Kashmir Policy and Return of Hindus
Two recent incidents in Kashmir valley reveal the viciousness of the situation. Local newspaper reported that on July 1, 2011, that Havaldar J S Adhikari and Lans Naik Devender Singh of 19th Rajput where beheaded by the terrorists in Kupwara while they were on duty. The incident was kept under wraps and came to light through local media only on July30. 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 happened when one of the interlocutors, Miss 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 job. Radha Kumar told them to learn to ignore unpleasant things as she had learned during her job while working in a Muslim Institution. The camp inmates later on had telephone calls from the correspondent of a local English daily which was 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. 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 got 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. Vajpayee government cited the public pressure as a reason for the tame surrender. Here the public indispensability became the core rationale for overriding the strategic security imperatives.
Faced with a mortal combat situation a large section of Indian leadership is cultivating wishes which are more fatal than the problem .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, Manmohan 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 very well 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 the 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.
The recent expressions of the National Security Advisor were veiled expressions of his differences with the Pak doctrine which Manmohan Singh has been pursuing. The brazen affronts given by Pakistan to India while the latter is bending over its back to accommodate Pakistan reflect elemental contradictions in the so called peace process which Prime Minister of India is pursuing.
Feigning returning of normalcy in Jammu and 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 over ruling the strategic and tactical needs of the nation at this juncture. Instead of analyzing the ground situation to determine responses, the government approach has suffered a unique perversion. It blacks out happenings on the ground and selectively marshals empirical data about the situation to sustain its policy or to put it more correctly its wishes. The inertia to understand what is happening is self-created.
The National Security Advisor recently made two very pertinent interventions. In his letter written to Prime Minister he clearly stated that the Pakistani State was losing control over the extremists and they were coming to power sooner than later in Pakistan. He urged the Prime Minister to take measures to respond to the situation. He also made a very pertinent observation that the dividing line between the state actors and non- state actors in Pakistan is fading out. The recent happenings have clearly shown that 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 emerging situation in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of the country is only at the most in the academic realm.
Even at the academic level there is reluctance to understand what is happening. If it would have been otherwise then there would have been recognition of the fact that the fading of the line between non-state actors and the state actors has been manifest on the Indian side in Jammu and Kashmir also for a long time. And allowing this has been the part and parcel of the Indian response in Jammu and Kashmir. Using the platform of Legislative Assembly or any other credible forum for promoting secessionist agenda, got encouragement from government of India at the highest level. Both the Home Minister of India and the Foreign Minister came to publicly side with Omar Abdullah when he claimed that Jammu and 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 distinction between state actors and non-state actors in ample measure. The recent grenade attacks in Kashmir Valley and the allegations from the top NC leader that it was Army’s handy work is the reflection of the fact 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 analyze the fall in violence in Jammu and Kashmir keeping this in mind. Crucial ideological as well as strategic issues of the Jihadi war in the region are getting settled there in Pakistan at his juncture of time. 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 visa vis the non-state assets which it has created and perpetuated in this region?
Lot of public evidence is now available which points that the State of Pakistan no longer thinks it feasible to deny its closeness to terrorist regimes which are 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 the Pakistan’s top ranking strategic thinkers openly acknowledged that it had been in Pakistan’s national interests to protect and shield Osama. They are now openly acknowledging their closeness to the Haqanni group. The non-state actors which Pakistan has created in the region did have a conflict situation with the State of Pakistan primarily because they wanted it to proclaim and declare its Islamic role unashamedly. This so called rift between non-state actors which Pakistan created and the State of Pakistan is fast evaporating and it will have a dramatic impact in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation on this side may suddenly look grimmer.
The five day gun battle in Kupwara recently, in which the army suffered heavy causalities, is only a reminder of the fact that the Jihad machinery in Kashmir is well oiled. The terrorist regimes on this side of Jammu and Kashmir have only merged deftly with the state apparatus to meet the contingencies of the times. An analysis of the situation in the state is not a unifactoral affair. That we churn out retrospective violence statistics or the number of tourists visiting the State and base our assessments solely on it is only an exercise of self-delusion.
Increasing radicalization of the social milieu in Kashmir, increased reach and influence of terrorist regimes to influence the 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 rest of India particularly the Maoists, increased propaganda against army in the name of human rights and the intact and widening capabilities of terrorist regimes operating on the ground are the factors which should be factored in while making a judgment about the ground situation in the state.
And last but not the least the increased influence of China as well as Pakistani Army over the public mind, particularly the intellectual elite in Kashmir, cannot be overlooked. Unfortunately those at the helms in Government of India are ruthlessly following a set 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 endeavors in the state.
Caught in the Trap
In such a scenario the depth of the viciousness of the situation for internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus needs to be understood as well as felt. There is an increase in the government attempts to delegitimize internal displacement. Enforced power cuts and scanty water supply in the camps, because the State Government is fast losing any sensitivity for the internal displacement, rendered the summer for the dwellers in the Jagati camp as a virtual hell. On one side the government is tom toming the upgraded facility in Jagati and at the same time the inmates of the camps are being communicated one way or the other that government will soon close down the camp facilities and force them to return to valley.
The newspapers and the community leadership have brought to the public view the corruption and the 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 eyes. After repeated demands from the public for government assurances for the safety of the structures built in Jagati, government has chosen to remain silent. If the allegations about the bungling in the construction work at Jagati, as appeared in the local newspapers turn out to be even only 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 which is at stake. The entire encampment of more than 4000 quarters does not have sewerage disposal. The soakage pits and septic tanks dug for sanitation are shallower and substandard. Anybody who visits the camp even now when the weather is turning cooler will feel the foul smell all around.
The 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 the order to the family living in the camp which means stoppage of relief cash as well as ration. The Apex Committee in the Camps acts primarily as the instruments of corruption and coercion on behalf of the government.
Out of the Frying Pan into Fire
If the atmosphere of 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 the returnee Hindu Employees. When Radha Kumar advised these Kashmiri Hindu employees to ignore unpleasant happenings with them in Kashmir she was not suggesting to some sort of pragmatism. She was advising accepting devaluation as a fiat accompli. She was advising acceptance of permanent inferiorisation.
To understand the nature of unpleasantness which the returnee Kashmiri Hindus have to persevere, mention of a few real life anecdotes here will be more than enough. A Kashmiri Hindu young man who has recently joined 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. There were two Kashmiri Hindu ladies, who had joined recently, also travelling in the same bus to their work place. Two local young men travelling in the same bus suddenly got up mid-way and forcibly tried to embrace the two Kashmiri Hindu ladies while the bus was moving. While this act of molestation was on all other passengers chose to ignore it and look the other way. Most of the other passengers couldn’t muster courage to object because they might not have been sure about the antecedents of the two young Muslim who were enacting the ordeal. They could be terrorists or the 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 also joined recently in valley had been 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 would 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 that he had been having sleepless nights since he had seen her. Devastated with her daily dose of harassment the lady told her father to marry her to a local Muslim boy in case he was so needful of her doing the job in the valley. Her father, taken aback, asked her the reason for such an extreme suggestion. Angry and exasperated, the lady 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 the girl have since returned to Jammu after forsaking the new job.
The 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 that 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. Return plan of Prime Minister has pushed them into an environment of vicious social disorganization. And this phenomenon of social disorganization in 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 or 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 once in a while is brushed aside by making Kashmiri Hindus living there to deny them. They are not in any position to say no to any prodding which comes either 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 disappearance of Kashmiri Hindu Youth in the valley some time back, 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 trickle of their return from Jammu for politics. For 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 Government of India away from the present status quo. For Kashmiri Hindus the attrition will only increase. They will be forced to persevere the ‘unpleasantnesses ‘of the situation and only 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 it is possible and also keep their unpleasantness confined to them. As one character in Orwell’s 1984 says to the other, “You will be hollow. We will squeeze you empty and then we shall fill u 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 which it thinks it belongs to.