Subversive Blinkers: Sustaining separatism by emasculating common sense – I
by Ajay Chrungoo on 18 Apr 2014 2 Comments

The subversive war in Jammu and Kashmir is not only about keeping the destabilizing internal security challenges alive through calibrated terrorist attacks from time to time. In the recent past, it has been more about successfully deploying blinkers on policy making about internal security by using the democratic space and faultlines in the nation building processes in the country. The separatist establishment through its subversive tentacles has forced the Government to focus on managing public perception more than the impending security challenges.


In the last week of February this year, a confidential document of the J&K Police was made available to the print media. It contained the data of the latest census conducted by the state police about the number of active terrorists operating in the Kashmir province. As per this census, 104 terrorists are active in the province out of which 60 percent are of foreign origin.   


The self-congratulation by the State Police and administration after they made the census of active terrorists operating in Kashmir province public, and the State Police Chief proclaimed decimation of the terrorist command structure in the state, must have been still on when the terrorists struck in a big way in Pulwama town of South Kashmir, followed by a major strike in Kathua district of Jammu province.


In Pulwama, the incident took place outside the well guarded court complex. Two terrorists fired upon the two policemen on routine duty from close range; one died on the spot while the other succumbed to his injuries in hospital.


These strikes were not merely for rebutting the Government’s claims. They have been followed by a spate of strikes with alarming frequency. Just a few days back on April 13, two policemen were killed in a terrorist attack on the house of a National Conference leader at Khrew area near Srinagar in Kashmir province. Two Jaish-E-Mohammad terrorists were killed in the subsequent police action. Days before this terrorist strike near Srinagar, on April 8, three security personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer of Rashtriya Rifles, and two terrorists, were killed in a fierce encounter in the frontier Kupwara district of North Kashmir. The encounter and the exchange of fire continued throughout the night. The terrorists who were killed belonged to Lashkar-i-Toiba. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the place of encounter.


On March 28th, a major fidayeen terrorist attack took place on the Army camp in Kali Bari, Kathua, Jammu province, near the LOC. Three heavily armed terrorists intercepted a Balero SUV near Dayalachack, Kathua, asked its occupants to alight after separating the driver, sprayed bullets on the disembarked passengers and drove away. Two and a half hours later, at 7.15 am, they stormed the Army’s III rocket camp some 15 kilometers from Dayalachack at Jangalote. An alert sentry repulsed the attack and then in a day long encounter all three terrorists were killed. An army Jawan and two civilians were also killed in the attack.


Whether the terrorists came from across the LoC or from inside the State is still not clear. However, in the last two major terrorist attacks on the LoC, one in Keran sector of Kashmir province and the other in Samba district of Jammu province, the fidayeen squads had come from inside.


The attacks on military targets and attempts to capture territorial pockets along the LoC, orchestrated not from across the border but from inside the hinterland, as the Keran episode depicted, reflects the graduation of the strategic and tactical perspectives of terrorist regimes operating in the state to a different level. The assessment of the State Police about the fast depleting manpower of the terrorist regimes on the ground becomes doubtful because the latest terrorist strikes show that terrorist cadres are being deployed directly in very high risk operations. Terrorist regimes faced with depletion of manpower usually resort to using IEDs and hand grenades to conserve manpower.


This disconnect between the assessment of the government about the internal security situation and the capability of the terrorist regimes operating on the ground to unhinge the apparently normal situation in no time would be a prime security concern in any other country. The disconnect reflects critical flaws in the analytical approach of those at the helm in the Government in assessing the ground situation.


Normalcy/Abnormalcy Discourse


The political discourse on the internal security situation and consequent government policies in Jammu & Kashmir exhibit the features of oversimplification, trivialization and reduction. This discourse has defined normalcy or abnormalcy relying predominantly on three indicators:

i)       Number of violent terrorist acts in relation to corresponding earlier period

ii)    Number of active terrorists operating on the ground

iii)  Conduct of the tourist season and Amarnath pilgrimage


Two additional indicators have also been deployed once in a while, however reluctantly, but mainly by the security establishment:

i)       Infiltration bids along the Line of Actual Control (LAC ) and the International Border (IB) in relation to the corresponding earlier period

ii)    Firing incidents across LAC and IB in relation to the corresponding earlier period


The political leadership in the state has, however, related the infiltration attempts more to the efficiency of the security establishment rather than the relentless and unabated campaign of low-intensity war being waged in the state. Similarly firing incidents along LoC and IB have been put in the domain of foreign or defense policy rather than indicators of continuity of internal destabilization.


This model of assessment of normalcy or abnormalcy in the state deployed by the political class leaves many issues unexplained. They are briefly elucidated below.


1)    If terrorist acts and the number of active terrorists have decreased decisively, then does its impact reflect in the political environment in the State, particularly in the valley?


Why are both regional parties in Kashmir valley, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled earlier in alliance with the Congress and National Conference (NC) which is ruling in alliance with the Congress, maintaining the position that democratically elected Governments in the State are only a day-to-day arrangement to take care of local needs. Is this the result of the all encompassing coercion, which even the supposedly decreased level of militancy in the State is still capable of exerting on the political class on the ground? Decreased militancy should have lead to decreased coercion on the ground and the exuding of confidence of the mainstream political class.


The position taken by PDP and NC is just the stand which the separatists would want and in fact Hurriyat Conference (both factions) has taken from time to time. It means the democratic regime is functioning through a process of self-delegitimisation or has become an instrument of legitimization of separatism. This reality when seen in the light of the presence of active terrorists (whatever their number may be) on the ground, capable of inflicting violence in the civil domain and on the governmental apparatus as well as security establishment and also the increasing grip of the separatists on the local political order and democratic space, presents a grimmer picture of the ground situation than the government would like people to believe. 


The killing and intimidation of the members of local Panchayats and the public resignations of many of them demonstrates the concrete coercion deployed by the terrorist regimes on the ground. But more glaring is the impact of this coercion. The members of Panchayats who have resigned and those who have chosen not to do so and the family members of the Panchs who were killed have meticulously avoided blaming terrorism for their predicament. Instead, all have invariably blamed the Governments in the State and the Center for one reason or other. This inability to stand up to the challenges posed by the terrorist regimes and a universal tendency not to give any affront to the terrorist cause indicates the sway and reach of the fear which the existing levels of militancy are still exerting on the internal environment of the State.


2)   If the terrorist acts and the number of active terrorists have decreased, has its impact enhanced the freedom of expression of society?


Terrorism in a society invariably undermines freedom of expression. Terror strangulates the capability of normal dissent of a people living in a society. It seeks to enforce conformity in the public discourse where diversity of opinion becomes a taboo and a disqualification.  Dissent becomes a risk. Weakening of the grip of terrorism on society reflects in the re-emergence of dissent and tolerance to dissent. In Kashmir we are yet to witness emergence of free speech and dissent despite the claim of the state government that terrorism has decreased by a margin of over fifty percent.


In fact a reverse phenomenon of increasing conformity has been seen in last few years. Not only the behaviour of the political class but also that of civil society groups and NGOs and local media is showing an attitude of brazen conformity. Acts of alleged human rights violation by the security forces are taken into notice suo moto and campaigns of media trials and civil society protests get unleashed instantaneously, complimented by prompt endorsements or recognition by the mainstream political establishment as well as the political leadership. Acts of atrocities by terrorist regimes rarely get suo moto attention. Whenever they come to light, they fade away soon due to lack of attention and dearth of takers in the domain of media, civil society groups and mainstream political parties.


Take the case of the alleged rape and murder of two ladies of Shupian which plagued the public discourse for the last few years and led to protracted civil unrest in the area. Conformity in the public and political behaviour was evident from the very moment the gruesome act came to light. Even though no evidence was available to link the incident with the Army, from the word go, a campaign of blaming the Army was unleashed through direct or indirect insinuations from the leadership at the helms as well political leaders of various hues including the separatists. When it came to public knowledge that not the Army but personnel of the State Police were allegedly involved in the affair, the discourse continued to blame Army and paramilitary forces. The civil society groups, local media, separatist and the mainstream leadership demonstrated amazing conformity. Even after it came to light that the local doctor had tampered with the forensic evidence, including the vaginal smear, to prove that it was rape, it did not cause any outrage. There was conformity in brazenly ignoring such facts and allowing them to fade away from public memory.


This voluntary censorship and abstinence by civil society is visible in almost all cases where terrorist regimes are explicitly involved in acts of human rights violation. Selective killings by the terrorists never become the focus of human rights campaigners. The matter is allowed to fade into oblivion or at the most put to rest by a symbolic condemnation.


The Kashmiri Hindu employees recruited in Kashmir valley in last few years as per the Prime Minister’s employment package have put themselves on record through many written testimonies that they are experiencing routine communal harassment at their work places, and in an atmosphere of intimidation most are unable to speak about it.


Same is the case of the Sikh minority living in the valley. The regular conversions of their women folk, and the harassment which they experience every now and then, rarely find expression in the public domain. Whenever such issues come to the fore, their leaders have to come out with statements like the threatened Panchayat members blaming the Government for their plight rather than the shadow of the gun and the communal campaign which looms large in every nook and corner there.


A Christian Pastor in Srinagar was charged by the so called Supreme Court of Shariat of indulging in conversions of local Muslims to Christian faith. He was grilled during a hearing of this pseudo-court and the local police issued a warrant against him. He had to run to Jammu to seek bail against the warrant issued against him as no lawyer was prepared to plead his case in the valley court.


The ladies rock band which played Sufi poetry in Srinagar had to withdraw after a reprimand by the Muslim clergy. The young Muslim girls who were part of the rock band had to withdraw and lie low. The leader of the PDP and former cabinet Minister Muzaffar Beg publicly admitted that fear and intimidation was ruling the roost in the valley in response to the religious ban on the ladies rock band.


To be continued…

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