Syed Ajmal Hussain offers some suggestions to settle one of the sub-continent’s most challenging and enduring issues
Kashmir is going through a very difficult phase. ‘Kashmir’s problems are highly complex and they need careful and tactful handling,’ the Lutyens thinkers assert, which essentially means: let’s not stir the pot but allow ‘Birbal’s khichdi’ to cook at its own pace.
The solutions to the most complicated problems are frequently simple; solving them is often a matter of perspective and clarity of vision. So, here are 12 recommendations –‘commandments’, if you will – which, if adhered to in letter and spirit, could help to resolve the so-called ‘Kashmir conundrum’ over a period of time, if not overnight.
1. The overwhelming sense of immunity and impunity across all circles in Kashmir needs to end; only then will New Delhi be able to see a tangible change amongst those who propagate violence
A few years ago, some journalists meeting Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik over drinks told him that he should be thankful that the Air Force personnel he killed in 1990 belonged to ‘India’. Had he committed this crime in some other country, he would have been tried and hanged long ago.
We need to make an example of the likes of Yasin Malik and former Kashmiri militant Bitta Karate. Karate is currentlyin jailon charges of terror-funding. But he needs to be put on trial for the murder of over 30 people, many of them Kashmiri Pandits, which he admitted to on national television in June 1990. And that trial should be filmed. (Think big, like Nuremberg.)
2. Engage with journalists, academics, human rights groups and expose those who are on the payrolls of foreign agencies such as the ISI
Such engagement will bring wise counsel, and those on the payrolls of foreign agencies deserve to be exposed. India fails miserably when it comes to presenting its side of the story, especially in theUS and Europe. For example, the South Asian Departments of various universities in America and Britain incessantly present Pakistan’s propaganda at every conference/talk in the US/Europe – for example, many people such as Huma Dar in Berkeley get away without being challenged. Yet hardly anyone presents the facts from the Indian side.
3. Carry out extensive reforms of the local judiciary, which is almost defunct
Failure to convict those who incite violence, commit/propagate terror acts is endemic. In caseafter case, one can see ‘no conviction’, even where evidence has been sufficient to convict. Overhaul the system. Bring in competent public prosecutors and experienced judges, if required, from different parts of the state.
4. Take steps to bring to the fore Kashmir’s syncretic past, restoring its biggest symbols to their past glory
Incentivise all ethnic groups to tell their story and use the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits by Pakistan-backed groups in the 1990s as a powerful tool to shame the so-called Kashmir insurgency movement.Commission films and documentaries about what happened. Bring it within the global discourse to project how this movement challenges India’s ethos of tolerance and inter-religious harmony. Once the situation in the Valley stabilises, take concrete measures to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits and all those who suffered at the cruel hands of insurgency and terrorist violence.
5. Hit at the fountainhead of radicalisation in Kashmir
Monitor those religious centres which propagate fundamentalism, arresting people like Mushtaq Veeri, who feeds theyounger generation on a heavy diet of jihad and anti-India venom. Choke his funding. Monitor what is being taught in schools. Deal sternly with teachers who encourage jihad and separatism. For example, Hameeda Nayeem, a Kashmir University professor and wife of a separatist leader, draws an Indian government salary. So why should she be allowed to spew venom against the secular ethos of India (she calls it a devil nation, a brother of Israel, among other things) and spread malicious rumours withimpunity?
6. Review all Government of India funds going to Kashmir
What is this funding being used for? Who decides who gets it? And a permanent review mechanism is needed for end use.
7. Have a massive crackdown on corruption
This is especially important at institutions such as J&K Bank, which became a hub of terror financing and insurgency related hawala funding.
8. Set out clear rules of engagement with the police/paramilitary/army
When young boys see CRPF jawans being kicked and their helmets thrown away, the Indian State becomes permanently weak in their eyes and a sense of bravado is created in their minds. This should not be tolerated at any cost. If the security forces are engaged in an operation with terrorists and the local population comes to disrupt, they should be strictly dealt with. Standardise responses to levels of disruption are required across Kashmir – when to take extreme measures, pre-negotiation and defining ‘redlines’. Leave no ambiguity.
9. Glamorize uniforms, especially those of the local police
Currently, the youth of Kashmir see terrorists as Che Guevara figures, with their long hair and shiny AK-47s. But it must be shown that committing acts of terror and dying for it is no ‘honour’. The essential fallacy of such a narrative must be exposed, whereas serving the larger national good must be glorified.
10. Remove ambiguity surrounding forces like the Special Operations Group (SOG)
Right now, they feel like orphans. They are not even allowed to use their name explicitly as if somehow it is shameful to be associated with such force. Such a practice, encouraged by local politicians like Mehbooba Mufti in the past, must end.
11. Identify and act against those who propagate violence, intolerance and separatism from within the education system
In the last 30 years, hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami activists have been absorbed into schools and other educational institutions, becoming tools for radicalisation and violence. They must be stopped.
12. Deal with those local newspapers which have nourished separatist and violent discourse in the Valley
There is too much corruption in giving government advertisements to them, which ultimately give them financial sustenance. They are basically all running on India’s money. Don’t listen to local Intelligence Bureau officers if they say a particular leader or newspaper is an ‘asset’. Take immediate measures to identify them and stop financial sustenance via government money. Prosecute them if they deliberately produce fake and provocative news.