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Kashmir Insurgency

Indian State Ignored Prodromal Symptoms

By Yoginder Kandhari

MUCH before the armed Islamic fundamentalists took on the might of Indian security forces in Kashmir, in the winter of 1989; broad hints of impending catastrophe were lurking ominously in the Valley's firmament. While analyzing reasons leading to the outbreak of insurgency in Kashmir; experts have often been myopic to restrict the scope of their study to trends and events emerging from 1987 onwards. Most analysts hold the line that large scale rigging during elections in 1987 was the main reason for the Valley to plunge into an era of darkness and destruction. Not many have tried to unwind intricacies of a continuous process of subversion, which has been in place in the Valley, right since the time J&K state acceded to India.

Background: Contrary to common belief that insurgency was a spontaneous consequence of rigged elections of 1987, one needs to understand that an insurgency of the magnitude which India has been contending in the Valley could not have been launched in a matter of just a couple of years. It, surely, needs more than a decade to conceive, propagate, plan and execute an armed struggle of the scale as has been unleashed in the Valley. To do justice to the subject, it is essential to trace history of Kashmir back to pre-partition days when Sheikh Abdullah's Muslim Conference took on the last of Dogra rulers. This confrontation was an unambiguous reassertion of Muslim identity. That the Sheikh opted for accession to India than to Pakistan was as much a matter of political expediency as a first firm step of a greater design of gradual secession of the State from Indian Union on his own terms. Thus, the seed of secessionism was sown right at the dawn of India's independence. It would be naive to de-link events thereafter from those responsible for eruption of current insurgency in the Valley. The two time-periods are extremes of the same continuum. In the interim period process of Islamisation of the polity and, more importantly, the bureaucracy continued unhindered. During this period subversive mechanisms got institutionalized and, in hind sight, it can safely be inferred to have been an important link in their scheme of things.

Return of the Sheikh: Sheikh Abdullah's return to the helm of the State in 1975 was held out to be his political rehabilitation. It, in fact, turned into an opportunity for him to culminate the process of subversion he had initiated in his first tenure. This is borne out by a number of events which unfolded immediately after his second coronation. Few commentators have highlighted the fact that Sheikh was too lenient in his disposition towards Jammat-e-Islami during his second innings, particularly after 1979-80. It was not as if he admired the Islamist organization but it suited his larger game-plan. It may be pertinent to mention here that hectic parleys were held by some international Muslim players to broker an agreement between Jamaat and the Sheikh. In 1980, Rabita, an international Muslim fundamentalist organization with its headquarters in Saudi Arabia, intervened in Kashmir to arrive at an agreement wherein Sheikh was allowed to retain hegemony in Kashmir politics provided he shunned his hostility towards Jamaat and gave it a free hand in pursuit of its larger designs. This explains why anti-Zia-ul-Haq sentiment, which had swept the Valley immediately after Z.A. Bhutto's hanging, dramatically changed into pro- Zia euphoria.

It is surprising why visits by Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief and Madina University's Rector to the Valley, during 1980, did not raise hackles in New Delhi's intelligence circles. Obviously, these emissaries from the Muslim world were on a serious mission to give direction to pan-Islamic game-plan of wresting 'Muslim' Kashmir from India. During this period, Saudi King's sister is also believed to have stayed in Rajbag, Srinagar, as guest of a leading Kashmiri businessman, for a year to ensure that new found rapprochement between the Sheikh and the Jamaat was not derailed by Indian intelligence agencies. Saudi dinars are believed to have flooded the Valley during early eighties to finance a fundamentalist dispensation which was to rear its head in its ugliest form a decade later. During the same period, neither the visit of Amanullah Khan to Pahalgam and Srinagar nor those of Mr. Nelson Rockfeller, followed by Charlton Heston, famous actor doubling up as roving ambassador of Ronald Reagon, were mere coincidences. Amanullah Khan provided the Pakistani content to the nefarious negotiations, while Rockfeller and Heston completed the American arm of the pincer intended to dismember India. Thus, Sheikh's return to seat of power in J&K ushered in an era of overt subversion and sabotage of Indian interests in the Valley.

Janta Party Government: Janta Government's role needs to be put under scanner for callous omissions in its Kashmir policy. Janta Party leaders, keen to settle political scores, dismantled India's intelligence network in Pakistan built over decades through meticulous planning and political vision by the redoubtable Pandit Ram Nath Kao. This was convenient both to Pakistan and to Sheikh's larger game plan. It remains a mystery as to what prompted Janta Government to discontinue practice of regular feedbacks from the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner directly to the centre, thus leaving field open for anti India conspiracies. Ram Nath Kao, founder of RAW, was denigrated by Janta regime, thus demoralizing the cadres of this premier intelligence agency. Consequently RAW's grip on Kashmir affair weakened much to the comfort of subversive forces in the Valley.

In 1979, again under Janta dispensation, Sheikh Tajam-ul- Islam formed Jamaat-e-Tulba. It is no secret that this outfit played a critical role in building a firm infrastructure for Islamist uprising, witnessed a decade later in Kashmir. Thus, it is not difficult to figure out why Pakistan's highest civilian award, 'Nishan-e-Pakistan’, was conferred on Morarji Desai.

Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan: Erstwhile Soviet Union's intervention in Afghanistan, in 1979 shortened the run up of Islamist forces to unleash insurgency in Kashmir. Indira Gandhi, to her credit, had cautioned the then Soviet leadership of the consequences of such misadventure. But destiny willed it otherwise and Pakistan reemerged as a frontline state in American scheme of things. Afghan pipeline inundated Pakistan with arms and funds. It was a God sent opportunity for Pakistan to put its diabolical Kashmir policy in place and who else could script it better than Zia-ul-Haq, a master strategist. If Soviet Union had not involved itself in Afghanistan militarily, it can safely be assumed that armed uprising in Kashmir, though inevitable, would have been delayed at least by a decade.

Militancy in Punjab: In keeping with his shrewd tactical acumen, Zia-ul-Haq did not want to reveal his Kashmir cards until the ground was fertile enough in the Valley for launch of a successful insurgency. Rise and sway of fundamentalist forces was increasing and Zia chose to wait for the opportune moment. As a deception he chose to destabilize Punjab. His game-plan succeeded as Indian government got embroiled in Punjab while ISI dumped arms and ammunition in vale of Kashmir with impunity. "Punjab was just a diversion while Kashmir remains the main objective of Pakistan" was a prophetic observation made by Late Girilal Jain, a noted journalist, as early as in 1984.

Islamisation of Administration & Obliterating Hindu Linkages in Kashmir: The process of Islamisation of all instruments of the state continued unabated. In a carefully calculated policy Hindus were denied employment and promotions in state administration thus purging the system of Indian ‘moles’. It is no secret that Allahwale, a fundamentalist outfit, spread its reach to corridors of power in Kashmir with its ideology seeping deep into the roots of state administration. Establishing a mosque within the secretariat premises, in Srinagar, was its first manifestation. Jamaat and Allahwale ideology permeated into the police force as well, weaving an extensive grid of subversive cells in this important arm of state administration. This network later worked hand in glove with terrorists thus frustrating efforts of security forces to decimate their influence in initial stages of militancy. Even cultural subversion continued unhindered under the Sheikh regime. Citing administrative reasons, old historical names of 682 villages in Kashmir were changed to Islamic ones. This was done to please the new found ally, Jammat-e-Islami, which was hell bent upon severing all Hindu linkages of Kashmir to India. In mid-eighties, hardcore fundamentalist cadres were brazenly absorbed in state administration to facilitate subversion. During G. M. Shah's tenure two armed police battalions were raised mainly from people owing allegiance to Jamaat-e-Islami. Besides, the premature removal of M. M. Khajuria, DG State Police, some believe at the behest of pro-Jamaat elements in administration, hastened subversion of the police setup. Why Jagmohan, the then Governor of the state, remained a mute spectator to unabashed Islamisation and subversion of the state setup remains a moot point till date. All the more baffling was his decision to recall Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah, who as DG state police was the architect of Islamizing the police force in 1984, as his advisor when the former was brought back, in 1990, as Governor of the troubled State.

Battle Indications Neglected: Credible information was available with intelligence agencies that an armed uprising in the Valley was in the offing. Way back in 1983, intelligence operatives in Kupwara had alerted their bosses about a batch of twenty youth having crossed over to Pakistan for arms training. Similarly in 1984, a journalist reported crossing over of a group of Kashmiri students from Poonch to Pakistan. This journalist was almost fired from his job by the national news agency, for which he worked, for filing this report. When a local journalist, of a vernacular daily, filed a story about subversive activities going on in the Valley in 1983, a leading English daily dubbed the journalist as 'terrorist in media'. Why the intelligence mandarins and those in corridors of power in New Delhi chose to turn a blind eye to these battle indications defies logic.

Conclusion:  Indian state failed to read the writing on the wall. The tragedy with all our institutional apparatuses, whether state or otherwise, is that these refuse to believe what they see and wallow in a make believe world of their own. That basically is the reason why preparations for the insurgency in the Valley did not invite state action. This strategic lethargy has been exploited to the hilt by our enemy, both without and within, and unfortunately such an approach continues even today. That is why policies formulated by GoI to contain terrorism end up strengthening subversion itself. Cost of this neglect of prodromal symptoms of insurgency by the Indian state is being paid by the frontline victims and Indian security personnel.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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