Eid on August 22 in the Kashmir Valley was yet again a bloody one, with terrorists killing two Kashmiri Muslims. A policeman, Fayaz Ahmad Shah, who had come home to celebrate Eid with his family, was shot dead in village Zazripora Kulgam after offering Eid prayers. Earlier, terrorists barged into the residence of a BJP activist Shabir Ahmad Bhat in Pulwama’s Rakh-e-Litter area, abducted him and abandoned his bullet-riddled body.
Eid celebrations in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley were marred with clashes between security forces (SFs) and groups of anti-social elements who hurled stones and waved flags of Pakistan and ISIS.
The government on June 19, 2018, imposed Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir after the Kashmir Valley has been sundered with acts of terrorism, radicalization, destruction of schools, selective killings of patriotic Kashmiris, victimization of SFs following decades of misgovernance by successive governments.
Strong action must be taken during Governor’s rule to retrieve the seriously contaminated part of the Kashmir Valley, which not only affects the State but also the country’s security.
Education, which has long been targeted by Pakistan through the Valley-based separatists, will need a sustained boost after it was dealt a body blow with the destruction of almost 40 schools.
Ruining education in the Valley was linked to the process of radicalization. The aim of Pakistan’s military and mullahs is to destroy education and to indoctrinate and incite youth. While radicalization earlier was carried out through separatist leaders and clerics in mosques and religious gatherings, info- technology and social media gave it a massive boost.
None of the elected governments in J&K prevented the spread of anti-India sentiment and activities. Pakistani and even ISIS flags, pro-Pakistani/anti India slogans were tolerated or ignored. In fact, both the National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pandered to pro-Pakistan elements.
Only the Indian Army’s vigil on the Line of Control (LoC) reduced terrorism enough to allow tourism to flourish again. India-baiters then developed new tactics like paid stone-pelting to hector the Army and SFs during their operations.
Among the reasons for the many murders and other problems in the Valley is that, particularly over the past few years, truth and history have become major casualties. Kashmiris have not only been killed by Pakistani terrorists but also by Pak-supported Kashmiri terrorists and even radicalized youth.
While addressing the major challenges during this eighth spell of Governor’s rule, decision makers will be well advised to revisit the State’s history, geography and demography and review some basic facts about the J&K, which should be factored in. For seven decades political leaders from New Delhi have endlessly parroted the line that J&K is India’s ‘atoot ang’ (unbreakable part). The hard decisions required to run J&K so that it remains an unbreakable part have been avoided.
Of the 22 districts in J&K, there are only 5 districts where separatists hold sway and organize anti-India operations - Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramullah, Kulgam and Pulwama. These are where stone-pelting, hoisting of Pakistani and ISIS flags and anti India demonstrations are held. Interestingly, these five districts are located far from the LoC. The other 17 districts, including some along the LoC, are pro India. So the separatists’ writ runs in just 15% of the population, which is Sunni Muslim dominated.
A majority of the people in J&K do not speak Kashmiri as their mother tongue. They speak Dogri, Gujjari, Punjabi, Ladhaki and Pahari. Only 33 % people in Kashmir speak Kashmiri and this group has controlled the narrative, from the Hurriyat to terrorists and from NC and PDP to the bureaucracy, business and agriculture. This Sunni dominated 33% is opposed to India although population of all other Muslims in J&K is 69 %.
The State of J&K, which includes Ladakh (excluding Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which is legally India’s/part of J&K) has a square area of 101380 sq kms, of which 26% is Jammu, 15% is Kashmir and 59% is Ladakh. Of the total area of the State, 85,000 sq Km, which is 85% of it, has a non Muslim majority. Of the total population of 12.5 million, Kashmir’s population is 6,800,000, of which 5,500,000 speak Kashmiri. The remaining 1,300,000 speak non Kashmiri languages.
Jammu, with a population of 5,300,000 comprises people speaking Dogri, Punjabi and Hindi. 300,000 people of Ladakh speak the Ladakhi language. There are 750,000 people settled in the State, who have not been granted the State’s citizenship.
More than 14 major religious/ ethnic groups, amounting to 85% of the population of J&K, are pro India. These include Shias, Dogras (Rajputs, Brahmins and Mahajans), Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists (Ladakhis), Gujjars, Bakarwals, Paharis, Baltis, Christians and others.
Shias (12%), Gujjar Muslims (14%), Pahadi Muslims ( 8%), Buddhists , Pandits, Sufis, Christians and Jammu Hindus/ Dogras (approximately 45%) are totally opposed to separatism and Pakistan. Poonch and Kargil have above 90% Muslim population. There has never been an anti India or separatist protest in these districts.
Separatists also control a section of the media in J&K, which contributes to anti-Indian propaganda/sentiment and also tries to create the impression that all of J&K is against India.
It is time a long overdue course-correction is done in J&K. If the Constitution of India stipulates that provisions related to Article 370 for J&K are of “purely temporary nature”, then it is vital for the cause of India’s integrity and security that it is abrogated.
Another article that needs to be repealed is Article 35 A. On August 6, 2018 the Supreme Court stated that Article 35A of the Indian Constitutional is an instrument for disenfranchisement and violation of human rights of West Pakistani refugees and their descendants, guaranteed under the Constitution of India and India’s obligation under international human rights law.
Some other steps needed to restore peace in J&K are:
(a) The narrative in the Valley has to be changed. As tried in recent months by SFs, use social media to involve the family and friends of radicalized youth to appeal to them to return. Make use of social media to revisit history. Make Kashmiris aware of what Pakistan is doing in Pak Occupied Kashmir and Balochistan.
(b) Simultaneously, social media should be closely monitored not only in J&K but the rest of the country, to prevent the vast spread of apologists from derailing the debate.
(c) Disable the network organizing anti-India operations, stone-pelting and revoke FIRs against Army/SFs personnel.
(d) Education must be fully resumed and school-burners punished and prevented from any further attempts.
(e) All government departments must function properly.
(f) Adopt Indian Army’s Sadbhavna (civic assistance programme) methods to win hearts and minds.
(g) No matter what is done by SFs, till the separatists leaders and their minions are not literally separated from the Valley, terrorism will continue unabated. For lasting peace, legal action must be taken against them and they should be put in jails outside J&K.
With so much at stake, it is high time that the Rubicon – in this case the Jhelum – is crossed and it should be now. Anti-national elements of five odd districts must not be allowed to hold J&K and all of India to ransom.
(The author, a former defence ministry and Indian Army spokesperson and strategic analyst, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)