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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Time for policy reorientation Firdaus Ahmed on the change away from the 'hard-line' in Jammu & Kashmir December 2002 - An Indian 'Truth Commission' on Kashmir is not going to be a reality, even if the toll in Kashmir has been such as to convince some liberals that there is a case for one. In the unlikely event that such a Commission sees light of day, it will meet with an impenetrable wall of official secrecy at best and set a politico-bureaucratic soccer game at worst. Pragmatic opinion will chide it with being a witch hunt, opening wounds that are best left to heal through forgetting, if not forgiving. The fact is that a Truth Commission will only be envisaged in the event of the Kashmir situation spiraling out of control; a crisis that was last on the cards during the heady days when the people of Kashmir took to Srinagar's streets in early 1990. With the elections safely out of the way, triumphalism at having bested Pakistan can only be round the corner. Premature expression to the same has been restrained thus far since the jury is still out on the issue. The 'window of opportunity' opened by the elections in J&K will last as long as the coming winter. Thereafter, the complexion of the two newly elected governments in Srinagar and Islamabad will dictate the whether the militancy in Kashmir is finally behind us.

See for deletion - http://www.indiatogether.org/opinions/fahmed/fa1202.htm

Kashmiri militancy has undergone three phases. The first was characterized by wide spread participation of the people in an 'uprising' that caught both India and Pakistan by surprise. The second was fuelled by disaffected youth joining the 'insurgency' being waged largely under the pro-azadi JKLF. The third phase was the gaining of upper hand by the pro-Pakistani fundamentalist forces with the launching of Pakistan's 'proxy war' in right earnest. The Indian responses in all three phases - 'uprising', 'insurgency' and 'proxy war' - can be faulted for persisting with a singular 'hard-line' policy as against the menu of policy options available. The rationale informing the policy was to defuse the 'demonstration effect' the insurgency would have on other restive parts of the country. Politically India could not be seen as being 'soft' on a foreign inspired insurgency.
The 'hard-line' in the first phase amounted to Mr. Jagmohan putting down the popular uprising with his tested methods of Emergency days. The nature of the tools available to him, the magnitude of the rebellion and political instability in New Delhi, restricted his options. Nevertheless, it is arguable that a politically nuanced approach by the Indian state could have pacified the people, given that their alienation was indeed induced by manipulative policies of New Delhi. Persistence of the 'hard-line' into the second phase of insurgency resulted in playing into Pakistani hands owing to decimation of the pro-azadi groups by Indian security forces. A nuanced approach, privileging a 'hearts and minds' campaign, as against a bean count approach, could have furnished the grounds to revert to a functional political process.
The 'hard-line' in the proxy war phase amounted to shortening the lifespan of the 'terrorists' in order to deter those following in their footsteps. On account of prevailing levels of disaffection, intelligence was sparse. This led to resort to intelligence operations involving use of surrendered militants and statistics intensive operations. The overall affect was the creation of a permissive environment for use of force that made human rights violations inevitable, even if these were not intended in the policy. A defensive attitude and instrumental use of the human rights issue in the larger propaganda war lead to squandering an opportunity to regain the confidence of the people through appropriate punitive action against errant security force elements.
The point is that in all phases, alternative policy options, in terms of a nuanced approach or a 'soft line', were available to the decision makers in Srinagar and New Delhi. The chief advantage these have versus the 'hard-line' is that they are more in keeping with the 'hearts and minds' dictum that undergrids the theoretical paradigm of counter insurgency. A people-centric approach creates more space for the political prong of strategy to bring about the end game. Restricted autonomy for security forces helps ensure that the cycle of violence is contained. Fewer instances of human rights violations help win the psychological campaign that is central to the state regaining legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the people. These doctrinal features are neglected in adoption of a 'hard-line' policy.
In the event, persistence with the 'hard-line' in the face of liberal disapproval and international attention owed to two reasons. One was that Pakistani involvement helped legitimize the 'hard-line', thereby preventing it from being a political liability. The second was the containment of the situation by security forces owing partially to the saturation levels of their presence in the Valley as also due to Pakistan keeping its levels of provocation below India's level of tolerance. The result was that continued alienation amongst the people lead to tacit support for infiltrators. This made security operations less discriminate and humane. In effect, the 'hard-line' proved vacuous, counter-productive and exacted a human cost making for culpability of decision makers.
The possibility of decline in the conjoint militancy and 'proxy war' has never looked brighter over the past decade than at this juncture. The measures enumerated in the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of the new administration in Kashmir, imply a roll back of the 'hard-line' policy and are a fair beginning to this end. The CMP's human rights relevant provisions include review of cases of detainees and of operation of laws lending themselves to abuse; investigate custodial deaths and cases of violations of human rights; strengthen the state human rights commission; institute rehabilitation measures and supportive measures for militancy effected families; police reforms and more. These are indicative of a change in policy in Kashmir. The change is about a decade too late, nevertheless a welcome one. Inability or unwillingness to pursue this agenda to the logical conclusion would not only be a disservice to the victims of this conflict-torn region, but would be to miss a great opportunity to create the climate for a just settlement.

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