Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pointed out that the lawful residents of Kashmir enjoyed the same level of “azaadi” (freedom) as other citizens in the Union of India did, thereby subtly reiterating the fact that any “solution” to what is termed the “Kashmir problem” cannot mean separation from the rest of the country. What boosters of the ongoing efforts at insurgency in the state forget is that the separatist elements are clear about just what type of a state they intend to transform Kashmir into. The proposed state would take away the rights of women in the matter of dress, work and education. Ladies accused of straying outside marriage would be stoned to death. Those citizens having belief systems other than Wahhabi would be expelled. The young would be encouraged to take up arms to do battle in the ways prescribed by armed Wahhabi groups, which is to blow themselves up together with as many innocents as they can kill. In short, their purpose would be to make Kashmir what Iraq, Libya and Syria have become as a consequence of the success of “freedom fighters” of a like disposition. In the streets of Srinagar and other towns in Kashmir, it is those whose average age is 15 who pour onto the streets. Those who are older know that delinking any part of the state still in the control of India after the Mountbatten-Nehru ceasefire of 1949 is not an option. Thousands of youths in Kashmir are seeing their futures demolished because of their involvement in the “youth wave” tactics employed by GHQ Rawalpindi against security forces in Kashmir.
Some have opined that “love and affection” should be shown to such juveniles. The next time a mob of several hundred—armed with daggers, sticks and stones—come at a police or BSF picket with the intention of killing all uniformed personnel at the post, should the response of those under attack be to come out of their bunkers with flowers and sweets in their hands? Would such a show of “love and affection” deflect the mobs from their murderous designs to instead eat with gusto the halwa, laddoos and jalebi handed to them by self-disarmed security forces? What would happen if such a display of uniformed love and affection failed to move the youthful mobs, and instead they continued on their task of killing security personnel?
This columnist has for long been sceptical of the power of “love and affection” to melt the hearts of those in Kashmir who are seeking to make the ISI succeed in its design for the state, which is that it should bleed incessantly, thereby garnering newspaper headlines across the globe. Oddly, few of the newspapers and magazines that fault the Indian Army (for seeking to prevent the forcible conversion of a part of the country into a Wahhabi state), report on the Pakistan army’s own military campaign against elements in the northwest of that country, in which artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft are used daily in a manner unknown in the Kashmir valley. Global newspapers that fill their columns with events in the Kashmir valley, hardly mention such operations. Forbearance has not won India any points globally, for the patter of negative media commentary and official comments about the situation in Kashmir continues. Could it be that the Indian Army’s self-limiting tactics are wrong, and that perhaps Pakistan, the US, Russia and others who respond much more forcefully to acts similar to those committed in Kashmir by armed groups are right? What if, as in Pakistan, the full force of the armed forces were used to raze the homes of those who are sheltering those indulging in armed struggle against the Union of India? Why not give such Self-Declared Pakistanis “azaadi” from their properties in India? If the laws on sedition and on waging war against the state have any validity at all, these need to be used against the Geelanis and the Andrabis. Rather than send them to prison, what ought to be done is to take over their properties and send them to the country they regard as home. Rather than confused knots of police and security personnel responding with air rifle pellets to violent mobs, what is needed is to educate those in Kashmir who are inclined towards separatism of the multitudinous capabilities of the Indian armed forces. This could be achieved through full-scope attacks on militant nests in the state, and by conducting operations on the scale and ferocity of those conducted in Pakistan by that country’s army. Of course, the official policy of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Home Affairs has been to spare even the homes of those who shelter elements of the armed separatist groups in Kashmir. Such a “love and affection” policy has done little to cure too many in the Valley of the belief that the Indian state has a marshmallow core. Certainly the “sidelined majority” in Kashmir (those who understand that the state’s accession to India is irrevocable) need gentle handling, but Self-Declared Pakistanis who instigate immature youths into acts of violence need to feel “Shock and Awe” and not any more “Love and Affection”.
During the 1990s, the US, China, the EU and the GCC were united in seeking an alteration in the status quo that was favourable to Pakistan. India’s ally, the USSR, had been defeated in Afghanistan and GHQ in Rawalpindi was shifting focus from that country to Kashmir, moving more irregular conscripts into the state. Today, even the GCC has been taking a nuanced position on Kashmir, despite periodic gusts of hot air from the OIC. Unless Delhi convinces doubters through a show of capabilities in the field that accession is final, and that the Union of India has both the might and the will to ensure the defeat of the Pakistan military’s designs, the cauldron in the valley will continue to boil over again and again, damaging the future of a talented and admirable people in a valley that has the potential to rival Silicon Valley in a calmer future.