Bernard D’Mello

When it comes to Kashmir, official mendacity in India seems to cross
all bounds. So even a prominent member of the Indian Establishment
felt that the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent (May 22) open
advocacy of “kaante-se-kaanta-nikaalte-hein”
(a-thorn-to-remove-a-thorn) counterinsurgency tactics was “terrible”
and that he should withdraw his out-of-line statement forthwith. “You
have to neutralise terrorist through terrorist only”, Parrikar had
insisted, but the Establishment, which knows only too well that this
has been the norm in Kashmir since 1994, obviously doesn’t consider it
prudent to admit to it openly. The Establishment’s propaganda is all
too familiar, though it is very hard to effectively counter it, what
with big media on its side. Be that as it may, one should never
forget the past — memory has to be kept alive.

Here, of course, memory takes one on a passage to hell. You cannot
but encounter the demons of violence, the devils of rapacity. But as
one goes through the horror, the grotesque and the macabre, one should
never lose one’s capacity to reflect, one’s faculty to be in empathy
with the feelings of the Kashmiri people. In a way, the truth about
the Indian Establishment is revealed in Kashmir — cruel, destructive
and malicious; the lie of Indian democracy is evident in Kashmir.

Take the “terrible” terror-for-terror counterinsurgency tactics that
have been practiced with a vengeance in Kashmir since 1994. Of
course, you’d have to go back to what happened in 1953 and the period
until 1975 when Kashmir was governed by the Delhi-centred
Establishment’s chosen ones from Srinagar; to 1984 (the hanging of
Maqbool Butt); and then to the manipulation of the 1987 state assembly
elections that denied the Muslim United Front (MUF) the democratic
representation that was its due, culminating in the insurgency. The
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s (JKLF) leadership of the insurgency
didn’t last long, indeed, 1990-92 marked its high points, and then it
lost out, but the mass appeal of its goal of independence (neither
Pakistan nor India) is still alive and well.

With the decline of the JKLF, another organisation, whose
social-political roots were indigenous, came to lead the insurgency —
the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Its social and political base came from
the Jammu Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami, which was an important constituent
of the MUF that was the victim of the rigging of the 1987 elections.
The HM held on, and together, much better than the JKLF in the face of
the brutal counterinsurgency (even today, there are 600,000+ Indian
troops, including the paramilitaries and the J&K armed police, in
Kashmir). But when defectors from the insurgents were adopted by the
Indian state — they came to be known as “Ikhwanis” — to join the
counterinsurgency in large numbers, former militants who knew much
more about the militants and their families and sympathisers, and
assumed a crucial role, including that of local intelligence, in
targeting the latter, the Jamaat had to move away from supporting the
HM. By the beginning of the new millennium, the Indian security
forces and the Ikhwanis forced the HM to retreat. As a WikiLeaks
cable of 4 June 2007 puts it: “Ikhwan has a reputation in the Valley
for committing brutal human rights abuses — including extra-judicial
killings of suspected terrorists [insurgents], and their family
members, as well as torturing, killing, raping, and extorting Kashmiri
civilians suspected of harboring or facilitating terrorists

The broader testimony of what is one of the world’s most militarised
zones is, of course, more grotesque and macabre. For the period from
1989 onwards, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and
Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and the Association of Parents
of Disappeared Persons estimate that 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiris — the
earlier Omar Abdullah-headed state government is said to have admitted
to a figure of 3,744 in the J&K legislative assembly — were subjected
to enforced disappearance and subsequently killed in fake encounters.
But the Indian state and the Establishment are in denial of the
enforced disappearances and Indian society is not willing to listen to
any of these findings. The Establishment successfully gets across the
idea that “Indian democracy” could never have done such things;
indeed, the very victims of the violence are blamed for the violence.
They happen to be Muslims and there are deep prejudices against
Muslims; moreover, Pakistan supports them, and the Pakistani state
stands discredited for its role in the insurgency. That many
Kashmiris do not want to integrate with Pakistan is never mentioned.
Nevertheless, Pakistan is a legitimate party to the dispute over
Kashmir, even as the Kashmiris have the right to decide for

As part of the Indian state’s propaganda, the mistreatment of the
Kashmiri Pandits invariably comes up. Kashmiri Muslims however
believe that the Kashmiri Pandits were not forced to leave; it’s just
that they became a political minority because of their support for
India, and when the insurgency erupted, they naturally felt insecure
and apprehensive, and left. Of course, the collaborators of the
Indian state among them were targeted, not because they were Kashmiri
Pandits but because they were Indian-state collaborators, just like
the many, many more Kashmiri Muslims who also collaborated with the
Indian state and were also targeted by the insurgency. Nevertheless,
non-combatant political collaborators should not have been killed.
And, more generally, the predicament of the Pandits needs to be
resolved by the Kashmir national liberation movement. Opposing
sections of the Indian Establishment have been treating the Pandits as
pawns in the dirty games of one-upmanship they are constantly engaged
in, and right now, the section calling the shots in the union
government has floated the idea of Israeli-style, separate Pandit
settlements in the Kashmir valley!

Where then does one go from here? If the Indian Establishment has any
respect for democracy and international humanitarian law, the
Occupation of Kashmir must end and the perpetrators of the crimes
committed, including those who led the institutions responsible for
those offences, must be punished. But with India’s defence minister
endorsing “terrorists-to-eliminate-terrorists” counterinsurgency
tactics, the home minister backing him, and the chief minister of J&K
choosing to remain silent at this crucial moment — the Indian Army is
under the defence ministry, the paramilitaries involved report to the
union home ministry, and the J&K armed police takes orders from the
state government — Kashmir is likely to be more of the hell of
internal colonialism than what it already is.

Already, following the Defence Minister’s kaante statement, and
emboldened by such official backing, Rashid Billa, an Ikhwan commander
and the main culprit in the 5 October 1996 killing of seven members of
three families in Sadrakoot Bala in Bandipora district of Kashmir,
has, according to the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,
stepped up his intimidation, including life threats, of the
petitioners in the case against him in the J&K High Court. Also, it
is significant that all sections of the Kashmir national liberation
movement, including the United Jihad Council, have condemned the 25
May attack on the office of BSNL, a state-owned telecom company, in
Sopore town in Kashmir in which one civilian was killed and two were
injured. They have also denounced “Lashkar-e-Islam”, the terrorist
outfit claiming to have carried out the attack. Such terrorist groups
must be seen in the context of the proliferation of terrorist groups
that have been set up to counter and discredit the Kashmir national
liberation movement. Indeed, in the light of incidents like the
above, Indian Defence Minister Parrikar’s ominous kaante statement is
pregnant with sinister indications.



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