Last throw of dice in KASHMIR

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Jun 2018 09:46:30


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rahul Dixit, 

Kashmiri youths pelt stones at security forces on the outskirts of Srinagar on Friday following a gun fight in southern Kashmir between Government forces and suspected rebels.

 

With the end of the marriage of inconvenience between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir, a new strategy with added vigour is on the anvil against Pakistan-backed militants, pro-separatist elements and insurgents.The end of BJP-PDP alliance might seem a hasty decision but New Delhi cannot be faulted for taking this hard-line stance. It needed a pragmatic step to end, the unprovoked killings including that of journalists, terror attacks, and drafting of youngsters into terror groups. Such partnership was destined to break. It was only a question of when rather than how. Ceasefire violations on the border and terrorist attacks on civilians provided the Centre to pull the plug on the alliance. Grounds are now clear for the Centre to take another shot at dealing with the Kashmir problem on its own. Rahul Dixit, Assistant Editor of The Hitavada analyses the Central Government’s approach to the Kashmir crisis.

 


THE most telling image of counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir last year was a protester tied on the hood of an Indian Army jeep as Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi waded through a sea of stone-pelters using the ‘shield’ to save his group of soldiers and some election officials. This act of quick thinking and brave decision-making brought acclaim and commendation for Major Gogoi from the Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat. The Army’s delight bore a massive sense of satisfaction. It was a riposte the men in green uniform saw as a solid slap to the separatist forces luring the youth of Kashmir. One more opportunity has come their way and this time it is a final roll of the dice. It is now or never in Kashmir.


With the end of the marriage of inconvenience between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir, a new strategy with added vigour is on the anvil against Pakistan-backed militants, pro-separatist elements and insurgents. The end of BJP-PDP alliance might seem a hasty decision but New Delhi cannot be faulted for taking this hard-line stance. It needed a pragmatic step to end, the unprovoked killings including that of journalists, terror attacks, and drafting of youngsters into terror groups.


Partnership with PDP was a well-thought political tactic by the BJP top brass when it had the numbers to take this gamble. It wanted a Government that could find the right balance between the Hindu majority region of Jammu and the restive provinces of Muslim majority Kashmir. The coalition worked through its pulls and pressures of ideas from both the parties. BJP’s first plan was to crush militancy with force. However, it did not factor the civilian support to militants through mobs of stone-pelters. The mobs worked as human shields against Army offensive for the militants. It was clear that they had backing from a section of the Government.


Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s overtures towards pro-separatists and Pakistan made it obvious what the PDP’s political agenda was. And yet, the Centre did everything it could by accommodating PDP’s demands and appointing an interlocutor, announcing unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan and mulling amnesty to first-time stone pelters.


Such partnership was destined to break. It was only a question of when rather than how. Ceasefire violations on the border and terrorist attacks on civilians provided the Centre to pull the plug on the alliance.


Fortunately for the BJP, Mehbooba played into its hands by immediately tendering resignation. Had she stayed on and explored chances of allying with the Congress or even Omar Abdullah’s National Conference, then the Governor would have to allow her to keep office. That would have put a spanner in the Centre’s plans of launching an offensive against terrorism. Though the Central Government controls the Army and other security forces, it could not have proceeded without help of local police. This hurdle and a possible Constitutional imbroglio automatically withered away with Mehbooba’s resignation. Of course, we cannot miss the reality that the woman could not have mustered enough numbers, no matter the permutation and combination.


Grounds are now clear for the Centre to take another shot at dealing with the Kashmir problem on its own. While the political parties foresee the Government adopting a ‘muscular’ approach towards militants as well separatist forces in the Valley, their perception does not quite match with what the Centre is planning. Muscular does not necessarily mean ‘by force’. Rather, there is a different and discernible connotation i.e. Strong. With no political interference under the Governor’s Rule, the Centre can practice its reworked policy of a strong stand while dealing with terrorism and protecting the civilians.


The ‘fire and ice’ policy, the Centre has planned, is reflected in the quick deployment of two key personnel in Jammu & Kashmir. Within two days two experienced and highly-rated officers -- BVR Subramanyam and K Vijay Kumar -- were posted to Jammu & Kashmir. These appointment speak a lot of what the Centre is envisaging in the troubled parts of the Valley. Subramanyam, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in Chhattisgarh, is an IAS Officer of 1987 batch. He has served as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s personal secretary from 2002 to 2007. Retired IPS officer K Vijay Kumar was holding the post of senior security adviser to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Obviously, the Centre was complete with its homework beforehand.


Both the officers have cut a niche for themselves in their own areas of operations. Both do not tolerate political interference in their working that is independent but within the legal contours.

Subramanyam has been instrumental in bringing home a large number of youngsters influenced by Naxals in many parts of Chhattisgarh. He used the mix of police and paramilitary forces and developmental measures to open the mainstream path for these brainwashed youngsters.

On the other hand, Kumar was the chief of the Special Task Force that launched ‘Operation Cocoon’ to nab or kill sandalwood smuggler Veerappan in Tamil Nadu. The success of the operation that ended with the killing of Veerappan made him a household name in Tamil Nadu. He has also served earlier in the Kashmir Valley as Inspector General of the Border Security Force between 1998 and 2001.

These two critical appointments followed by deployment of NSG in anti-terror operations are key indications of the balance the Centre seeks while launching ‘Operation All Out’ in Kashmir. The popular sentiment in other parts of the country may be tilted towards an armed offensive in the State but the Government is wise enough not to resort to a one-dimensional approach.

Various options are open for the Army to counter militancy by brute power. One is the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) template they successfully used during the violent Palestinian uprising against the Israeli forces in the Gaza strip. This has already been tested in the last year but had to be abandoned due to the tacit support to stone-pelters by the PDP leaders.

Second option is the Mahinda Rajapaksa way where the former Sri Lanka President went all out to cleanse the Island nation of the problem of LTTE. Without caring for the world, Rajapaksa’s forces launched a deadly offensive to wipe out the Tigers from Lanka. However, India is unlikely to follow the path as security of civilians in the Valley is a core concern for the Government.

The third way is to bring the rebel groups to the negotiation table, which the BJP successfully achieved in Nagaland. In Kashmir, too, the Centre has kept all channels open for the stakeholders and non-state players to come for parleys. The only difference this time is there are no political compulsions. And that sums up the story of the breaking of BJP-PDP alliance.

The Governor’s Rule has provided the Union Government a great opportunity to focus on better administration, governance and utilisation of Central funds. Winning civilian hearts with a slew of developmental activities and sending a chilling message to the divisive forces with brutal offensives must for the template for tackling the Kashmir problem with a new vigour. The dice are loaded.