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Official insensitivity breeding violence in Kashmir

July 08, 2010 13:48 IST
The anger of the youth might have been pacified initially if the governments at Srinagar and New Delhi had shown some understanding of the anger and initiated measures to defuse it, writes B Raman

What we are witnessing in certain areas of Jammu & Kashmir is the beginning of a jihadi intifada as propounded by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Number 2 to Osama bin Laden, in his messages of February 12, 2007, and earlier addressed to all Muslims.

Jihadi intifada is a kind of struggle in which the role of motivated individuals will become more important than that of organisations so that the weakening or collapse of an organisation does not result in a collapse of the intifada. Zawahiri wanted the intifada to acquire a momentum of its own as a result of the sacrifices of individuals. The motivation of individuals is more important than any centralised command and control.

One does not know whether the Al Qaeda has had any role in the current violence in Kashmir, but its idea that the time had come to transform the jihad characterised by acts of terrorism into an intifada on a global scale characterised by leaderless street violence and the technique of a mix of military and non-military struggles has had some impact on the thinking and behaviour of some sections of the Kashmiri youth.

We are confronted with a situation marked by leaders without followers and followers without leaders. The traditional political leaders of Kashmir have no influence over the agitating youth. The agitating youth have no identifiable leaders to whom an approach can be made by the government for bringing down the violence.

Whatever be the extent of the Pakistani role in instigating the violence, it has acquired a momentum of its own unrelated to Pakistan. Islamabad has been exploiting the violence, but does not seem to be the originator of it.

The root cause is the growing perception among some sections of the youth that the security forces have been insensitive in performing their counter-insurgency duties and have been adopting objectionable methods (for example, alleged false encounters) and using disproportionate force against the people.

The current street violence has had no strategic political objective relating to the future political status of Kashmir. It is the result of an outburst of anger against the security forces. It does not have a strategic direction as yet, but may acquire one if it continues without the anger of the participating youth being pacified by the government.

The anger of the youth might have been pacified initially if the governments at Srinagar and New Delhi had shown some understanding of the anger and initiated measures to defuse it, such as enquiries into allegations of excesses by the security forces, paying greater attention to complaints of violations of the human rights of the people and better ways of dealing with street protestors without using firearms.

The success of the last general elections in which nearly two-thirds of the voters participated and the perception that the ground situation was coming under control created a feeling of over-confidence in the government at the Centre, which slowed down the efforts to find a political solution to the demands of the people and showed an increased insensitivity towards the anger of sections of the youth against the security forces.

The current movement started due to some anger against the security forces. Perceptions of political indifference to that anger have led to the anger turning against the political leadership. We find ourselves caught in a vicious circle. The more the public expressed anger against the security forces, the more the force used against the agitators, and the more the force used against the agitators, the more the anger against the security forces.

When there was a decline in violence and we should have been taking advantage of it to deal with strategic issues relating to the future political set-up, we did not do so.

Now, when the immediate objective should be to reduce the anger of the moment due to the grievances against the security forces, we are talking of long-term political issues.

Better methods of street control to avoid the use of firearms, prompt and satisfactory attention to the complaints of the people regarding excessive use of force and violations of human rights, greater interactions between the government and the agitating youth, greater control over our rhetoric to avoid demonisation of the agitators and attempts to remove the impression that the government tends to bat for the errant elements in the security forces and not for the people are some of the immediate steps required.

The use of the Army against the street agitators would be unwise unless the situation turns desperate, leaving no other option.
B Raman