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Kashmir demilitarisation; a pipe dream

Showkat Ali

Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor on his visit to Jammu and Kashmir three days after taking over from General J J Singh ruled out any troop reduction in the state. Kapoor’s statement came after army killed nine militants in a fierce 32-hour encounter in Tangmarg area. The encounter “changed” army’s ideas/assessment of the situation in the state.

Stop that

Only three days earlier outgoing chief J J Singh has said that there was possibility of an early troop reduction in the valley. What do you call such an approach toward a problem concerning more than 10 million people? To use a soft word, tentative.

Coming at a time when pro-Indian political parties like Peoples Democratic Party have been demanding demilitarisation, the statement shows how unimportant players, if not pawns, they are in the larger scheme of things.

Now, the popular insurgency is about to complete two decades. The two decades are filled with anecdotes and examples of bravery, courage, grit, determination, aspirations… and treachery. All exhibited by the Kashmiri people.

If Farooq Abdullah fought the militants in his reign (1996-2002) as Kashmir CM by letting loose the notorious Special Operations Group of the police, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed turned the whole police force of the state into an anti-insurgency fighting machine.

The separatists, who by no means are sacred, were pushed to the wall by the sloganeering of the pro-India political parties. National Conference wants autonomy and the old fox of politics Mufti takes credit for, I am not joking, Indo-Pak talks.

A Kashmiri leader influencing intransigent India and Pakistan to come to a negotiating table! Besides claiming to be active in trying to come out with a Kashmir resolution. Aren’t the big players, as they like to project themselves, trying to fool the people? Well, to remain in power, one has to – fool people. Kashmir electorate is unique in its demands, interests and aspirations. Farooq Abdullah’s NC in 2002 was looked down at with so much disdain that some of its bigwigs like former Assembly speaker Abdul Ahad Vakeel could not muster as much as a thousand votes. Where had their claimed supporters gone?

Mufti Sayeed and his daughter Mehbboba Mufti came out with a party which was not overtly anti-people or anti-insurgents for that matter. Even rumours were floated that separatists Hurriyat Conference was backing their Peoples Democratic Party. All the use of secessionist sentiments of people was made. The speeches from PDP platforms in 2002 would routinely talk about excesses committed by the troopers, human rights violations, custodial killings, torture, enforced disappearances…

Mehbooba would never miss a chance to visit a slain civilian’s family. The empathy lasted for two more years after 2002 then the slogans of cross-LoC bus. The bus talks were well on when Mufti jumped onto the bandwagon. But he was brash enough to hog all the limelight and claim credit.

This business of claiming credit for things they had not and could not have done has been the hallmark of pro-India politicking. High on rhetoric and low on deliverance.

Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf gave India many proposals and one of the points in these proposals was troop withdrawal from Jammu and Kashmir. As the talks between the two neighbouring countries were going on smoothly, Kashmiri politicians lapped up the chance. And the slogans about demilitrisaiton began to be heard. The unmoving and unreasonable attitude of New Delhi was instrumental in deflating the pumped up Kashmiri politicians. The slogans gradually were downgraded; from demilitarisation to troop withdrawal to troop reeducation to troop redeployment. The process of mutation is on.

Kashmir, any person with a little grey matter, which is hopefully sane, can tell you, is a political problem. The armed uprising came after many rigged elections, unconstitutional amendments in the constitution and repression of peoples’ feelings. The present United Jehad Council, an amalgam of 13 militant organisations, and HIzbul Muhajideen chief Syed Salahuddin was made to loose the 1987 Assembly elections he fought from a Srinagar constituency. There are United Nations Security Council resolutions which state the Kashmir dispute to be political.

But the Indian political establishment riding on the recently acquired nuclear power and her friendship with the only super power the United States and its key ally Israel, does not see it as a political problem. No matter what the foreign office says the Indian response in Kashmir had always been military. New Delhi deploys more than 700,000 troops to counter the threat posed by a few thousand militants. In the last five years at no time, as per official figures, has the number of militants crossed 2000. Too many for a few.

But the number of troops has increased over years (Remember the NDTV story, which revealed that with the replacement of army with anti-insurgency wing of the army – Rashtriya Rifles – actually enhances the number of troops on the ground.)

By the way why should the army reduce its number in Jammu and Kashmir? It is a gold mine. With manifold increase in the defence budget army is enjoying facilities which were unimaginable just 15 years back. The unchallenged, unaccountable power and privileges are going to go with their removal from the scene. I am afraid any careerist Indian will.

Couple this with the other ground realities, demilitarisation is almost a pipe dream. Unless the benefits enjoyed by plethora of people are taken away the demilitarisation will remain a distant dream. And Kashmiris will have to remain content with hollow sloganeering.

(The Writer is a Srinagar based political analyst. Author can be mailed ali@kashmirnewz.com)

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