Ensuring Secure Amarnath Pilgrimage should be Government’s Top Priority

Though suggesting abrogation of Article 370, and changing name of Jammu and Kashmir may be among various important measures the Government should take to improve situation in the state during the Governor’s rule, the immediate priority should be to ensure the smooth and secure pilgrimage to Amarnath.

Indian Army

By Col Anil Bhat (Retd)

The over two months Sino-India stand-off at Doklam finally got resolved, raising hopes that by October 2017, the two nations would have created a record of completing 50 years of bullet-less management of the long Line of Actual Control (LAC). But for a country which wants to trade tremendously with India, this decades long management to maintain peace and tranquility has been punctuated too frequently, continuously, by transgressions on some pretext or the other, by China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). While PLA air force has been complementing many of the land transgressions, PLA navy has stepped up its presence with proximity in the Indian Ocean Region. PLA’s bluster during the stand-off was: “Moving a mountain (is) easier than shaking PLA.”

At long last, after proving its high threshold for tolerating all kinds of anti-national activities in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the BJP government imposed Governor’s rule. Over many years and much more since 2016, Kashmir Valley was sundered with countless heightened acts of terrorism, radicalization, destruction of schools, selective atrocious killings of good/patriotic Kashmiris, victimization of army/security forces (SFs) etc, not to mention many decades of misgovernance by successive governments.

While the decision to impose Governor’s rule is a result of political will, much higher degrees of it will be required to take more hard decisions and ensuring their implementation. Because that is the only way to retrieve the seriously infected/contaminated part of the Kashmir Valley, which not only affects the entire State but also the country’s security.

Undoubtedly, while the immediate priority is ensuring a smooth and secure Amarnath pilgrimage, given the terrorist threat and the weather, alongside, tourism will have to be covered similarly. Even on July 8, 2018, a Sunday, the pilgrimage had to be suspended owing to separatists glorifying the death anniversary of a hardcore terrorist leader.

The large community of minor traders for whom tourism provides sustenance has suffered greatly and the BJP government must seriously consider some relief measures for them.

Education, which has since long been majorly targeted by Pakistan through the Valley-based separatists and which was dealt a body blow with the destruction of almost forty schools, will need an urgent and sustained boost.

Ruining education in the Valley was also linked to the process of radicalisation. The aim of Pakistan’s military and mullahs is to destroy education on one hand and on the other to indoctrinate and incite people, particularly youth. While in earlier years radicalization was carried out through separatist leaders and clerics in mosques and religious/political 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 and People’s Democratic Party pandered to Pakistan/pro-Pakistan elements, forgetting how the Valley had been exploited by Pakistan during the late-1980s onward phase. Thanks to the Indian Army’s vigil on the Line of Control (LoC) and terrorism was reduced to the extent that tourism began to flourish once again, it became too much for Pakistan’s directors of anti-India operations. New tactics like paid stone-pelting were developed to raise them to the level of hectoring the Army and SFs during their operations. PDP went even further by filing FIRs against Army and SF personnel for doing their duty while being stoned and even petrol-bombed.

After the abductions and brutal murders of Kashmiri Army personnel like Lt Umar Fayaz, many Kashmiri J&K police personnel and finally Rifleman Aurangzed and Editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, that too during the Ramzan ceasefire totally disregarded by separatists and terrorists, the BJP decided to pull out of the alliance and promulgate Governor’s rule. One of the reasons for all these murders and for many other problems in the Valley are that over the past decades and particularly in the last few years, truth/facts/history became major casualties. Kashmiris have not only been killed by Pakistani terrorists but also by Pak-supported Kashmiri terrorists and recently 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 State, which should be factored in. For seven decades political leaders from New Delhi have endlessly been parroting that J&K is India’s ‘atoot ang’ (unbreakable part), the hard decisions required to run this State so that it remains an unbreakable part have been avoided by both Congress governments at the Centre and of course all J&K State governments.

By the end of 1980s, at least 5,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits/Saraswat Brahmins, the original inhabitants of the land named after the sage, Kashyap, were threatened/ intimidated by Pakistan-paid Kashmiri separatists/their network/followers, many were killed and finally over 4,00,000 were forced to flee, leaving behind their belongings and properties.

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 far away from the LoC. The other 17 districts, including some along the LoC, are fully pro India. So separatist’s writ runs in just 15 per cent of the population which is Sunni Muslim dominated. Majority of the people in J&K do not speak Kashmiri as their mother tongue. They speak Dogri, Gujjari, Punjabi, Ladhaki , Pahari etc. Only 33 per cent people in Kashmir speak Kashmiri and this group has controlled the narrative from Hurriyat to terrorists and from NC and PDP and thereby, bureaucracy, business and agriculture. This Sunni dominated 33 per cent is opposed to India although population of all other Muslims in J&K is 69 per cent.

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 per cent is Jammu, 15 per cent is Kashmir and 59 per cent is Ladakh. Considering this fact, the State should really have been named Ladakh, Jammu, Kashmir. It is worth considering to do so even now.

Of the total area of the State, 85,000 sq Km, which is 85 per cent of it, has a non Muslim majority. Of the total population of 1.25 crores (12.5 million), Kashmir’s population is 69, 00,000, of which 55,00,000 speak Kashmiri. The remainder 13,00,000 speak non Kashmiri languages.

Jammu, with a population of 53,00,000 comprises people speaking Dogri, Punjabi and Hindi. 3,00,000 people of Ladakh speak the Ladakhi language. There are 7,50,000 people settled in the State, who have not been granted the State’s citizenship.

More than fourteen major religious/ethinic groups amounting to 85 per cent of the population of J&K, are totally pro India. These include Shias, Dogras (Rajputs, Brahmins and Mahajans), Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists (Ladakhis), Gujjars, Bakarwals, Paharis, Baltis, Christians and some more.

Shias (12 per cent), Gujjar Muslims (14 per cent), Pahadi Muslims (8 per cent), Buddhists , Pandits, Sufis, Christians and Jammu Hindus/ Dogras (approximately 45 per cent) are totally opposed to separatism and Pakistan. Poonch and Kargil have above 90 per cent 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 carries/contributes to anti-Indian propaganda/sentiment and also tries to create the impression that all of J&K is against India. It is high time a long overdue course-correction is done in J&K. If the Constitution of India stipulates that the provisions related to Article 370 for J&K are of “purely temporary nature”, then all the more reason that for the vital cause of India’s integrity and security, it is abrogated.

Some of many other steps required are:

  • The narrative in the Valley has to be changed. As tried out in recent months by Army/SFs, use social media to involve the parents/close relative/friends of radicalized youth/those being motivated to join Pakistani or Kashmiri terrorist groups, 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, Balochistan etc.
  • Simultaneously, social media needs to be closely monitored not only in J&K but the rest of the country, to prevent the vast spread of leftists/apologists from derailing the debate.
  • Disable the network organizing anti-India/Army/SF operations/ stone-pelting and revoke FIRs against Army/SFs personnel.
  • Education must be fully resumed and school-burners must be punished/prevented from any further attempts.
  • All government departments must function properly.
  • Adopt Indian Army’s Sadbhavna (civic assistance programme) methods to win hearts and minds.
  • No matter what all is done by Army/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 too much at stake, it is time to cross the Rubicon-the Jhelum in this case.

–The author, an independent strategic analyst, is Editor, WordSword Features

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