Essay

Terrorism in Kashmir

Print edition : September 16, 2016

Kashmiri police engage with protesters in Batmallo, Srinagar, on July 10. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

Mehbooba Mufti. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

Neither Omar Abdullah nor Mehbooba Mufti can persuade the leaderless young to desist as they are perceived to belong to New Delhi. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

A Kashmiri boy outside his house as paramilitary personnel stand guard in the street on July 25. The militarisation of Kashmir has led to an increased radicalisation of children and their participation in protests. Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP

Kashmir remains an open question. But the answer does not lie in branding protesters as terrorists and using brute force to stifle dissent. An ad hoc accord is the need of the hour.

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has decided to kill the soul of Kashmir and has provided ample warning that the worst is yet to come. The people’s revolt will be crushed by military force, deployed under a thick smokescreen of falsehoods to silence whatever little dissent there is in India on Kashmir, delude international public opinion and appease the United States in the name of combating terrorism. The door is shut on any real dialogue on Kashmir with Pakistan or with the people of Kashmir. The real agenda, which is viciously communal, has been laid bare. Worst of all, Modi has decided, like his natural ally, the U.S., to trample on international law. It is a reckless game to play to buttress power at home. The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, is a willing accomplice, using her own brand of rhetoric to deceive her people.

On August 8, The Telegraph published a revealing report by the well-informed Sankarshan Thakur from New Delhi: “This newspaper has been given to understand by those close to formulating the strategy in Kashmir that the Centre is inclined to move even further away from political engagement and deploy a stricter security regime across the Valley. Top army commanders based in the State met Mehbooba Mufti two days ago; they are meant to have discussed contingency plans to deploy the armed forces visibly across the Valley and along the national highway to Jammu, a chronic militant ambush zone.”

On the very same day, The Asian Age published a report from Srinagar by a respected correspondent, Yusuf Jameel: “The government is reported to have decided to assign the Army a ‘bigger and more useful’ role in resolving the crisis triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8 July.”

On August 9, The Telegraph published Imran Ahmed Siddiqui’s report from New Delhi: “Sources in the Union Home Ministry said the government intended to act tough and would deploy more armed forces across the Valley to tackle the surge of protests.” Mehbooba Mufti met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on August 8.

Burhan Wani was killed on July 8. Shishir Gupta reported three days later that the “security agencies have not picked up any communication intercepts from Pakistan inciting separatists in the Valley” ( Hindustan Times, July 12). Nirupama Subramanian reported that the militancy was “leaderless”. None of the Hurriyat leaders could control it. “The fierce resistance put up by local communities, from under 10-year-olds to senior citizens, at encounter sites, and the mass displays of anger more than grief at their funerals, is now all too well known.… What this approach has done is to bring out kids as young as eight or 12 years old, to whom defiance of the Indian state is now as natural as playing cricket” ( The Indian Express, July 12).

There were 7,000 militants who operated in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s. “The figure is currently pegged at around 200” ( Hindustan Times, July 12). This is the reality. The official version is a farrago of manifest, demonstrable falsehood. “Whatever is happening in Kashmir is Pakistan-sponsored” (Rajnath Singh, July 10). “In the fight against separatism the people of Kashmir are with the country” (Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister, on July 18); “[There is a… mindset that stokes] baseless anger against India” (Rajnath Singh, July 21).

Narendra Modi first spoke on the crisis only a month later on August 9 at Bhabra in Madhya Pradesh in these terms: “gullible and simple youth”; that is, they had no views or emotions of their own; “democratic values”; “Kashmir has the same freedom that every Indian has”; “a handful of misguided people”; “stones are being handed to innocent children” and “we want Kashmir to attain new heights of development”; “Kashmir has the same freedom that every Indian feels”.

These statements are manifestly false, belied by reports in major Indian dailies. They were not escapist; they were a part of a strategy of suppression by deed with denial in words as its companion. Very significantly, there was no reference to Pakistan at all, nor to Balochistan. They came as an afterthought ( Hindustan Times and The Asian Age, August 10). That very day, someone else also spoke up for the first time and in these strong words. “Prevarication and deflection of responsibility.” (Both words had been used in the past.) “The problem in Kashmir is about the people of Kashmir and their political aspirations—neither about any other country nor about terrorism.” He urged India to “engage with the people of Kashmir” and to have “a sustained, comprehensive political dialogue on Kashmir” with Pakistan. The speaker was Farooq Abdullah ( Kashmir Times, August 10).

It was at the all-party meeting on August 12 that Modi revealed his tactics, which he refined on August 15. He would take the battle into the opponent’s camp, accomplishing three aims in one go—appease the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) constituency, threaten Pakistan, and silence Kashmiris, whose “genuine grievances” he would redress. One who says that is either ignorant or deliberately rejects the truth. “Pakistan was at the root of the current unrest.” It must “answer for its atrocities in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir [PoK]”.

Matters of irrelevance

This has escaped notice. Modi “internationalised” Kashmir by inviting the world to notice the happenings there. “The time has come for Pakistan to explain to the world community about excesses committed in PoK and Balochistan.” Indeed, “the Foreign Ministry should take initiatives to develop contact with citizens of PoK settled abroad and apprise them about how their family and friends are treated there”. Similarly, violation of human rights in Balochistan should be brought to the attention of the global audience ( The Times of India, August 13).

As to the first part, Ajit Doval will tell him that the task devolves on the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), which has long been on this job. Kallol Bhattacharjee reported in The Hindu of August 15 about what “representatives of the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) based in Delhi and London” told him. One of them, Balaach Pardili Baloch, “who has been a resident in India for some years, was appointed the representative of the FBM in October 2015 when he first addressed a public event in Delhi”. So, Yusuf Raza Gilani was not wrong, after all, in raising the issue India’s interference in Balochistan with Manmohan Singh at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on July 16, 2009. All that the joint statement said was: “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal were interned for nearly three years for meeting Zhou Enlai in Algiers in 1965. As to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) being tasked with raising these matters before the “world community”, nothing would suit Pakistan more.

Modi mentioned two other issues. One was that “we should talk about four parts of Jammu and Kashmir—Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and PoK”. Why and how was it relevant to the immediate crisis? The motive is evident—box and isolate the Valley by talking about the other areas. In 1995, this writer was treated to a long PowerPoint discourse in Srinagar by a Corps Commander, Lt Gen. J.K. Mukherjee, to establish that Kashmiris are not in a majority in the Valley. On retirement, he wrote an article in The Statesman to prove that. The motive was: the Valley matters not. It can be ignored. Even more sinister was Modi’s reference to Kashmiri Pandits’ displacement. The relevance of these two matters to the immediate crisis is dubious.

On August 15, Modi gave his rhetoric free rein. “When innocent children were massacred in Peshawar, the Indian Parliament wept; every school in India shed tears at this tragedy.” The media, print and electronic, were sorely remiss in not reporting these lugubrious events. One wonders if he himself wept then, or over the pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. His charge that “some people glorify terrorists in our country” reveals discomfiture at the unwelcome publicity which the protests and the armed forces’ excesses in the Valley had received.

Unwittingly, Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister, knocked the bottom out of Modi’s theatrical outpourings on August 12, immediately after Modi’s speech. Anand Mishra reported: “Asked why the Prime Minister had raised the issue of Balochistan and PoK, Jaitley said Modi’s remarks were in the context of Pakistan’s ‘interference in the internal affairs of India’” ( The Indian Express, August 13). So, they were not the outpourings of a bleeding heart but the riposte of an adversary.

A calm appraisal will reveal that to score debating points India’s Prime Minister has wantonly damaged the national interest. His remarks are irrelevant to the needs of a grave situation, futile as a remedy, and are counterproductive. His “natural ally”, the U.S., will be alarmed for reasons more than one. On August 9, the State Department’s spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told the press: “We stand with Pakistan as they move forward on this fight against terror” ( Kashmir Times, August 10).

Alarm in neighbourhood

As an empty threat, Modi’s statement will earn ridicule. As a hint of intervention, it will cause alarm. The Hindu rightly remarked, on August 16: “In what was perhaps intended as a hint of India’s capability to intervene, in an unspecified manner, in Balochistan, he said the people there had commended him for highlighting attacks against them by people within Pakistan. The warning sent out was that if Pakistan continues to interfere in Kashmir, India can do likewise, making an issue over the violence in Balochistan. Other than further escalating tensions between the two countries, it is difficult to see what can come out of such aggressive posturing on the internal problems of Pakistan.”

Dissent within Balochistan and the PoK will be undermined, just as the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Pakistan was, when Indira Gandhi lent it her support in the days of Zia-ul-Haq. While extremists in the country will be elated (the RSS, particularly), Kashmir will view the ploy with disgust. Proclamation of an interventionist policy will alarm Nepal and Sri Lanka, who have borne the brunt of India’s interventions in the past. Iran is unlikely to be pleased.

And China? K.P. Nayar’s well-informed report in The Telegraph (August 16) is noteworthy. He suggests that the policy has long been in the making. The Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, was invited to Modi’s swearing-in ceremony and posed for a group photograph of South Asian leaders with Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee “as if he were a head of state”. At the same time, a representative of the government in Taiwan “was smuggled into the diplomatic enclosure where she sat with Ambassadors”. Nayar was told by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership at its highest level that these incidents were indicative of the future policies of the Modi government. A top BJP leader said on the background: “If the Chinese do not give up their claim on Arunachal Pradesh or give us pinpricks in Kashmir, we will use Tibetan Independence and Uighur dissidence against them.… The diplomatic game will no longer be one-sided.” The Hindustan Times’ correspondent wrote that the message that China was supposed to get from this (the speech) was: “Keep Pakistan’s generals out of Kashmir or your fears about India sabotaging the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor could come true.” It passes through PoK. China is unlikely to comply, still less abandon its claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

Does Modi intend to act on his bold rhetoric? If not, he will cut a sorry figure. The passage of time will make matters worse. On August 17, “top government sources” said, obviously as instructed, that “humanity does not stop at the borders” ( The Asian Age, August 18). Why not then accede to the request by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to permit his team access to Jammu and Kashmir and PoK, as he requested Pakistan? “I deeply regret that our requests for access have not been granted” ( Hindustan Times, August 18).

India has a very bad record of refusal to the U.N.’s Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights. The High Commissioner’s team will be well qualified to judge the veracity of claims of Pakistan’s sponsorship of the post-July 8 protests. Humans can lie; photographs do not. For years, newspapers have published photographs of women wailing at the windows as the massively attended funeral processions of slain militants passed by. On one single day, August 17, two dailies published on the front page colour photographs of masses of Kashmiris shouting pro-azadi slogans during funeral marches at two different places: The Hindu at Budgam and The Asian Age at the village Aripanthan, West of Srinagar. On August 5, protest rallies were held after Friday prayers in around 45 places in the 10 districts of the Valley. Pakistanis do not put stones in the hands of eight- to 12-year-olds.

Mehbooba Mufti’s role and rhetoric

Mehbooba Mufti’s rhetoric is hard to follow: attacks on Pakistan and pleas for talks with it in one and the same speech. Not one reporter supports her charge that protesters used “children as a shield”. They report, instead, that the kids are out of control and act with ferocious zeal. Her speech is perilously close to that of Sir Humphrey Appleby in retirement: “Disengaged the operation of his mind from the content of his speech.”

However, a method lurks beneath the madness, which was exposed with sheer brilliance by a 23-year-old scholar from Tufts University in Britain, Niya Shahdad. It bears quotation in extenso. “When Mehbooba declares that the ‘sacrifices of these innocent children will not go waste’, she cloaks her claims in the kind of doublespeak that reeks of a politician’s deception and desperation. The very implications upon which that guise of condemnation is built—that these children are innocent because they have been ‘misled’ onto a path of ‘senseless’ violence by ‘certain internal forces’ or otherwise —dismisses every conscious sacrifice of those left dead and wounded while fighting an oppressor whose name she can no longer spell today. If there is anyone acting under the influence of others, it is the CM alone; a puppet communicating through the gestures designed and approved by New Delhi.… [She attempts to] appease us with the language of our struggle, but the meanings hidden underneath those words militate against that very struggle. The violence she describes as ‘senseless’ is truly senseless, but not because the children are taking to the streets instead of schools. It is senseless because a five-year-old Nasir Ahmed Khan is found on the street with a needle and sand pierced into his eyes.… Kashmir has been independent and existed outside of the Indian nation-state for a long time now. Today, if there is a silver lining amid its time of bleeding and mourning, it is that it inches closer to standing independent of those forces that act, oppress and deceive from within” ( The Indian Express, August 8; emphasis added throughout).

As A.S. Dulat said: “She has become too much a part of Delhi and has left the current problem to the Centre.” Enough of Mehbooba Mufti, for now. After the Suez debate, Aneurin Bevan, on seeing Prime Minister Harold Macmillan enter the House, ceased questioning the Foreign Minister Selwyn Lloyd, remarking: “Why should I question the monkey when I can question the organ grinder?”

To turn to the least worthy of the performers, one Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, spearheaded the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti in Jammu that called for a blockade of the Valley in 2008. In Parliament on August 10, he coined a new term “intellectual terrorism” and “anti-India intellectualism”, a poor reflection on his intellect. Dissent terrorises him. His soulmate Lt Gen. B.S. Jaswal, Commander-in-Chief Northern Command, dubbed political protest “agitational terrorism” on October 31, 2010. Jitendra Singh expatiated on August 13: “One more battle for freedom is pending and that is to liberate the people of PoK from illegal occupation of Pakistan so that they can be reunited with India.”

But, what “freedom” do the people of Kashmir enjoy? Harinder Baweja reported from Srinagar on August 15: “As India and Indians prepare to celebrate Independence day and the freedoms we gained, let us pause for a moment to think of the lack of any ‘azadi’ in Kashmir, which is often called the crown on India’s head. The crown is bereft of sheen, of jewels, of ‘Indian-ness’. Every Kashmiri is locked up at home because of the government’s fear that Pakistani flags might flutter atop buildings, that black flags might mar the celebrations of the nation’s birth.… Local militants, who now outnumber Pakistani terrorists in the Valley, are on an upswing after Wani’s death” ( Hindustan Times, August 15).

Omar Abdullah, the National Conference leader, seized an opportunity to occupy the ground the Muftis had vacated by convening a meeting of opposition parties in Srinagar on August 17—the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the People’s Democratic Front, the Democratic Nationalist Party and Engineer Abdul Rasheed’s Awami Ittehad. Omar Abdullah said: “Pakistan is not behind the present situation.” The meeting called for a special session of the State Assembly, a judicial inquiry into the excesses by the security forces, a ban on the use of pellet guns, and dialogue with all the stakeholders. He also called for talks with Pakistan ( The Hindu, August 18).

Moral bankruptcy

However, this is what Omar Abdullah said on July 23: India had been “dishonest with the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. He cited its limited accession and said: “You have gradually whittled that away to the point that autonomy is a fig leaf to what it was in 1947” ( Hindustan Times, July 24). But in the six years he was in office, not once did he raise the issue. In 2014, he would have accepted the BJP as a coalition partner. The tragedy of Kashmir has been the moral bankruptcy of its Chief Ministers, from the Bakshi (1953) to the Mufti (2016). The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, C.V. Vigneswaran, boldly attacks Colombo for its wrongs. On August 18, he alleged that 104 ex-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) men were injected with poison at rehabilitation centres. He can do so because he does not owe his job to Colombo. Unlike India, Sri Lanka is honest about elections ( The Hindu, August 19). There is no fiddling by spooks and political parties of the Centre.

Modi’s speech in Parliament on August 12 had a sinister bit which lies at the core of his pact with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This was his reference to the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. And thereby hangs a tale. The coalition took power on March 1, 2015. On April 7, 2015, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was put on the mat by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh; the Mufti obliged. It was disclosed that the Minister had asked the Mufti to provide land for “composite townships” for Kashmiri Pandits and in direct quotes: “The Chief Minister assured the Union Home Minister that the [Kashmir]… government will acquire and provide land in the Valley at the earliest.”

The Mufti inherited the problem from Omar Abdullah when he was Chief Minister. Naeem Akhtar, State Education Minister, said on May 19: “We will make land available where both Pandits and Dogras can live peacefully.” The Pandits “will live in transit accommodation… to provide breathing space till they feel confident to move to their original places”. Mehbooba Mufti said Kashmiri Pandits would comprise half of the inmates. “We can’t throw them like pigeons before the cats,” she remarked. The offensive remark about her people reveals her outlook.

On July 24, it was reported that in May the Mufti regime had identified seven places in the Valley’s 10 districts “and had started work on the ground”, a fact that was suppressed. About 9,01,775 acres had been identified. These were Mehbooba Mufti’s “transit colonies”. Divisional Commissioners had begun acquiring the land. An official said that the State “must not talk about these clusters for some time as, given the resentment in the population, it could well backfire” (Yusuf Jameel, The Asian Age, July 24). This was the unsaid part of the PDP-BJP alliance.

Nuances of terrorism

It is dishonest to call Kashmiri protesters “terrorists”. Were Aurobindo Ghose and Bhagat Singh “terrorists”? They used the gun and paid the price for it. The history of India’s freedom struggle is studded with violent revolutions (see the British Intelligence Bureau’s studies Political Troubles in India [1907-1917] and Terrorism in India [1917-1936]). On the Quit India Movement, K.M. Munshi wrote: “Truth to tell, what they did was anybody’s business. It was certainly not non-violent even at the start” ( Pilgrimage to Freedom, Volume1, page 83).

In the Central Legislative Assembly, a member explained the nuances of terrorism on September 16, 1924. The Viceroy Lord Mayo’s assassination was not a “political assassination” but murder by a man who had a grievance. But, “why do these young men, bright youths who have drunk at your own literature and who have imbibed those principles of liberty and freedom, come together in secret organisations in order to assassinate you, the very people who have taught those fine principles? Why? Because they feel that this (British) government do not respond to their aspirations, to their ideals and to their ambition to secure complete political freedom for their country. Now, Sir, you are not going to put this right unless you meet those aspirations and those principles.… The way to prevent bombs being thrown is to meet the people, respond to their feelings, their sentiments and their legitimate and proper aspirations.”

On September 12, 1929, he amplified: “I think I am speaking on behalf of a very large body of people when I say that, if there is sympathy and admiration for the accused, it is only to this extent, that they are the victim of the system of government. It is not that we approve or applaud their actions if they are guilty, which still remains to be proved.… You know perfectly well that these men are determined to die. It is not a joke. I ask the Honourable Law Member to realise that it is not everybody who can go on starving himself to death. Try it for a little while and you will see.…

“Mind you, Sir, I do not approve of the action of Bhagat Singh, and I say this on the floor of this House. I regret that rightly or wrongly youth today in India is stirred up, and you cannot, when you have three hundred and odd millions of people, you cannot prevent such crimes being committed, however much you may deplore them and however much you may say that they are misguided. It is the system, this damnable system of government, which is resented by the people.” He was none other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Prof. Robert A. Pape is one of the world’s foremost authorities on suicide terrorism. His book Dying to Win is based on a study of 315 cases from 1980 to 2003. He concludes: “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal to compel modern democracies to withdraw their military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”

By this test, the Kashmiri is not a terrorist, but David Headley, Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed & co. and the perpetrators of the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks are criminals to the core, out to inflict damage on a foreign country. Even Omar Abdullah said on October 28, 2009, in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “The youth of Kashmir did not pick up the gun 21 years ago for money but for political reasons” ( Greater Kashmir, October 29, 2009). For long, Amnesty International would only adopt as “prisoner of conscience” one “who does not advocate violence”. South Africa induced change.

India’s policy on terrorism has been double-faced. The summit that founded the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Dhaka on December 8, 1985, took up the issue of terrorism. The result was the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, which India ratified on August 22, 1988, but after it was suitably defanged. Article 7 says absurdly: “Contracting states shall not be obliged to extradite, if it appears to the requested state that by reason of the trivial nature of the case or by reason of the request for the surrender or return of a fugitive offender not being made in good faith or in the interests of justice or for any other reason it is unjust or inexpedient to surrender or return the fugitive offender.”

No other convention has such a provision. The European Convention’s Article 5 is precise. There was a reason for this. India was sponsoring terrorism in Sri Lanka then. M.K. Eelaventhan, general secretary of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front, was a “distinguished guest” at the All India Congress Committee session in October 1983. The LTTE would issue boastful claims in Madras of guerrilla attacks in northern Sri Lanka, for example, on August 6, 1984. So did the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation on a bomb blast in Jaffna.

When, soon after the summit, Pritish Nandy of The Illustrated Weekly of India queried Rajiv Gandhi, he replied: “Well, it’s all a question of definition. When is terrorism a freedom movement? When does terrorism versus human rights come in? These are the sort of grey areas, you know.” He cited the instance of South Africa and said: “These sort of things will have to be clarified here, where there is no movement as yet to define today but there well might be tomorrow…. If we rush into it now, you know, it will pose a problem in SAARC later.” The result was a useless convention.

In Kashmir, the Indian state has practised state-sponsored terrorism from the very outset to this day—the renegade militants, the Ikhwans. It had been practised in Punjab and Assam. A detailed expose by Aunohita Mojumdar was published in The Statesman on March 9, 1996. Colonel K.P. Ramesh of the Rashtriya Rifles stated during the course of an interview that the Army had been using a group of surrendered militants over a period of time. The latter, he elaborated, were provided arms for their protection against Harkat-ul-Ansar and Hizbul Mujahideen and given reward money for providing information. The renegades were “on the payrolls of the Army”, but he tried to make light of the amounts given to them.

Government-backed groups

Aunohita Mojumdar’s finding was that these “counter-insurgents”, who are described as “friends” in official parlance, are not only “actively participating in operations carried out by the security agencies but also resorting to extortions, intimidation and excesses with the backing of the arms provided to them…. Three major groups were identified—Kukka Parrey’s Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon in north Kashmir, Al Fateh Force led by Aziz, and the Muslim Mujahideen in south Kashmir.”

Kukka Parrey had no inhibitions in bragging. In July 1995, he claimed to have “routed the Hizb in Kupwara, Anantnag, and Baramula districts”. On November 18, he said: “We have killed only Hizbul Mujahideen militants. Maybe five hundred. All of them in my area have been killed.… I have lost count of Hizbul Mujahideen killings.”

He arrived in Delhi on December 29, 1995, and enjoyed official protection, which made him inaccessible. He bared his plans. The Ikhwan had formed a political wing, the Awami League, which would decide on participation in the elections “at a proper time”.

It has been widely alleged that as well as running an extortion racket, the Ikhwan’s men also ran an illegal trade in timber and precious walnut wood right under the nose of the authorities.

The Times of India published a report of a press conference in Srinagar, on July 14, 1996, by Mohammed Maqbool Dar, Union Minister of State in the Home Ministry, in which he said that “the situation in Kashmir would not have improved to the extent it has but for the contribution of these counter-insurgent groups”. On August 11, 1996, Farooq Abdullah publicly thanked these Army-sponsored killers for helping him come to power in a rigged election. “The militants had given us the privilege to go before the people. Now I am proud of them.”

Herein lies the relevance of a well-documented report by Human Rights Watch-Asia, published in May 1996. It is titled “India’s Secret Army in Kashmir: New Patterns of Abuse Emerge in the Conflict”. For reasons not difficult to guess, very few copies could reach addresses in the country. It is based on research undertaken by a lawyer, James A. Goldston, who visited Kashmir in January 1996.

“During the Human Rights Watch-Asia visit to Kashmir in January 1996, we were informed that these groups have been armed by the government. On several occasions, Human Rights Watch-Asia observed members of these groups moving about openly carrying automatic weapons, in full view of security personnel, even though under the government’s rehabilitation programme, all surrendered militants are required to hand over their weapons.…

“A witness who was abducted by Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon forces told Human Rights Watch that he was detained at a house adjacent to an Army Rashtriya Rifles camp at Umarheer, Ahmed Nagar, Baspara, three kilometres from Soura Hospital. A Rashtriya Rifles bunker stands at the entrance to the house. The local Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon commander, Mohammad Ramzan, who had interrogated the witness, apparently lived in the house. Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon forces identified two women who were cooking in the house as Ramzan’s wife and sister-in-law.… Human rights activists have increasingly come under attack in Kashmir. Between April 1995 and April 1996, two human rights monitors were killed and one critically injured.”

The report says: “Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon forces have been patrolling the Soura Institute and the Bone and Joint Hospital since mid 1995. The local commander is Mohammad Ramzan, a former member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) who had been arrested by the Rashtriya Rifles in 1995. After that Ramzan was seen at the hospital accompanied by other gunmen and by Army soldiers wearing Rashtriya Rifles uniforms. Ramzan wore a bullet-proof jacket under his pheran (long cloak), as did some others. He told hospital staff that he ‘wanted to bring discipline to the Institute’.

“Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon patrols are sometimes carried out jointly with other security forces. Their activities inside the hospitals, including assaults on staff and detentions of staff, patients and visitors, are carried out with the knowledge of the Border Security Force (BSF), which maintains bunkers at the entrances of the hospitals. A Jammu and Kashmir Police station is also located at the entrances of the hospitals. A Jammu and Kashmir police station is also located at the entrance to the Soura Institute. Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon forces enter the hospital on a regular basis and patrol in groups of twelve, armed with automatic weapons. They often carry walkie-talkies and speak into them in the course of their searches and patrols. They have threatened and harassed hospital staff and patients, looking for militants and have taken suspects away to ‘camps’. One such camp is said to be located near the hospital, at an Army base three kilometres away at Bachapora, Srinagar.”

In November 1995, Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon forces dragged a surgeon out of his office and kicked and punched him. “At 2:30 pm on 19 January 1996, the day that Human Rights Watch-Asia visited the Institute, Ikhwan forces were patrolling the main gate of Soura. Hospital employees stated that their presence was routine and that they usually stood only a few yards from the security bunker. Many hospital employees were unwilling to speak to Human Rights Watch-Asia out of fear. Doctors at the Bone and Joint Hospital complained that they were frequently searched by either armed paramilitary forces, while uniformed forces ringed the outside of the hospital, or by both paramilitary and uniformed Rashtriya Rifles forces.”

This technique was tried out by Latin American dictators. It is being used in Kashmir by New Delhi in the name of democracy. This pattern of security forces’ intrusion into hospitals was in evidence after July 8, 2016.

Incidentally, we had the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which L.K. Advani called “a political offence”; the Malegaon and the Mecca Masjid blasts—all of them evaded accountability before the law.

This is what a committed friend of India, Jean Dreze, wrote in The Hindu (March 29, 2002). “My initial purpose was to study the schooling situation, but it turned out to be difficult not to focus on people’s overwhelming concern: the endless zulm (repression) unleashed by the security forces. The security forces were rarely out of sight, even in remote villages. As far as the local population is concerned, Kashmir is ‘occupied’ by a foreign army. Everywhere I went, there were sobering tales of harassment at the hands of the Indian Army and paramilitary forces; curfews, searches, interrogations, killings of suspected militants, and accidental as well as intentional killings of the innocent civilians, to name a few complaints.”

Engineer Abdul Rasheed, MLA, said in an interview to Kashmir Life (November 20, 2011): “I was myself subjected to about 350 to 400 days of forced labour. Army treated us as slaves. We were supposed to wash clothes of Army, patrol their roads, construct bunkers, any damn thing. In this, fifty villagers suffered.… I was used as human shield at least on two occasions and I had a narrow escape. I was picked up and taken to the worst interrogation centre, Cargo, then to central jail, CIK Humhama and Rajbagh. I had to pay bribe not less than Rs.1 lakh by selling land and few cattle to get myself released.… I have seen hundreds of youth dying in front of me, getting handicapped, sisters turning widows.…

“The worst of all was that my own house was used as a temporary Army camp for about four months—the most barbaric thing which could ever happen—from November 1997 to February 1998.”

Sordid record

What has happened since July 8 is part of this long-established pattern. Contrast the national uproar over the Bhagalpur blindings to the indifference to the blindings in Kashmir. People are shot at in order to kill them and not protesters alone. Here is the sordid record.

July 9: Policemen barge into a hospital looking for protesters. “Two young men with pellet injuries were taken away by the police, a paramedic said” (Muzamil Jaleel, The Indian Express, July 11). At SMHS Hospital, Srinagar, Dr Sajjad Khandary had never seen so many people with serious ocular injuries in a day. “I strongly suggest that the use of pellet guns be stopped immediately because it is making young people blind.

July 10: “In many cases bullets have been fired above the waist. The objective definitely seems to be to kill or maim the person for life” (Ashik Hussain, Hindustan Times, July 11).

July 10: “I can’t see a thing from my left eye. We were shouting slogans. The police came and fired pellets.” A doctor at the SMHS Hospital: “Everyone who came here had pellet wounds above the chest.” A “senior” police officer: “There is a view that when a protester is hit with a pellet in the eye, it becomes a deterrent. I don’t agree with it but that is what is happening” (Muzamil Jaleel, The Indian Express, July 12).

Note that the protesters posed no threat to life; they simply shouted slogans. Pellet guns were fired to kill or main them as “a deterrent”. This persists.

July 12: ( Indian Express) Nirupama Subramanian wrote of parents taking their boys with pellet wounds to Amritsar “fearing their sons might be picked by the police if they went to local hospitals”. To “kids as young as 8 or 12 years old… defiance of the Indian state is now as natural as playing cricket”. To talk of Pakistan’s sponsorship is to utter a lie.

July 17: “A highly placed source in the Centre” told Vijaita Singh of The Hindu that the protests had to be stopped “ now”; else “there would be provocation at the next level. The security forces fire to kill. It’s either white or black.

July 17: Senior doctors at the SMHS Hospital “confirmed that when they were coming with the injured people to Srinagar hospitals, their ambulances/vehicles were stopped by the police and CRPF, who beat the injured”. Dr Qaiser Ahmed, principal of the Government Medical College, Srinagar, said that ambulances “were damaged by the CRPF and police” (Noor-ul-Qamrain, Sunday Guardian).

July 20: At this point, Sonia Gandhi proclaimed “a grave danger to the country. There can be no compromise on national security. Militants must be dealt with sternly” ( The Hindu, July 21). The sternness that followed must have pleased her hugely.

July 21: Hindustan Times’ Ashiq Hussain reported: “Children continue to get maimed by wanton use of pellet guns by government forces in Kashmir. The latest victims are 8-year-old Asif Rashid and 13-year-old Mir Arafat, both of whom were hit by pellets fired by government forces to disperse protesters…. Hundreds of pellets penetrated Arafat’s body, from his face to the lower abdomen…. Doctors said Arafat has pellets in his heart, abdomen and intestines.”

July 21: “Police forcibly evicted volunteers from the premises of SMHS Hospital where they had been providing free food to the attendants of the injured for 13 days” (Yusuf Jameel, The Asian Age, July 22).

July 22: Azad Javaid of DNA reported: “Last Sunday (July 17) one patient was brought in from Pulwama and when we were trying to give CPR to the dying patient, a police officer in civilian clothes was updating his bosses through a mobile. This was right inside the operation theatre. A number of other doctors who spoke to DNA said that a meeting was called soon after police interference in which it was decided that the patients would not be named from now onwards.” Every day brought more reports of such outrages.

August 8: Brinda Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, who visited a Kashmiri girl at a hospital in New Delhi said: “She was blinded by pellets fired straight at her by security forces, deliberately aiming at her forehead when she was looking down from the window of her two-storyed house.” Even after two surgeries, she could not see ( The Hindu, August 9).

August 8: Doctors who performed surgeries on those hit by pellets in SMHS and SKIMS hospitals in Srinagar told Peerzada Ashiq that three civilians died because they were shot from “ a very, very close range with the intention to kill”. A doctor said of another patient: “More than 300 pellets were lodged inside his body, affecting all his organs. This only shows the gun was emptied by keeping the barrel close to the victim’s body.” This, like others, was a case of shooting with malice aforethought ( The Hindu, August 9).

At the end of a whole month’s record of barbarism, approved by the Central and the State governments, the CPI(M)’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, was forced to remark on August 8: “Even Israel does not use pellet guns against Palestinians” ( Hindustan Times, August 9). The analogy is closer than he is willing to admit. The forces and their mentors do not regard Kashmiris as fellow citizens but as a populace in occupied territory.

August 12: Nirmal Singh, Deputy Chief Minister, said that pellet guns were used “only when situations reach an extreme”. Mehbooba Mufti did not express any dissent.

August 18: “The CRPF in Srinagar fired pellets at an ambulance bringing a patient from Wussan. The driver, Ghulam Mohammed Sofi, despite being severely injured, drove the ambulance to the SMHS Hospital and dropped the patient before he himself was taken to hospital.” He had 200-300 pellet wounds (Basharat Masood and Mir Ehsan, The Indian Express, August 19).

August 19: “Officials asked district and sub-district officials to manage critical patients at rural health centres at night instead of taking the risk of moving them to Srinagar. The decision has been taken to avoid confrontation with the Army and CRPF patrolling roads and highways at night” (Mir Ehsan, The Indian Express, August 20).

This one single decision exposes the reality of the situation. The “officials” belonged to Mehbooba Mufti’s government, which has not the guts to ask Modi’s government to order its Army and its CRPF to do the decent thing—respect the sanctity of ambulances and hospitals and their personnel. No wonder that on August 20, they held a protest demonstration in Srinagar. This validates Engineer Rashid’s demand for the resignation of MLAs. He refused to join Omar Abdullah’s tamasha on August 20 in New Delhi, which is designed to secure a place for himself after the PDP’s collapse.

The CRPF said in an affidavit to the State High Court on August 18 that “in case this is withdrawn from options available with the CRPF, CRPF personnel would have no recourse in extreme circumstances but to open fire with rifles, which may cause more fatalities”.

The standard operating procedures require that a weapon be used below the waist. “But the situation on the streets during an ongoing law and order incident is dynamic and mobile. Sometimes it is difficult to go in for precise aimed fire at a moving, bending and running target.”

The record belies this plea. The guns were fired above the waist and at unarmed young protesters with the intention of killing and maiming them. What of the attacks on the ambulances? Was any of this seen in the Haryana or Gujarat agitations? The CRPF admitted it had fired around 3,000 pellet cartridges, each containing 450 metallic balls, between July 9 and August 11. On the same day (August 18), Dr Manzoor Ahmed, head of the department, Orthopaedics, Bone and Joint Hospital, said that the ambulance driver, Sofi (32), “was fired at close range and had taken hundreds of pellets” ( The Indian Express, August 19).

Use of firearms

The United Kingdom faced the well-organised Sinn Fein armed with deadly weapons in Northern Ireland. Preventive detention (internment) started on August 9, 1971, and ended on December 5, 1975. The law is clear. The instructions issued to the Civic Guards on the use of firearms, dated November 24, 1932, were judicially approved: “Setting aside for the moment the ordinary dictates of humanity, it is, for the reasons mentioned, in the highest degree essential, that when the Garda are compelled to resort to force in dealing with the public, their actions should be governed resolutely by prudence, foresight and absolute discretion.…There is far too great a readiness to resort to the use of firearms in dealing with disorderly persons…. A gun should not be discharged until there is no other practical course open but to employ it with fatal effect….

“A continuance of the practice of firing shots in the air which has recently been so much in evidence must inevitably lead to the gravest consequences…. Generally, it may be laid down that there are very few occasions in the life of a police officer which justify the introduction of firearms and it is again to be emphasised that they are only to be used as a last resort and then only in the gravest circumstances.…

“The safer course for a member of a police force is to avail of every means of defence whatsoever before making effective use of firearms…. But it is an invariable rule that the degree of force to be used must always be moderated and proportioned to the circumstances of the case, and the end to be attained. Hence it is that arms—now at such a state of perfection that they cannot be employed without grave danger to life and limb even of distant and innocent persons—must be used with the greatest of care, and the greatest pains must be exercised to avoid the infliction of fatal injuries.… A gun should never be used, or used with any specified degree of force if there is any doubt as to the necessity.”

Firearms can be used only with the utmost care and only if life and limbs are in danger.

Kashmiri memories go back a long way, as Governor B.K. Nehru noted during the 1983 election. “Shoals of Congress politicians descended on the Valley from outside. They did more harm than good; first because the Kashmiris resented ‘foreign’ interference and second because they were ignorant of Kashmiri sentiments. A favourite theme of their speeches was praise for Akbar the Great and his secularism. In Kashmir the name Akbar is hated as that of an arch-imperialist. He was the first outsider who destroyed in 1589 the independence of Kashmir. Nobody had succeeded in doing so before then” ( Nice Guys Finish Second, page 610).

In June 1970, at the State People’s Convention, Sheikh Abdullah said that the freedom movement “began with the conquest of Kashmir by the Moghul armies”. Akbar’s armies marched into Kashmir on June 28, 1586. Mughal rule lasted for 166 years until 1752, when a brutal reign of the Afghans began. In 1814, Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded Kashmir. The Lahore Darbar was betrayed by its Dogra feudatory, Gulab Singh of Jammu, who was in league with the British. He acquired Kashmir by the infamous Treaty of Amritsar, signed on March 16, 1846, for Rs.75 lakh. Gandhi aptly called it “a deed of sale” during his stay in Srinagar from August 1 to 3, 1947. He supposed “it would be dead on the 15th August”.

Kashmiris cannot forget their history or the record of India’s broken pledges. The rapacity of India and Pakistan leaves them helpless. More so, the state terror let lose by the Indian state on Kashmir. I forbear from citing here the numerous reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. But read paragraph 334 from the Report of the Special Rapporteur, Nigel S. Rodley, to the U.N. Human Rights Commission on January 12, 1995. “The Special Rapporteur further transmitted information according to which the practice of custodial rape by members of the police and security forces occurred with frequency. In areas of internal conflict and disturbances, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, the practice was reported to be systematic. In such a context, the impetus for custodial rape appeared to stem from political and strategic considerations, whereby pacification was sought through the intimidation and degradation of the target population. Rape was also allegedly used as a means of collective punishment, as when the mass detention of males in a community was preceded by multiple rapes of their spouses during house-to-house searches.”

It is preposterous to suggest that Jammu and Kashmir’s status is an internal matter. As late as February 25, 1955, Nehru was asked by Lakshmi Charan in the Lok Sabha: “In view of the fact that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly has ratified the accession of the State to India, what will be the terms of discussion on Kashmir with the Pakistani Prime Minister?” Nehru replied: “A question like this cannot be solved unilaterally.”

As late as on August 20, 2015, the Special Assistant to the U.S. President, Peter R. Lavoy, said: “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory.” There was no change in the U.S. position, he said. “We do acknowledge that this is a contested territory; a contested border between India and Pakistan” ( The Asian Age, August 21, 2015). U.N. maps carry the legend “The Final status of Jammu & Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties.”

The Kashmiris’ right to demand a plebiscite peacefully is incontestable. It is another matter that India cannot concede the demand. Must then the cycle of resistance and repression go on? The unrest has spread beyond the Valley to Pir Panjal, the Chenab Valley and Kargil. Stones are weapons which an unarmed people use. Young men, known as “Dilawar”, would pelt stones at the patrolling Mughal soldiers. The hero of the 1931 uprising, Abdul Qadeer Khan, urged Kashmiris to fight the Dogra bullets with stones. But Syed Ali Shah Geelani told his supporters that nobody should resort to stone-pelting ( The Indian Express, March 12, 2010). In the 2010 unrest, stone pelting acquired a vogue few had imagined. It became a fashion to decry the stone pelters either as Pakistanis or paid performers. Photographs of middle-aged women, schoolboys and young men braving bullets to fling stones at the CRPF and the police tell us the truth.

The way out

The way out was shown by a sensible soldier and by no politician. The Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. D.S. Hoodo said in Srinagar, on August 19: “We all have to sit down, put our heads together and see if we can find an end to this. I know it is not easy. The situation is difficult. Everybody who is in any way involved in J&K needs to introspect.” He added that no one person or one organisation” could solve the crisis. “This is not a political statement of facts because everybody is involved, whether it is security forces, separatists, governments, student leaders; so my appeal is to everyone. I think we need to find some way forward in this.”

Note his specific reference to “separatists”, in contrast to the term “stakeholders” used by the unionists. The soldier is honest; they are not. It is the separatists who represent the mainstream, not the unionists Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik, united in the crisis. Talk to them. They are all against the use of stones. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, on July 10: “People feel the Government of India is just not ready to engage or even acknowledge the sentiments of Kashmir.” On the other hand, “there is no scope for peaceful resistance”. The three remain under house arrest. This is because the Indian state regards any questioning of the Union as treason, to be quelled by brute force even though constitutionally and morally such questioning is permissible. A journalist noted how tactfully the Army and the BSF had tackled demonstrators without bloodshed (Pervez Majeed, DNA, August 11).

It will not do to say that Kashmir is a closed chapter. It is very much an open question. France had installed a stooge regime in the Saar in its dispute over it with Germany. The Council of Europe intervened. Its Consultative Assembly’s Committee on General Affairs was assigned the task. Its Rapporteur, M. Van Der Goes Van Nater’s report of March 15, 1954, is a classic. France dissolved the Saar Democratic Party. The report said: “Although it is not unusual that a Constitution should proclaim its own inviolability—it is in the interest of democracy itself that such a principle should always be applied with great prudence in cases where, as with the Saar, it is a question of a provisional settlement destined to be replaced later by a final statute.… The provisions defining public liberty in the Saar should be interpreted in such a manner as to allow due expression of the opinion that the present provisional Constitution should later be replaced by a definitive Constitution based on other principles.

The referenda in Quebec, apart from Scotland, provide a good instruction. Scotland’s demand for secession from the U.K. is not dubbed treason. In 1707, the Scottish and English Parliaments each passed an Act of Union approving the terms of a Treaty of Union negotiated by both governments. The Act of 1707 embodied a compact, as Article 370 does. “The two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall… for ever after be united into One kingdom by the name of Great Britain.” A large measure was granted to Scotland by the Scotland Act, 1998. Yet, on October 15, 2012, 400 years after 1707, the governments of the U.K. and Scotland signed an Agreement at Edinburgh “on a referendum on independence for Scotland” running into 29 clauses. Advocates of independence lost. After Brexit, the demand is likely to be revived. Scots are not called traitors by the English.

History teaches by analogy, not identity. No two cases are alike. The Kashmir problem cannot be solved by brute force. The Indian state cannot stifle the demand for azadi by brute force. Kashmiris cannot secede from India by deploying armed force. A compromise is called for. What the Canadian Supreme Court said on August 20, 1998, on Quebec’s demand applies also to Kashmir. “Negotiations would be necessary to address the interests of the federal government, of Quebec and the other provinces, and other participants, as well as the rights of all Canadians both within and outside Quebec.” In any negotiations on Kashmir’s future, Pakistan will be a necessary party.

Grim situation

Meanwhile, the grim situation calls for immediate alleviation. The elements of an ad hoc accord are 1. Release of all the Hurriyat leaders. It is they alone who can persuade the leaderless young to desist. Neither Omar nor Mehbooba Mufti can. They are both irrelevant. They belong to New Delhi. 2. Grant of the fundamental right to assemble peacefully without arms in meetings or processions.

As Lord Scarman said in his Report on the Red Lion Square disturbances in 1974: “The police are not concerned with the politics of a demonstration: if they were, we should be a police state. Their duty is to maintain public order.” 3. Total halt to stone pelting, and compensations to the persons injured. 4. Total halt to nocturnal searches by the security forces, crackdowns and arrests. 5. Removal of bunkers from civilian areas. 6. Return of lands in the possession of the Army and the CRPF. 7. Appointment of an ombudsman to oversee and enforce the accord.

Kashmir has a highly respected Governor in N.N. Vohra. He should be authorised to take soundings from individual leaders and then convene a Round Table Conference to discuss and finalise the terms.

Never before has Kashmir seen such an upheaval since Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest on August 9, 1953. Does it not call for a review of the situation by the three leaders? Whether to contest the elections or not is a tricky question. But is the demand for azadi weakened or strengthened by the separatists uniting to improve the lot of civil society, which has suffered a lot? They can encourage the young, under their guidance, to involve themselves in municipal issues, in the problems of traders, in the universities, and so on, while maintaining their political stand. The “All or Nothing” stand is unique to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. It must be shed for the good of the people.

In 1953, Madhu Limaye and Sadiq Ali went to Kashmir after Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest and submitted a very comprehensive report. Do not expect New Delhi to send a credible delegation. Leading public figures—politicians, civil libertarians and the rest—should go to Kashmir, meet the people there and report to the nation.

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