Activism in Kashmir is likely to be communitized again
Kashmir is once again witnessing targeted killings of Hindus and Sikhs. In the past few days, those shot include a famous pharmacist from Srinagar, Makhan Lal Bindroo, who had never left Kashmir during all the years of violence, and two teachers from a public school in Srinagar, one a Pandit, the other a Sikh woman. .
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sponsored activism in Kashmir has always tried to keep multiple fronts open simultaneously in order to exert physical and psychological pressure on India from various angles. To this day, they continue to do so and continue to move between the fronts depending on the situation.
Initial “insurrectional focus”
The first front was to express the latent discontent of the people in the form of an armed insurrection. In 1989, the sporadic violence had started to take the form of an insurgent movement with increasing involvement of the population. Kashmir quickly entered an “era of strikes” from various sections of society. In 1990, the state administration was also affected. On February 5, 1991, the Prime Minister of Pakistan struck a strike and it elicited a very good response in the Valley.
What Pakistan had not been able to do in Operation Gulmarg (1947) and Operation Gibraltar (1965) by infiltrating fighters from outside, they hoped and sought to accomplish this time from there. inside.
However, there was a miscalculation. Pakistan had assumed that its support for the insurgency would inflict the classic “death of a thousand strokes”. They inflicted a thousand cuts, but India, being a large country, was able to bear the losses. The ISI had thought that the insurgency focus would trigger a chain reaction leading to the collapse of Indian control. It didn’t have to be. They underestimated India’s inertia and resilience.
The ISI failed to realize that while it was relatively easy to give refuge to terrorists on its soil – and to train, equip and exfiltrate them – it was difficult to psychologically prepare the Kashmiri people for a long struggle. insurgents.
One form that popular participation took was the stone throw. However, there was a limit to which it could be used without inviting severe counteraction. The ISI sought to rekindle insurgency attention in 2008, capitalizing on the Amarnath land transfer controversy, but it fizzled out.
Military dimension of activism
Since the start of the insurgency, militants have sporadically targeted the security forces. The most popular modus operandi has been to attack security forces by firing from a distance or throwing grenades. IEDs were not very common. Some attacks, however, were also frontal.
However, all of these attacks, no matter how sensational or resulting in many casualties, were never intended to militarily attack and defeat India. The aim was to continue to harass the security forces so that New Delhi would be forced to deploy its army on a large scale in Kashmir. This forced huge expenses for the Indian state and also helped Pakistan project an image of Kashmir as the most heavily militarized area in the world – in an effort to “internationalize” the issue. Anyway, hopes of any success thanks to the military dimension of the insurgency were effectively dashed in 1996 when elections, with a low turnout, were held.
Notable incidents of daring frontal attacks on the security forces include the attack on Badami Bagh cantonment, Srinagar (November 3, 1999); the attack on the SOG Complex (December 27, 1999); the attack on the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) camp in Khanabal (January 12, 2000); the attack on the RR camp in Ganderbal (March 12, 2000); the attack on the BSF camp at Natipora; the attack on the Badami Bagh cantonment, Srinagar (April 19, 2000); the attack on the RR camp in Beervah (September 12, 2000); the attack on Srinagar airport (January 16, 2001); the attack on the police control room (February 9, 2001); the attack on the Legislative Assembly (October 1, 2001); and the attack on the Kaluchak military camp (May 14, 2002).
The military dimension received new impetus after Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad unleashed Jaish-e-Mohammed in Kashmir following the hijacking of IC-814. This saw the introduction of the suicide bombing in Kashmir. The attacks included the car bombings at Badamibagh Cantonment, Srinagar, in May 2000 and December 2000.
Community dimension of activism
The tragic story of the pandits’ exodus from Kashmir is too well known to be told again here.
Major community attacks in Kashmir have included the Wandhama massacre (January 1998); Chattisinghpora massacre (March 20, 2000); massacre of pilgrims from Amarnath (August 1, 2000); attacks on Raghunath temple, Jammu (March 30 and November 24, 2002); massacre of Hindus in Qasimnagar (July 13, 2002); Nadigram Massacre (March 23, 2003); and Doda massacre (April 30, 2006).
A community angle has always been present in Kashmiri activism, exemplified by the massacre of Sikhs in Chittisinghpora in 2000. Without the role of religion, terrorists would not have attacked temples throughout the valley after Charar-e- Sharief operation involving the foreign terrorist Mast Gul. Because a Muslim shrine was emptied, the reaction took place on Hindu shrines.
John McCuen described four phases of insurgency in his The Art of Counterrevolutionary Warfare: The Strategy of Counterinsurgency. Finally, discouraged by the failure of the military dimension, the militant groups slipped into the phase of terrorism from that of insurgency.
And it is the phase of terrorism that now seems to be in the foreground.
The dangers of a renewed communitarization of activism
A few murders, as reprehensible as they are, do not lead to a generalized conclusion. However, given the long history of community activism in Kashmir, a resumption of such incidents suggests that activism is likely to be communitarized again. This does not bode well for the nation because the community atmosphere in the country is already heavily overloaded. This is where the current scenario differs significantly from the old one.
The terrorists are aware that it is no longer possible for them to attack “militarily” the power of the Indian security forces. Therefore, they are looking for soft targets, which are not only soft in terms of how easily they could be attacked – they want to choose targets that convey a clear message.
The message is addressed to both the Indian government and the communities of those killed.
The message to the Indian government is that it considers it to be a majority community government and therefore, if it cannot directly attack the government security organs or apparatus, it would instead attack its soft underbelly, the weaker of the weak targets. .
For the majority community, the message is particularly grim. The targeted killings of Hindus and Sikhs in the valley in such a brutal fashion are aimed at creating revulsion in the country in the hope that they could be retaliatory attacks against Muslims elsewhere in the country, in the form riots or whatever. This would further vitiate the already stale community atmosphere across the country and from the activists’ perspective; this would once again help them internationalize the issue by mixing the Kashmir issue with the larger issue of the persecution of Muslims in India.
NC Asthana, a retired IPS officer, served as DGP Kerala and ADG CRPF and BSF. He is the author of 49 books, including nine on military science, defense and strategy and four on homeland security.