All’s fair in war, eh?
Kashmir is a war-zone and the army is fighting a dirty war. It is difficult to stay apolitical in the times when popular public opinion is in the grip of rabid nationalism.
So, when army chief general Bipin Rawat justified the “innovative” way in which major Leetul Gogoi strapped a local Kashmiri on top of a jeep to dissuade stone pelters, he was simply articulating the political thought process on Kashmir. Days before the general drummed up the morale of his boys by asserting that the people should be afraid of army, defence minister Arun Jaitley had clearly underlined the need for allowing commanders to decide what should be the best course of action in a war-zone.
The general only qualified the war-zone by highlighting that the army was fighting a dirty war where soldiers, who are trained to take on enemy armies, can employ innovative ways to deal with treachery.
The description of Kashmir being a war zone was, however, contradictory to BJP president Amit Shah’s understanding of the situation. He said recently that that problem in Kashmir was restricted to three and a half districts. What he probably meant was south Kashmir and parts of Srinagar.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh has been most forthcoming. He said that the Modi government will find permanent solution to the Kashmir problem. A tall claim that governments don’t make easily even as rhetoric.
If one combines Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah’s recent public utterances with army chief’s bellicose hit-back approach, one cannot miss synchronicity of political and military line of thinking. This has been the primary difference in Modi government’s Kashmir policy.
A common perception that army works with its hands tied behind the back in Kashmir has been removed. The hands are no more tied and even unethical actions like using a human shield are justified. It’s a dirty war after all.
The Modi government is not banking on the orthodox approach of seeking a political settlement of the Kashmir issue. Its outlook is military.

Dominating the narrative on the ground with military might, making separatists irrelevant and discredited and instilling the fear of army in the locals are clearly the three steps that are being implemented on ground.
All those who have been advocating dialogue can pause. The efforts to seek political settlement have led to nowhere. The peace initiatives with Pakistan have fallen flat. Even internally, the separatists have merely become pawns in the hands of their handlers across the border.
Since all other means have been decided in the past, there is room for Modi government’s approach. But the only problem is that the rabid nationalism is fanning Islamisation of Kashmir.
The growing popularity of Zakir Musa’s brand of Kashmiri separatism is bound to have far more serious repercussions. The government may hunt him down but the seeds of radical Islamisation of the valley, which had been going on for years, have already taken roots. So has Musa’s thought of imposing Shariah in Kashmir by force.
The context is getting clearer but one is not sure if there is a strategy in place for tackling the backlash on the streets of the Valley.
The army on Sunday released photographs Kashmiri youths appearing in a recruitment examination in Pattan and Srinagar to join Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) defying a strike call given by the separatists. The sight of Kashmiri youths turning up for an army recruitment exam was in stark contrast to the daily photographs of stone-pelters chasing the security forces that appear in the media.
If giving jobs will end the alienation of the masses then army’s attempt is only a humble step. Like all the actions are scrutinised from the liberal versus the right lens, the Modi government’s Kashmir strategy will be deciphered on ideological lines. If the so-called liberal ways have been defeated in the past, the right of passage is reserved for the saffron approach that incidentally has gained popular currency.
Gautam Datt