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Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting practical over an important report
Kashmir Times Op-Ed
15 September 2015

Five hundred and thirty nine pages of Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir will unlikely be read in their entirety. At a price of less than a rupee a page, they will hopefully find a readership, not merely within J&K, but in the rest of India. However, that is unlikely to be anytime soon.
That they are read fully or in one sitting was in any case not the aim of The International Peoples' Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, constituents of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society that have put out the report. Their aim was a recording of what amount to war crimes in J&K and exposure of the state culpability in the individual offences and acts of commission and omission covered by command responsibility (or lack of exercise thereof).
At the outset it can be said that the stated aims of the team of volunteers that have put it together are unlikely to be met. They place the record for action by the ‘international community’. The state system is far from being a ‘community’. If it is the West the authors want to attract, the appetite for intervention there, thankfully, has dried up. If they mean states in general, they will be disappointed. Leftist and liberal circles can be expected to be enthused by the report. Their heft however is limited to the converted. The UN and its agencies figure on their list to lean on the Indian government. The government would point to its improved record over the past decade to say that it is doing what it can under the circumstance of proxy war. It will point to the court martial sentence being promulgated in the Machhil killings case as example. India being the geo-economic cynosure is unlikely to be put upon for its record of a decade and half back. There is far too much of ‘immediate and urgent’ nature on the plate of the ‘international community’ for that.  
The naming and shaming of perpetrators is to put on notice foreign governments and the UN not to give visas and migrant status and employment respectively to alleged perpetrators. This may work in individual cases such as in the case of the BSF officer who was denied a visa by the Canadian embassy. A Nepali military officer with the UN on holiday in UK was in 2013 picked up by authorities there on human rights related charges. Thus, at best, the individuals named will be inconvenienced slightly. The report has  no illusions that legal action will be taken against them in any case, since it lays bare in graphic detail the impunity they have had under the ‘structures of violence’ that unfortunately includes the judicial system. 
Clearly, the report must not be lost as its predecessor of 2012, Alleged Perpetrators, that had examined over two hundred cases of human rights violations and, ‘for the first time’, the role of 500 alleged perpetrators. Its content is far too important to be lost in cyber space or exchanged within the same and restricted solidarist circles. This time it must be made to serve a purpose. Looking beyond borders for that is delusive. It must not also end up proving counter-productive within the borders. So the question is: if it is to be useful, how should it be played?
In this the report itself is not particularly helpful. It covers, in its words, ‘How did/does the Indian State perpetrate this violence? What precisely is the structure, physical and institutional, through which weapons, ammunition, soldiers, officers, camps and battalions inflict violence on the people of Jammu and Kashmir?’ The answer to this is well known. Explicit lay out of the structures is useful at best for peace studies students and shall be for future historians.
The practice of a counter insurgency grid is not going to change in India. It plays to India’s strength of manpower. Insertion of the security forces in an omnipresent grid – while coercive, invasive and intrusive – is doctrinally necessary to cripple the freedom of movement of the opponent and increase chances of engagement in which attrition can bring down their number. Assuming that this advantage of numbers was not there with India, counter insurgency would be more kinetic means reliant, with increased pain to the subject people and society, witness counter insurgency anywhere else in the world. How the operations proceed is essentially dependent on the nature and strength of the opposition. There are periods and areas in which this is significant. Expectedly, this will be met with force with resultant pressures on the population that then should be ascribed to the foreign minders of militants/terrorists.
In Kashmir, there is no denying that the levels of opposition were orchestrated by Pakistan. Therefore, the onus is not so much in India, as elsewhere. There is no denying that whereas the structures of violence were Indian and the perpetrators Indian, the context was of proxy war. When Pakistan drew down proxy war in the late Musharraf period, India too appreciably stood down the militarized template. The report needs balancing by the context of the violence. It cannot be argued that Indian violence led to the opposition – setting up a cycle. Indeed, if India had not applied force or applied it ineffectually, it can equally plausibly be argued that Pakistan would have upped the ante of violence through proxies. The report then would be writing up Pakistani directed violations instead.
In fact, there needs to be a similar report done on the levels of terror that terrorists of foreign origin and Kashmiri militants perpetrated. The support that insurgents enjoy is seldom on ideological basis alone. It is instead as much coerced as voluntary. In effect, what happened in Kashmir can be seen against a narrative framework in which the two belligerents – India and Pakistan – were wrestling over who would dominate the society. It can be hazarded from the manner Islamists conduct themselves elsewhere that had the proxy fighters gained the upper hand, Kashmiris would be much more imposed upon than. In effect, Indian security forces – though they have much to answer for as the report brings out – also have provided a service of keeping Islamism out from Kashmir. It is na├»ve to believe that Kashmiri nationalism or Kashmiriyat would have survived their arrival.
Since we are on a counter factual trip, it can also be recorded that in such a case the 170 million Muslim Indians in rest of India would have faced the brunt of an implacable Hindutva, feeding on ‘yet another’ Muslim ‘secession’. Vajpayee having Dilip Kumar make this point to Nawaz Sharif in a telephone conversation in Kargil War is an example of the manner Kashmir and India’s minority are intertwined. The second dimension of successful secession or short of it is in the demonstration effect on other ethnicities in India making similar demands. This is a non-trivial prospect. India has potential to be reduced to an African or Balkans scenario in short order. Therefore, there is a case for it to use force. As to whether that force can be measured and respectful of the laws of war is to be seen. The report merely brings out that it was not. It can be argued that India could have done better, but not by much.
This is important to bring out to address the second, perhaps more important, issue the report addresses: ‘Where is the control? The driving motivation of this exercise is, as has always been: Responsibility. Who do we hold responsible for the individual and collected acts of violence?’ The report, though it concentrates on the actors on the ground, addresses this by making clear that the impunity of perpetrators and responsibility for the structures was that of the government. For instance, Advani’s visit to Kashmir in wake of the Panchaltan killings was intended to push under the carpet the massacre at Chhittisingpora, itself designed as a ‘black operation’ to implicate Pakistan in influencing Clinton’s mind during his South Asia visit.  
The report’s ground level focus leaves out the higher echelons that alternatively blessed, connived, allowed and ‘looked the other way’. This cannot be restricted to the military or paramilitary hierarchy, but must include the bureaucrats and the political levels. No bureaucrat resigned, though at least one former bureaucrat presents himself in seminar rooms as the lead whistle blower in the Kunan Poshpora case, thereby unwittingly increasing its long standing propaganda value for one side of the narrative. The governors in the period, with military and intelligence backgrounds, cannot be expected to have done anything differently.  Politicians through the nineties were inattentive, collusive and in the case of Advani’s stewardship in the NDA period active participants. Society in India was in the throes of an LPG induced economic frenzy and a political lurch to the right. Under this circumstance, imagining that alternative measures in Kashmir were at all possible is illusory.
A critique of the legalistic and human rights up front approach that informs the report cannot but bring in politics and the context. Doing so is not to denigrate the report or effort. It is to ensure that the report goes further than it would otherwise go. How to make it palatable to those who need to see it? Relying on New Delhi would be to be innocent of politics. The ruling party was there at the helm earlier. Since nothing in its agenda suggests that it is out to ‘resolve’ Kashmir any time soon, it would not disown an instrument that it might have to resort to itself. The judicial system, that moves glacially, at the best of times, is not about to change: witness the cases related to Gujarat pogrom. The liberals are already in the midst of a fight for their lives: against rampant Hindutva.
The report has already made an important contribution in allowing space to the victims, their families and witnesses to voice their story. It ensures that the ‘lived’ experience of Kashmiris is captured, and history, currently being rewritten in the rest of India, cannot erase the Kashmiri narrative of pain endured inflicted by a state that was supposed to be protecting it. The report will serve as the take off point for initiatives, possibly a decade away, by when India would have seen the back of Hindutva. That’s when perhaps it will make the desired difference. For the moment the middle classes looked the other way when all this was happening in Kashmir. They are currently politically more consequential and looking at an economic promise.
Obviously, leaving it to the future is not enough. A report such as this must be made to go further and in the moment. One area is in an appeal to the military to take its content seriously. Since the paramilitary are doctrinally challenged, for no fault of their own, but that they come under the home ministry and are run by the IPS cadre not particularly known for intellectual integrity, this report would not find any takers there. That leaves the military. Even in this, the report cannot be ambitious.
A military that prides itself on professionalism should be hassled that it has not followed through on cases where its own army commander said it would, for instance the Lolab killings of 2004. It should be worried that a person named in the report for alleged sexual violations is currently in the NCC that has Girls battalions. It cannot overlook the fact that an officer named in connection with a massacre that  left a score dead gains an award  in the same year, and goes on to  win a second a few years on, the latter with privilege of free train travel lifelong. Such officers, even if not shown the door, should have been ‘fixed’ in military parlance. If a quick google search can bring forth such information, surely the military’s personnel branch and care for spoken reputation must be able to forewarn it better.
It is clear from the report that there was a command environment that accepted - nay encouraged – transgression with the excuse of aggressive junior leaders with initiative. What appears neglected was appropriate oversight of such ‘aggressive’ officers. It is also clear that the military has under the changed indices of violence changed its ways. What the military needs ask itself is should the situation recur or be witnessed elsewhere, say in Nagaland, would it resort to similar means, such as for instance the discredited strategy of using turned militants. Besides such doctrinal questions, it also needs to rethink its input to the political leadership. Instead of soto voce suggesting a ‘political solution’, as chiefs ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan onwards rightly have, when will it thump the table or recommend limited war instead of being parasitical for an indeterminate duration on an Indian ethno-social group? Can it be inferred from the report that it was nursing its institutional interest using Kashmir as opportunity, quite like the Pakistan army? Does this account for its mantra 'AFSPA'? A professional military should be engaging with such questions post conflict.
The report does need airing outside Kashmir and among the usual (liberal) suspects. It is unlikely it will get the forum in ‘mainland’ India, until the electorate is disenchanted with the LPG and its current champion Mr. Modi. It is then India will revert to rethinking what it wishes to be and how from its current vision of being the next superpower.

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