Cut & Thrust: Feeding the frenzy

The little guy is always going to have a slingshot and someone is going to pay for it — Vietnam and Afghanistan characterise this bloody guerrilla war — where the heavy hitters were roiled brutally. Using the topography to his advantage, the little guy has always managed to reprise the David bests Goliath story. In all such guerrilla wars, there is always an inflection point where the little guy stops running and starts hunting. The more powerful adversary is fatigued and in the woof and bark of gunfire ultimately gets burnt out and subjugated.  The Soviets, Americans, Sri Lankans have seen the phenomenon of rising number of body bags and public opinion deflating cries of patriotism and jingoism. The Sri Lankans finally quelled the LTTE after being given the runaround for years, but that was essentially an ethnic conflict. In Vietnam and Afghanistan, USA and Soviet Union were occupying forces and one can argue that they rightly received a bloody nose. Of course, the debate on one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist remains open ended.

India is peculiarly placed in this regard and while national security should be one of the strongest suits of any right wing government, the blatant mismanagement is by itself revelatory. In this game of moral hazard, the BJP’s lust for power in J & K has allowed Kashmir Valley to degenerate into a war zone. Not willing to alter the balance in state polity where the BJP is a junior coalition partner and clings on to power to rule the Jammu division, while the Hurriyat has virtually taken control of south Kashmir as legitimate soft separatism practicing PDP has vacated space leaving the Valley in complete ferment. By refusing to recall the governor NN Vohra, persisting with Ram Madhav as the interlocutor, the sore has reopened and is now festering.

Incidents of militancy and terror have risen in the north east, while the spectre of Naxalism refuses to die down in Chattisgarh-Jharkhand area, in the main Sukma-Jagdalpur forests where their writ runs large. At one level, this is Modi’s hubris, when it should be a blazing and victorious neon sign.

Has India’s deep state failed to deal with these internal security challenges? Is there a national and internal security doctrine in place? Do we have a one size fits all approach or are we approaching each adversity with a different stratagem?  Air Marshal KC Cariappa, while delivering the Nirmaljit Sekhon Memorial Lecture in Ahmedabad earlier this year, said, “We do not have a national security doctrine. The existence of such a document will dissuade adventurism and will reassure our citizens that appropriate measures are in place to protect us. A credible message must be conveyed to our people. A practical national security strategy and robust nuclear policy must be endorsed by all political parties.”

Now as we stand in perpetual eyeball to eyeball not just on the western front, but equally in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh pitted against a bellicose Chinese, a doctrine is imperative. More than that we need to combat insurgent and militant forces who subvert and threaten the idea of India. Agreed that these are a combination of terror proxies and local militia, but they have to be stamped out ruthlessly.

The narrative has changed alarmingly in Kashmir from the time the BJP-PDP coalition took power. The very first decision of the Mufti helmed government to release the dreaded Masrat Alam, ideological heir to Syed Ali Shah Geelani should have raised Cain, but the BJP at the centre chose to ignore the first danger signal. And they have ignored several more since at their own peril. In March 2015 when the PDP decided to release him days after being sworn in, the BJP was blindsided and therein lies the continuing tale of woe. Barely an hour after taking oath on March 1, the chief minister credited separatists and Pakistan for the smooth conduct of assembly polls in the Valley. Days later, eight PDP legislators described the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru as a “travesty of justice” and demanded the return of his mortal remains. It was a carefully calibrated agenda. Finally, the PDP, which came under pressure from the BJP and the centre government, rearrested Alam on April 17 for “sedition” and “waging war against the state” under the Public Safety Act. Alam had raised pro-Pakistan slogans in a separatist rally on April 15 — where Pakistani flags were also hoisted — organised to welcome Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar.

Upping the ante was part of the mainstreaming of militancy programme undertaken by PDP. Push came to shove with self styled commander Burhan Wani’s killing by security forces last year. And since then, there has been mayhem. That the stone pelters have been funded by Pakistan is a puerile admission of a stated fact. To continue saying that Pakistan is behind the chaos after nearly 30 years of bloodletting is like making mockery of the severe losses that the security forces have taken. Of course, all this is now known and in public domain, the discourse has to go beyond this, it has to bring closure to the running sore. That the rabid Hurriyat was on the verge of declaring parts of south Kashmir as a liberated zone is worrisome. That we don’t have the political will to deal with Kashmir is a sorry and established fact.

The government has the majority and it needs to push the envelope on a material transformation in Kashmir. Abrogate Article 370 and allow mobility and integration and resolve the issue once and for all. Take a meaningful decision and save lives of security forces. Kashmir has gone way beyond rhetoric like choosing between terrorism and tourism. Wahabi Salafisim has polluted the Valley rapidly to create a new anti India sentiment. To keep harping that a handful of districts and a handful of people in the Valley are running a pro-Pakistan agenda and holding the state to ransom is to continue deluding ourselves of the systemic risk to the idiom of India that exists on the ground in the Valley. Political Islam is a spanking new ideology that is riven with hate and anger.

A recent report confirms the spreading malaise and how we have been unable to cauterise these lacerations which are much more than flesh wounds. The data, analysed by a national consortium for the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism, contracted with the US state department, reveals that India is third after Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of terror attacks. Pakistan had held the position earlier. Out of 11,072 terror attacks in 2016 worldwide, India bore the brunt of 927, 16 per cent more than 2015 (798). The number of deaths in India also rose 17 per cent from 289 in 2015 to 337 last year while the number of injured increased from 500 in 2015 to 636 last year. On the other hand, the number of terror attacks in Pakistan reduced by 27 per cent to 734 in 2016 from 1,010 in 2015. The US analysis has labelled Maoist-Naxals the third most deadly terror organisation in the world after IS and Taliban, even ahead of Boko Haram. The CPI (Maoist) was behind 336 terror attacks last year in which 174 people were killed and 141 were injured. More than half of the terror attacks in 2016 took place in four states — J&K, Chhattisgarh, Manipur and Jharkhand.

After reading this data, one would think India is under siege. Well, not really, for most of India continues peacefully with its daily hurly burly existence, it is the trouble spots that seem to be careening out of control. I am not dependent on empirical evidence alone for this categorical statement. For the reality is that the situation in Kashmir is alarming and yet we aren’t ostensibly doing anything about it. Despite all the problems that cropped up during Omar Abdullah’s dispensation, it seems as if he was a better administrator than most. He managed to bring relative peace and quiet during his tenure, including handling of flashpoints like the Amarnath Yatra agitation and the Afzal Guru hanging. What is worse is the alienation of Muslim Kashmir and the ever widening trust deficit with Hindu India.

Waging war against the state can end only one way — a bullet ridden body — there is no other recourse. At the same time, some sort of dialogue has to be initiated with the separatists for they control the minds and hearts of the angry youth. Further, inspite of all the reaching out to the seven sisters in the north east, insurgency continues unabated particularly in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. India has to bring its national security doctrine up to speed to deal with these combat theatres. It has to be an effective combination of iron fist and velvet glove. We seem to be out of touch with both for the security forces and military installations are in the line of fire everywhere. 

sandeep.bamzai@mydigitalfc.com

Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai