Photo circulated by the Indian Ministry of Defense, Indian President Pratibha Patil lifts a weapon , near Tangdhar sector at Shararat Post in U.N recognised disputed state of Jammu & Kashmir occupied by India.
BY M. ASHRAF
A front page photograph in Greater Kashmir released by Ministry of Defence showing President of India holding a gun is a subtle message to Kashmiris that the road to peace is only through the “Bullet for Bullet” approach. Earlier the State Chief Minister has also been advocating this policy through his speeches. In line with this policy for sometime past the security forces have been mounting specifically targeted operations with a view to eliminate the “Last Gun” in Kashmir. Such operations have been conducted by occupying forces all over the world but have always failed to deliver. Vietnam is a living example. Americans tried everything possible in conventional arsenal and otherwise but had to ultimately call it a day and leave in total disgrace. They tried Carpet bombing, Agent Orange, massacres like “My Lai” but all of these did not help. It is an established fact that eliminating a single gun results in creating a thousand new guns. “Bullet for Bullet” policy is adopted by those who do not want to solve the underlying problems which in the first instance make the gun to appear.
They think that with unlimited and unrestrained force they can keep people under as long as they want. It is true that with a colossal and a mighty war machine unarmed people can be put down but only for a while. As long as the minds do not change, it does not matter whether one is carrying a gun or not. Revolution is in the mind and not in the body. Again no body takes up a gun for the fun of it. There is something which forces one to go to the extremes. Unless the underlying cause is addressed eliminating guns does not matter. More and more are ready to take it up once the earlier ones are liquidated. It is a vicious circle which cannot be broken by bullet for bullet. It is said that in the beginning of the present turmoil in Kashmir in 1990, one of the Generals posted in Srinagar had suggested that 20 to 30 thousand Kashmiri youth should be killed so that the uprising is exterminated for a couple of generations. He had been advocating use of bullets against stones to put down popular demonstrations. Accordingly, the mass uprising by innocent civilians was brutally suppressed by a series of massacres. Gun really came into full picture once the peaceful uprising in the form of massive processions by various sections of the society asking for “Azadi” was mercilessly crushed. It was the avowed policy of the government to liquidate every Kashmiri with a gun. In the process there was extensive collateral damage which caused total alienation of the people.
Instead of killing 20 to 30 thousand youth which they had estimated to be the number to silence the rebellion for a couple of generations, more than a 100 thousand people are said to have been killed so far and the movement is yet to be controlled or suppressed. Almost every nook and corner of Kashmir is reeling with security forces both uniformed and in civilian dresses. The whole valley and some districts in Jammu province have virtually become giant sized cantonments. Security forces armed to the teeth physically as well as psychologically because of the draconian legislative powers have gone berserk many times. No soldier dares to go to any civilian area unarmed especially during night. Bunkers, pill-boxes, and rolls upon rolls of razor sharp barbed wire are a familiar site everywhere. Apparently the situation seems normal. Business is going on as usual. Schools and offices are functioning. Shops are open. A large number of tourists are visiting different tourist resorts.
In spite of this, there is tension in the air. Every VIP visit results in a total siege of common people. A slight commotion somewhere sends everything into a tizzy. At the same time one hears every day about some odd encounter in one or the other corner of the valley where militants as well as soldiers get killed. The number of militants even after these daily killings somehow remains constant. Earlier it used to be 3,000. Then it came down to 1,500 and these days it is supposed to be around 600. However, there has been no decrease in the numbers of security forces trying to eliminate the last gun. It has rather further swelled up! One fails to understand why there is need of over six hundred thousand soldiers to contain six hundred militants? There is only one conclusion. The Indian Government may have won the battle against the gun but they have lost the war of winning the hearts of the people. The massive security apparatus is to be kept in place not to contain the militants but to keep a lid on the angry emotional out burst of the common masses. It is probably feared by authorities in Delhi that as soon as they withdraw the security grid from the civilian areas, there would be a massive popular upsurge and they will have to face millions on the roads asking for “Azadi”.
One would have thought that the people propagating bullet for bullet would have learnt a lesson from history but it seems they are condemned to repeat it. Kashmir has seen similar clamp downs earlier also. From 1947 to 1953 during the regime of Sheikh Abdullah when the opponents were not only suppressed inhumanly but even permanently exiled. Then from 1953 to 1963 when Bakshi used both carrot and stick. The period from 1990 onwards seems unending. Neither the carrot is working nor the stick. The added confusion is that the Indian authorities have lost total trust in Kashmiris and they do not believe any one. They do not seem to be sure themselves as to what the real situation on the ground is? This is the typical characteristic of a Kashmiri that no foreigner is able to know what is in the heart of his hearts. Outwardly Kashmiris appear to be unconcerned and totally busy in day to day chores. There is a strange insensitivity and apathy to both human life and the surrounding environment. These are bad portents as no one is able to assess the state within. There is a feeling of growing hatred and resentment inside especially among the people in rural areas where the security forces call all the shots and have unbridled hold on everything. Mao once said that a Guerrilla is like a fish moving in water and the people are its water. As long as it has abundant supply of fresh and clean water, it moves freely and the best way to ensure that is the bullet for bullet policy ensuring maximum collateral damage. Some people even try to draw a parallel of Kashmir to a neighbouring country where sovereignty is not in question. In Kashmir that is the basic problem.
No doubt good governance is desirable but that is not the lasting solution of the problem. The first requisite is to win over the common people and not physically eliminate the last gun. It must be pointed out that the urge to take up the gun rises in the minds of the people fuelled by hatred and resentment. No doubt India is a super power and can sustain the physical as also the psychological strangle-hold over Kashmir for a long time but in the end like all other super powers it will realise that such a policy is bound to damage its own polity from within. Then it is too late and the forces of nature take their own course. The living example of that is the erstwhile Soviet Union which completely disintegrated in less than 24 hours. The “Policy Makers” and the “Think Tanks” need to seriously ponder over this maxim. Needless to mention that the time is running out fast!