Looking from far-off Delhi as an ordinary citizen, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir looks like an enigma wrapped in a riddle. There are, of course, both positive and negative pointers in today’s complex Kashmir situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s establishment is trying its best to handle its multi-dimensional complexities as per its own perspective. What is now being realized is that there can be no instant solutions to Kashmir’s fluid situation which is also controlled by external forces of Pakistan’s Islamist militants.
Whether the number of militants have gone up is difficult to say. One thing is clear: the number of encounters in Kashmir has of late been on the rise. What is noteworthy is one unknown militant outfit called the Resistance Force (TRF) is taking to the centre-stage of militancy in Kashmir. TRF is said to be a front of Lashkar-e-Toiba. It is also working with other militant outfits in the Valley. A Kashmir police officer claims that TRF is a new name given by Pakistan to Lashkar-e-Toiba.
“Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammed had religious connotations. It is said that Pakistan did not want that. It wants to ‘secularise’ the Kashmir militancy and make it appear as an indigenous set-up. Hence ‘Resistance’ has been incorporated in its name”, says the senior police officer who is also an expert in counter-insurgency operations.
In any case, the TRF militants have been quite active in insurgency operations in Sopore, Keran, and Hanwara. It has a mix of both local and foreign elements. But the attempt is to make it look like an indigenous group. There is, of course, no secret that the local militants are also trained in Pakistan. They are known to have crossed over to Pakistan through the Wagah border on a valid visa. These new realities only add to the complexities of the Kashmir problem.
India lost five security personnel recently, including a Colonel, a Major, two Army officers and a sub-inspector in Hindwara. The security forces eliminated two militants. From India’s viewpoint, a big turning point was the killing of the Valley’s most dreaded militant, Hizbul Mujahideen’s Kashmir operations chief, Riyaz Ahmed Naikoo. He was the face of the indigenous militancy but unlike Burhan Wani, he kept his profile on a low key.
Apart from anti-security forces attacks, he was reportedly responsible for a number of civilian killings in the Valley. He kidnapped several J & K policemen. It was on a tip-off from police informers that Naikoo was traced to his village Beighpora in Awantipora where he had gone to meet his family. In any case, whatever we see in Kashmir today is part of the militants’ moves to bring the Valley under the umbrella of pan-Islamism.
Yossef Bodansky, a well-known expert on the working of terrorism and unconventional warfare, in his writings had warned India a number of times that if for some reason New Delhi decides to quit Kashmir, the state would be grabbed by the Islamists, with a view to making Kashmir into the hub of the revivalist Islamic block. I hope this warning will always be taken seriously by Indian policy makers.
Fortunately this sort of situation would never be allowed to gain ground by Prime Minister Modi. The present government in New Delhi is well-focused on Kashmir’s strategic security importance for India. It is also well aware of the fact that Kashmir has been one of the major nurseries of Hindu civilization. This poses a big challenge to PM Modi’s BJP-run government.
Notwithstanding ups and downs in Kashmir’s historical march, we consider Kashmir to be very much part of the Indian civilization from time immemorial. No force on the earth, for that matter, can delink Kashmir from the rest of India.
Be that as it may. It is claimed in certain quarters that Kashmiri Islam does not have fundamentalist overtones, that it is rooted in Kashmir’s soil, that Sufis have left – a tradition of tolerance and mutual adjustment, and so on. It is, in a way, true. But the Sufi tradition in Kashmir has got eroded over the century or so. As a result, the power of local priests has declined and the present generation of Kashmiris is largely influenced by the Jamaat school of thought and other external forces. What still remains is greater freedom for women, absence of triple talaq and the one-wife norm. All these factors of Kashmiri society are now under threat from the fundamentalists.
In fact, Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise for quite some time. This fundamentalist phenomenon has raised a number of questions. Do Kashmiri Muslims care more for their Kashmiri identity than for their Islamic identity? Why did they opt for Urdu as the official language? Why did they adopt the Persian script for Kashmiri? Why did they force the Persian dress on Kashmiri women? Could this step be part of the quest for separatism? Seldom have the protagonists of “identity” thought that the people of Jammu and Ladakh also have identities of their own.
The basic question is: do the Kashmiri Muslims consider themselves “special” because they are Muslims? If so, what about the millions of Muslims in the rest of India?
Prof. Saifuddin Soz and other Kashmiri leaders of his ilk believe that the dilution and later abrogation of Art 370 is the cause for the present alienation. Obviously, Prof. Soz and others are opposed to the integration of the Valley with the rest of the country. In any case, the recent moves by the Modi government cannot be reversed now.
India believes in accommodation, diversity and mutual understanding simply because it corresponds to its religious and world outlook. Kashmiri Muslims ought to understand that the course of Indian civilization – philosophical and social – has been set by Hindus through the millennia. So, they are bound to follow the basic logic of the Indian civilization.
I have raised these issues in the hope that Kashmiri Muslims would show a better understanding of India’s civilisational values and they would look beyond their narrow angularities. The sooner this happens the quicker will be the pace for Prime Minister Modi’s dream concept of “Naya Kashmir”.
Viewed in this light, I hope that Kashmiri leaders would show better understanding to set the pace for a new political process for tomorrow’s Kashmir. I also hope that the Centre would provide statehood to both Kashmir and Jammu.
The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the author.