Event ReportsPublished on Sep 25, 2010
Despite intermittent violence and media claims, the youth in the Kashmir Valley are apprehensive about the mood and methods of the hard-line political parties and leaders, according to Brigadier K Srinivasan (retd),
Kashmir: Need to side-step hard-liners, address the youth
Despite intermittent violence and media claims, the youth in the Kashmir Valley are apprehensive about the mood and methods of the hard-line political parties and leaders, according to Brigadier K Srinivasan (retd), Director of the Centre for Security Analysis (CSA), Chennai.

Initiating an interaction on Kashmir titled ‘First-hand impressions from Jammu and Kashmir’at the ORF Chennai on Saturday (September 25, 2010), he said the Governments at the Centre and in the State should side-step the hard-liners and address the concerns of the youth, whose needs were real and immediate in terms of missed education, lost jobs, et al.

 Pointing out that the ‘Kashmir issue’ was simmering since 1931, Srinivasan referred in particular to the current phase, dating back to 1986 which took a violent turn in 1989. He said this was the starting-point of the problem.  However, Pakistan has constantly changed its strategies in Kashmir. In the Eighties, the conventional military forces were not used. This time, they encouraged local militants to create tensions in the region. By 1991-92, the strategy had gathered momentum. It was a very difficult phase for India since the situation went out of control and the armed forces had to work hard to prevent infiltration from across the border. During this phase, several Kashmiris were forced to migrate out of the State, particularly the Valley.

By 1993-1994 though, situations had improved and stabilised in Kashmir. The security forces were well deployed and the situation was, hence, contained. Srinivasan made a special mention about the creation of a Unified Command for the security forces, and pointed out how it had helped in stabilising the situation. By 1995-96, the security forces had brought the situation under further control, heralding an era of development and effective governance. The fencing of the ‘Line of Control’ during this phase helped in reducing infiltration, he said.

One of the major concerns, Srinivasan said, was Pakistan’s ability to identify simmering issues as against overt problems locally, and exploit them to encourage civil disobedience. Pakistan needed a reason to create problems and they never missed even the slightest opportunity in doing so. Minor incidents thus could give rise to tensions and violence. Pakistan has also funded the local militants in the Valley.

On the political front, Srinivasan expressed concern over the inability of the ruling National Congress and the predecessor People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when it came to the prevention of incidents such as stone-pelting, which led to police action.. There are several pieces of legislation in force, like the Public Security Act, the Armed Force Special Powers Act, but none of them has been a reason for the local people getting violent and pelting stones. Instead, it could be actions such as thorough frisking of the people at the airport and other security-points which could have been humiliating for some. The security forces too have their tales of woes in this connection, and they should not be ignored either, he said.

In spite of high investments, the income generated in the Valley was very minimal. The State contributed less than one per cent to the national GDP. The local administration was also not in a proper state and there was a need for good leadership for effecting improvement. Even as the State could boast of good institutions for higher education and top-class universities, primary education itself was neglected. Militants had burned down over 800 schools, and very few have been rebuilt. People in the Valley claimed that the Jammu region was more developed than their region, but the latter in turn point out that they were way behind in terms of industrialisation. Given the kind of moods and methods, the problem in the Valley could not be easily resolved. It needed to be contained, he said.

During the discussions that followed, participants pointed out how the intifada tactics of the insurgents had never been criticised whereas the security forces have always come under criticism. There is also the problem of the youth which has to be dealt with. There is gross incompetence at the decision-making level. Rule of the law too was very minimal.  Yet, the youth of Kashmir was better off than his brethren elsewhere in the country as almost everything was subsidised there.

The discussions also raised concerns about various insurgencies in the North-East and how the local people have become indifferent towards it. Though the Centre and the State Governments invested heavily on development projects in the State, only a select few benefited from them. People who have entrepreneurial skills did not want to take the risk. There was also an impression in the Valley that people from the region were not given jobs outside the State. There have also been apprehensions about on whether Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan, but encouraging them to work outside the State could improve remittances back home, increase their awareness about the rest of India and its attitude to both religion and the people, and improve per capita income. All of this would help change attitudes and approaches in the Valley.

Participants also pointed out how separatists in Kashmir had tried to attack democracy and secularism in India. Usually Pakistan induced tensions in Kashmir when the situation in that country deteriorated and Islamabad was scared that India would take advantage of the same. The Kashmir issue was often looked upon as a ‘Muslim issue’ and not a political problem.

Thus, Pakistan supported home-grown militants in the State and later used human rights issues as an instrument against India. However, most Kashmiris were more concerned about possible domination by the Pathans and Punjabis in Pakistan, and this needed to be kept in mind while strategising for the State.

Despite constant criticism, there was no sign of improvement in the administration in the State. The Centre was not making its moral authority felt in the State. A plan of action should hence be drawn and implemented, for treating the people of Kashmir with due respect and humaneness.

In his concluding remarks, Captain H Balakrishnan (retd, Indian Navy), who chaired the session, struck a positive note. Of the 1000-odd cases filed against the armed forces for human rights violations, only 35 proved to be correct. The Army did take action in the proven cases, he said.

(This report is prepared by Debalina Chatterjee, II Year M.A. International Studies, Stella Maris College, Chennai)
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