be that as it may. We should all now be in the forefront of the fight against the separatism of Kashmiri fundamentalists and terrorists!
The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author.