Viciousness of Wishfulness: Kashmir Policy and Return of Hindus
Two recent incidents in the Kashmir valley reveal the viciousness of the situation. Local newspapers reported that on 1 July 2011, Havaldar J.S. Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh of 19th Rajput where beheaded by terrorists in Kupwara while on duty.
The incident was kept under wraps and came to light through local media only on July 30. The bodies were handed over to their families in Uttarakhand without heads, which some say were carried away by the terrorists as a trophy.
Another incident occurred when one of the Home Ministry interlocutors, Ms. Radha Kumar, visited a transition camp in Kashmir where the Kashmiri Hindus employed, as per the Prime Minister’s package on return and rehabilitation, have been put up. This was during the last leg of her interactions in the Kashmir Valley before the interlocutors submitted their final report. She had a meeting with the Hindu ladies living in the camp.
The Hindu ladies, as per eyewitnesses, told Radha Kumar about the communal harassment and intimidation they had to face daily while doing their jobs. Radha Kumar told them to learn to ignore unpleasant things as she herself had learned to do while working in a Muslim institution. The camp inmates later received telephone calls from the correspondent of a local English daily, which were less of a normal journalist enquiry and more of a warning to behave. Most of them later concluded that they should not have revealed their experiences in front of the interlocutor.
Sitting over the beheading of two army men just before the visit of the Pak Foreign Minister indicates a deeper malaise. The Government of India has been flaunting incremental capitulations as strategic necessities. The symptoms of this malaise have been there for quite some time.
When Vajpayee was sitting in the bus bound for his infamous Lahore visit, he was informed about a gruesome massacre of civilians by terrorists in Jammu. He was dismissive about any import of this gruesome massacre on the ongoing Indo Pak peace process. The inherent message was clear. The citizens of this country were expendable to some larger national goal that the State was pursuing.
The fakeness of this approach was exposed when Vajpayee chose to send his Foreign Minister to Kandahar to get the hostages of the hijacked plane released after striking a deal with the terrorist regimes operating there. The Vajpayee government cited public pressure as a reason for the tame surrender. Here public indispensability became the core rationale for overriding strategic security imperatives.
Faced with a mortal combat situation, a large section of the Indian leadership is cultivating wishes which are more fatal than the problem. Dr Manmohan Singh has also chosen to mount the same wish horse. While Vajpayee and his think tank led by Brijesh Mishra chose to flaunt their wishes as a new strategic vision, Singh seems to believe his wishes to be ideological imperatives. This perhaps explains why he chose to invite the Pak Prime Minister recently, despite knowing that just days before his intelligence agencies had discovered a Pak sponsored plot to attack the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan. He invited him perhaps against institutional strategic advice. There are doubts whether what the Prime Minister of India is pursuing with Pakistan has the acceptance of the national institutions handling matters of national security.
Recent articulations of the National Security Advisor were veiled expressions of his differences with the Pak doctrine which Manmohan Singh has been pursuing. Pakistan’s brazen affronts to India while the latter is bending over backwards to accommodate Islamabad reflect elemental contradictions in the so-called peace process which the Indian Prime Minister is pursuing.
Feigning return of normalcy in Jammu & Kashmir, and belittling the import of what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is perhaps linked to this bizarre mindset which has taken control of those in the political class who are overruling the strategic and tactical needs of the nation at this juncture. Instead of analyzing the ground situation to determine responses, the government approach suffers a unique perversion. It blacks out happenings on the ground and selectively marshals empirical data about the situation to sustain its policy or rather its wishes. The inertia to understand what is happening is self-created.
The National Security Advisor recently made two very pertinent interventions. In a letter to the Prime Minister, he clearly stated that the Pakistani State was losing control over the extremists who would come power sooner rather than later in Pakistan. He urged the Prime Minister to take measures to respond to the situation. He observed that the dividing line between State actors and non-State actors in Pakistan is fading out. The recent happenings have clearly shown that the Pakistani Government has shunned its approach of deniability and clearly started owning terrorist regimes operating there as its strategic assets. On the Indian side, correlating these developments to the emerging situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country is at best in the academic realm.
Even at the academic level there is reluctance to understand what is happening. Else there would have been recognition of the fact that the fading of the line between non-State actors and State actors has been manifest on the Indian side in Jammu and Kashmir for a long time. Allowing this has been part and parcel of the Indian response in Jammu and Kashmir. Using the platform of the Legislative Assembly or any other credible forum for promoting the secessionist agenda got encouragement from the Government of India at the highest level.
Both the Union Home Minister and Foreign Minister publicly sided with Omar Abdullah when he claimed that Jammu & Kashmir had signed only the Instrument of Accession and not the Instrument of Merger, particularly when the veracity and import of his claim was debated on the basis of facts in Jammu. The stone-pelting campaign in Kashmir Valley last year demonstrated the fading away of the distinction between State actors and non-State actors in ample measure. The recent grenade attacks in Kashmir Valley and allegations by a top NC leader that it was the Army’s handiwork reflects how terrorist regimes and their supporters in government are working in tandem.
There is no attempt to recognize the temporary shift of the focus of Jihad to the heart of Pakistan, and to analyze the fall in violence in Jammu & Kashmir in this context. Crucial ideological and strategic issues of the Jihadi war in the region are getting settled in Pakistan at his juncture. How long will the State of Pakistan pretend its distance from the Islamic Jihad for which it has been the primary motor? How much value does the State of Pakistan attach to sustain its deniability vis-à-vis the non-State assets it has created and perpetuated in this region?
Much public evidence is now available that the State of Pakistan no longer thinks it feasible to deny closeness to terrorist regimes operating in the region. It may soon become brazen enough to openly declare its closeness to the international Jihad, as also its mentorship. After the killing of Osama bin Laden many of Pakistan’s top strategic thinkers openly acknowledged that it had been in Pakistan’s national interests to protect and shield Osama. They are now openly acknowledging closeness to the Haqqani group.
The non-State actors Pakistan created in the region had a conflict situation with the Pakistani State primarily because they wanted it to proclaim and declare its Islamic role unashamedly. This so called rift between non-State actors it created and the State of Pakistan is fast evaporating and will have a dramatic impact in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation on this side may suddenly look grimmer.
The recent five-day gun battle in Kupwara, wherein the army suffered heavy causalities, is only a reminder that the Jihad machinery in Kashmir is well oiled. The terrorist regimes on this side of the border have merged deftly with the State apparatus to meet the contingencies of the times. An analysis of the situation in the state is not a uni-factor affair. Churning out retrospective violence statistics or number of tourists visiting the State and making assessments on the same is only an exercise of self-delusion.
Increasing radicalization of the social milieu in Kashmir, increased reach and influence of terrorist regimes to influence mainstream politics, and fading away of the dividing line between separatist infrastructure and government apparatus, widening of the network of illegal economy in the State, multiplication of sleeper cells on the ground, deepening nexus between separatists in the State and separatist organisations in the rest of India, particularly the Maoists, increased propaganda against the Army in the name of human rights, and the widening capabilities of terrorist regimes are factors which should be factored in while making a judgment about the ground situation in the State.
Last but not the least, the increased influence of China as well as the Pakistani Army over the public mind, especially the intellectual elite in Kashmir, cannot be overlooked. Unfortunately those at the helm in India are ruthlessly following a course of blacking out all information and realities on the ground which can exert pressures on the existing policy direction. A situation has emerged where all national leverages and supports in the State are getting treated as problem areas and impediments to national endeavours in the State.
Caught in the Trap
In such a scenario, the depth of viciousness of the situation for internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus needs to be understood and felt. There is an increase in government attempts to delegitimize internal displacement. Enforced power cuts and scanty water supply in the camps, because the State Government is fast losing sensitivity to the internal displacement, made summer hell for dwellers in the Jagati camp. On one side government tom-tommed the upgraded facility in Jagati; at the same time the inmates are being communicated one way or other that government will soon close down the camp facilities and force them to return to the valley.
The newspapers and the community leadership have brought to public view the corruption and bungling in the construction of Jagati Camp as well as the entire relief organization. From the use of steel in the construction work to the wood used in windows and doors, sanitary and electric fittings, steel almirahs, as also the entire range of construction material used for Jagati camp, the lack of proper quality is manifest to the naked eye. After repeated demands from the public for government assurances for the safety of the structures in Jagati, the government has chosen to remain silent. If the allegations about the bungling in construction work at Jagati, as appeared in local newspapers, turn out to be even partially true, we have a scam worth more than a few hundred crores at hand.
But more important than this is the very safety of camp dwellers living at Jagati. The entire encampment of more than 4000 quarters does not have sewerage disposal. The soakage pits and septic tanks dug for sanitation are shallow and substandard. Anybody who visits the camp even now when the weather is turning cooler will inhale the foul smell all around.
Most appalling and pathetic is the atmosphere of intimidation and fear that exists in the camp. The inmates are frightened to speak against the government and the relief organization. The technique of intimidation is usually to issue a re-verification threat or order to the family living in the camp, which means stoppage of relief cash as well as rations. The Apex Committee in the camps acts primarily as an instrument of corruption and coercion on behalf of the government.
Out of the frying pan into the fire
If the fear to speak is perceptible in the camps in Jammu, what must be the state of affairs in the transition camps made in Kashmir Valley to provide lodging to returnee Hindu employees? When Radha Kumar advised these Kashmiri Hindu employees to ignore unpleasant happenings with them in Kashmir, she was not suggesting some sort of pragmatism. She was advising them to accept devaluation as a fiat accompli. She was advising acceptance of permanent inferior-isation.
To understand the nature of the unpleasantness which returnee Kashmiri Hindus have to persevere with, a few real life anecdotes will suffice. A Kashmiri Hindu young man, who recently arrived in Kashmir valley through the PM’s package, told this author that social realities in Kashmir have changed unimaginably. He revealed his personal experience while travelling in a local bus to his work place. Two Kashmiri Hindu ladies, who had also joined recently, were travelling in the same bus to their work place. Two local young men in the same bus suddenly got up mid-way and forcibly tried to embrace the two Hindu ladies while the bus was moving. As this act of molestation was on, all other passengers chose to ignore it and look the other way. Most other passengers couldn’t muster courage to object because they were not sure of the antecedents of the two young Muslim enacting the ordeal. They could be terrorists or over-ground workers of some terrorist outfits.
Another real life experience is more revealing and elucidates the character of ‘unpleasantnesses’ which Radha Kumar advised the Hindu lady employees living in the transition camp to ignore. A Hindu girl who had recently come to the valley was experiencing harassment almost daily at her work place. She would try to share it with her father in words and references which her shyness and sense of shame would permit. His father, in his naivety or selfishness, would take these complaints lightly and advise her to ignore them. One day, while the young lady was returning to her rented accommodation from her work place, a senior employee with a flowing beard pursued her in his car and offered her a lift. The lady somehow managed to refuse the lift, despite the patronizing insistence of the person. The elderly zealot with a flirting expression told her he had been having sleepless nights since he had seen her.
Devastated with the daily harassment, she told her father to marry her to a local Muslim boy in case he was so needy of her income. Her father, taken aback, asked the reason for such an extreme suggestion. Angry and exasperated, she minced no words and told her father that marrying her just once to a Muslim may save her from marrying several times daily. The father and girl have since returned to Jammu, forsaking the new job.
Social disorganization and debasement is an expression of tearing apart of the fabric of mores and values of a society. It is not per se a communal phenomenon. This tearing apart has happened because of the militarization of the social milieu. Sometime back, when a retired justice in Kashmir valley claimed there were more than 25,000 prostitutes operating only in Srinagar city, he was talking about a wider social disorganization.
Displaced Kashmiri Hindus, despite their exiled condition, had not allowed social disorganization to penetrate their social milieu. The Prime Minister’s return plan has pushed them into an environment of vicious social disorganization. And this phenomenon of social disorganization in the Kashmir Valley is now on the brink of turning the bend towards a vicious communal process of “Love Jihad”.
The recruitment process employed by the state government to implement the Prime Minister’s package on return and rehabilitation of internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus has some bizarre features. The selected candidate has to give a written undertaking to stay put at the place of his/her employment, come what may, under all circumstances; majority of the selected employees are females; most of these females are graduates or post graduates; the majority of male candidates are lesser qualified than the selected female candidates and most of the postings are district-wise postings, where the employees cannot seek transfer beyond the district.
If the beheading of army personnel can be hidden from public view for almost a month, incidents of harassment, assault, intimidation, victimization of a small forsaken population of Kashmiri Hindus living in the valley can be easily suppressed. Any politically uncomfortable incident which comes to light occasionally is brushed aside by making Kashmiri Hindus living there deny them. They are not in any position to say no to any prodding from the government or the separatist establishment.
When a ‘yagya’, performed in a temple in Srinagar, was desecrated by communal zealots in the dead of the night, a known Kashmiri Hindu member of the Apex Committee was made to deny it publicly. Local newspapers in Jammu mistakenly reported a case of attempted vandalism of a Hindu religious place in Kashmir valley as an incident of fire. The newspapers were immediately banned. The act of vandalism was lost in the controversy.
Mysterious disappearances of Kashmiri Hindu youth in the valley some time back, a mysterious fire which partially burnt the most sacred Hindu shrine in Srinagar very recently, and many incidents of harassment and intimidation are either hushed up or never allowed to be spoken about publicly. Separatist leaders in the valley, who visit the transition camps apparently to show off their welcome for the returnees, invariably leave while suggesting to them directly or indirectly that their safety would be more assured if they criticize India and Panun Kashmir at regular intervals.
For the present, there is one glaring convergence between the policies pursued by the Jihadi establishment in Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India. And that is to seek to use the symbolic presence of Kashmiri Hindus in the Valley and the trickle of their return from Jammu for politics.
For the Government of India, its incremental compromises with the separatists might get a secular legitimacy. For Jihad, it will act as a game changer because of its potential to create a political space for the retreat of the Government of India from the present status quo. For Kashmiri Hindus the attrition will only increase. They will be forced to persevere with the unpleasantness of the situation and hope that a new massacre may not happen.
Those amongst them who are living in valley have an existential compulsion to stay attached to their tormentors and increase their psychological capabilities to deny or dissociate from their traumatic experiences. In order to preserve their image of safety, they will have to conform to the extent possible and keep silent about the unpleasantness. As a character in George Orwell’s 1984 says to another, “You will be hollow. We will squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves”. The message from both the Government of India as well as the Jihadi establishment to Kashmiri Hindus is no less vicious. We are witnessing the “soul murder” of a community as also the nation to which it thinks it belongs.
|*The author Dr. Ajay Chrungoo is Chairman, Panun Kashmir.|
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