PART-2: Ceding Kashmir
Third-class governance can’t give first-class response to terrorism
Arun ShourieWednesday, August 02, 2006
In the concluding part of his analysis, Arun Shourie details how a weak-kneed government response, in terms of both administration and diplomacy, has cost India the momentum and the edge in the Kashmir issue
By the end of 2003, we were being told that our agencies had neutralised over 160 ISI modules — counting only those outside Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. Since then, up to July 11, 2006, again counting only those outside Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, another 75 modules are reported to have been neutralized.
These are substantial achievements — we can imagine how many more deaths and how much more dislocation would have been caused if these had not been got at and the persons caught or killed. But the figures have another side to them.
First, that there were that many cells to be neutralized shows that ISI had been able to set them up. Second, the cells that have been unearthed were found to exist across the entire country.
Going by the tabulation of the cells that have been located and finished just since January 2004, we see them having been found in state after state, town after town. In Andhra: Hyderabad (several), including one at the Begumpet airport, Nalgonda; in Karnataka: Alamati, Hesaraghatta on the outskirts of Bangalore, Jelenabad area in Gulbarga district; Delhi (several separate ones in several localities across the city); in Bengal and neighbouring regions: Ghosepur, Darjeeling district, Rishra, Hooghly district, Chowgacha village, Nadia district, Kaliachak, Malda, Kolkata; in Uttaranchal: Dehra Dun; in Maharashtra: Mumbai, Aurangabad, Manmad, Malegaon; in Rajasthan: Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur; in Punjab, where a serious effort is being made to stoke up Sikh militancy: Jalandhar, Amritsar, Nawanshehar, Ropar, Hoshiarpur, Batala, Malerkotla; in UP: NOIDA, Lucknow, Hardoi, Lalkurti; Goa; in MP: Gwalior; Faridabad; in Gujarat: Ahmedabad; and so on.
The list of these 75 modules apart, just look at the far-flung places from which suspects of the July train blasts in Mumbai are being picked up — that itself shows the long reach of the ISI and its terrorist limbs within India, of the faraway places at which they have been able to set up sanctuaries.
Finally, that the blasts and other terrorist operations have continued unabated shows that the cells which have been located are but a fraction of the ones that have been set up. Several factors have afforded such easy access for the ISI. The principal one is the near collapse of law enforcement — from intelligence to investigation to combat to the courts.
As is well said, you cannot have a first class response to terrorism in a third class system of governance. Why should anyone be deterred from executing another round of blasts in Mumbai trains when he sees that those caught for the blasts executed 13 years ago are well and kicking; when he sees that their lawyers have been able, and with such ease, to ensnare Government prosecutors in the courts?
But the evaporation of governance and of the law-enforcement mechanisms is just one aspect, indeed it is in large part a consequence of complicity. In particular, of the perversion of pubic discourse — by which every action against terrorists, their sponsors and their collaborators is called into question and the national resolve dissipated; second, by the ever-strengthening nexus of rulers and criminal elements. And by the permissive atmosphere that has been fomented by these factors.
Which terrorist group, which potential recruit to terrorism will be deterred when he sees the solicitude with which the prime suspect of the blasts in Coimbatore, Abdul Nasser Mahdani, is being looked after? When he sees, as The Indian Express has reported (July 24-25, 2006) the comforts that the DMK Government has arranged for him, including Ayurvedic massages — with 10 masseurs and a senior physician labouring over him; and that too at the tax-payers’ expense? When he sees that even the elementary restrictions on Mahdani’s moving about in the prison have been cancelled in the face of opposition from security services?
When he sees that the representatives of the CPI(M) come calling on him in jail to seek his help in fighting elections? When he sees the Kerala Assembly pass a unanimous resolution on his behalf — and sees that that Assembly has not passed any comparable resolution for any other individual?
When he sees how doggedly the Government of Karnataka holds up the investigation into Telgi’s doings? When he sees a Chief Minister defend SIMI, an organization that has been banned for secessionist and anti-national activities? When he sees what happens in our Parliament — how members shout each other down and cannot speak in one voice even while discussing the blasts in Mumbai? When he sees how, even after the Supreme Court has struck down the IMDT Act as unconstitutional and as a threat to national security, the Government, the principal party of which depends on votes of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh, incorporates those very provisions in the Foreigners’ Act? Who would not feel emboldened to sign up for the greater glory of jihad and shahadat?
THE FATAL CONCESSION
Nor is it just the terrorist module that is encouraged. The organisers and controllers of these modules are given a free hand. In the statement that Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf issued on 6 January, 2004, the words that Pakistan was made to agree to were very, very carefully chosen. There was great resistance from Pakistan. But, in the end, it had to agree to those words. By that declaration, Pakistan was made to commit that for sustaining the dialogue it would stop cross-border violence, and ensure that no part of the territory under its control — that is, including PoK — shall be used for terrorism.
By contrast, in the statement that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed with General Musharraf in April 2005, India agreed that to ensure that terrorism will not be allowed to thwart the ‘‘peace process’’. This was a fatal concession — for by it Pakistan was in effect enabled to continue terrorist activities at will. The onus would henceforth be on India to continue the ‘‘peace process’’ and the ‘‘dialogue’’ in spite of the terrorist attacks.
The result has been dramatically brought home in the wake of the Mumbai train blasts. The Prime Minister’s address to the nation was anaemic. Perhaps that registered even in the Government. The second statement had a hue of firmness. And with much background briefing — ‘‘we won’t put up with this nonsense forever’’ — the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting was called off.
And then? The Prime Minister goes to Moscow. Meets Bush. And suddenly, the official line becomes, ‘‘We won’t let the terrorists succeed in their design to halt the peace process’’!
So, Pakistan can pursue both limbs — talk peace, wage war! And all we can do is to go through the ritual again.
Blasts in Mumbai. Blasts in Srinagar. Another debate in Parliament. Another slew of statements — ‘‘We resolutely/ strongly/unequivocally condemn this dastardly/ cowardly/treacherous/barbaric act... It shows their desperation... Government remains committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms... We will not allow them to disturb communal harmony… We will not allow them to derail the peace process...’’
The Home Minister repeated all the standard phrases in his statement to Parliament last week. He also implied that his ministry had done its job. ‘‘The Central Government has been sensitising the state governments/UTs about the plans and designs of terrorist outfits. They were asked to streamline physical and protective security of vital institutions...’’
And the Government is on the job even now, he assured. “The Government has made an assessment of the situation following these blasts,” he told Parliament. And what did the assessment yield? “The security apparatus has to focus greater attention and improve intelligence-gathering capabilities particularly at the local level to collect actionable intelligence... There is also a need to further enhance physical security and access control at airports, metros, vital installations... besides accelerated border fencing, overall coastal security... State Governments have been asked to improve coordination between the Railway Police Force and the Government Railway Police to enhance security of trains and railway stations...’’
Should he not have said, “The Government has made yet another assessment of the situation following these blasts”? And did we really need yet another “assessment of the situation”? After all, what is new in this list? And what happened to that claim of 100 per cent of the recommendations of those Task Forces having been implemented?
But while we keep repeating, “Terrorists will not be allowed to succeed,” the fact is that through them Pakistan has already succeeded in several respects:
• It has succeeded in creating the impression — I dare say, in India too — that the status of Kashmir vis a vis India is not a settled issue. Indeed, that what will happen in the future, what some Government of India will do is an open question. When it is asked in Parliament, “Does the Government stand by the unanimous Resolution which Parliament had passed, namely that the only unfinished business relating to J&K is that we have to get back the parts of the state that Pakistan has usurped?,” the Government remains silent.
• Pakistan has succeeded in establishing that it shall have an equal say in what the final solution shall be.
• It has succeeded in establishing that the secessionists it has been patronising, arming, financing are the representatives of the Kashmiris, and so they are the ones to whom the Indian authorities must talk.
• And the Indian authorities must talk to them without the secessionists agreeing to anything in advance — in the Rajya Sabha, on July 26, the Home Minister was specifically asked by Yashwant Sinha, “Has Hurriyat agreed to give up violence?”; all he could claim was that they are giving the impression that they are willing to do so! As for their avowed goal of taking Kashmir out of India, they are not even giving any impression that they have diluted that goal one whit.
• Pakistan and its local agents have already accomplished the “ethnic cleansing” of the Valley, having driven the Hindus out. They are now systematically driving them out of Doda.
Equally ominous is the fact that, while India has always maintained that issues between Pakistan and India shall be dealt with bilaterally, that we will not agree to any third party mediation, now the US is the very visible third party in everything. Recall the change in the Prime Minister’s tenor after he met Bush in Moscow.
Moreover, the initiative has by now passed completely into the hands of Musharraf. He is the one who is forever proposing formulae, and we are put to reacting. Worse, he has succeeded in bringing the various political groups in Kashmir to talking his language. Omar Abdullah, the PDP leaders as well as the Mirwaiz are now lauding Musharraf’s formulations, and proclaiming that these — “Self Rule,” division into Regions — are the ones that show the way forward.
FUNDAMENTALISATION OF DISCOURSE
It is because our media is so preoccupied with the “controversy” of the day, it is because it is so preoccupied with “life-style” journalism, it is because there is the censorship of “political correctness” that we do not realise how fundamentalist the discourse has become in Kashmir. We keep repeating nonsense about the great tolerant traditions of Kashmir, about the “Sufi Islam” of Kashmir, about the unique catholicity of “Kashmiriat”, about the incomparable blend of Shaivism and “liberal Islam” in Kashmir.
In fact, the very persons who are “people like us” are now taking positions that cannot but shock every Indian, and cannot but wreak a terrible outcome. Hari Parbat is sacred to every Kashmiri Hindu: how do you feel when Hindu refugees hear it being referred to in speeches and publications as Kohi Maaran — the hill of evil? Can you imagine a person who has held high office in the state telling Kashmiris that hey must learn from Hamas? Can you imagine his leading associate denouncing the Amarnath yatra as “a cultural intrusion”? Can you imagine a situation, when persons holding a peaceful observance against the massacres in Doda are killed, the Chief Minister proclaims in effect that the protestors invited the deaths upon themselves? Can you imagine a person who was till the other day Chief Minister telling the second “Round Table Conference” that we must accept “One country, two systems”? Can you imagine a leading political light of the Valley tell the same conference that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly was a “sovereign body”, that Article 370 was a “treaty between two sovereign bodies”?
How do you feel as you see the glee with which a Pakistani website reports a mainstream, “nationalist” Kashmiri politician proclaim that New Delhi “is responsible for the volatile situation in Kashmir, where its troops are killing Kashmiris unjustifiably and forcing them to take up arms”? How do you feel when you read him demanding to know, “Why is India killing innocents?,” and declaring, “By these evil designs, India forces our youth to take the gun and sacrifice their lives”? When he declares that the Indian Army has been given “a free hand to kill innocent people”? When you see that his charge against his political rivals, that is the current Government in the state, is that it is “in league with the occupation authorities to run a campaign of terror against Kashmiris”?
Such rhetoric is the staple today. And the results are brought home every other day. When a Lashkar man is killed these days, four to five thousand turn up for an ostentatious demonstration in his honour. The counter-insurgency groups which had been built up with such great effort have all been abandoned by Delhi. The killings by the terrorist bands become more and more brutal by the week — corpses are left with their heads hacked off, people are sent back to their homes with their limbs and parts sawn off... New technologies are introduced — car bombs; grenades — the man who throws it is paid when he produces the pin...
Has Pakistan not succeeded? Has its instrument, terrorism, not succeeded? And our Government applies itself to organizing yet another “assessment of the situation.” Actually, it does more. It is only by a hair’s breadth, it is only at the very last minute that the decision that had been taken — namely, to agree in the Indo-Pak meeting of May 21, 2006 to withdraw troops from Siachin — was abandoned.
The terrorist infrastructure remains intact in Pakistan, and securely in the hands of ISI and the Army. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and other such groups have been allowed a free field to operate in POK after the earthquake — to organise relief, to open “educational institutions”. A better opportunity to pick up recruits for jihad and shahadat could not have been provided. Musharraf remains set in his singular aim.
The first thing that is required for standing up to what is in store can be put in the words that were used by a high-up in the present Government itself:
• The PM and others must see that this Government does not have the mandate to make any fundamental changes in our foreign policy, certainly not in our defence policy; that it does not have the mandate to take decisions that will jeopardise our country’s territory;
• They must give up the delusion that problems that it has not been possible to solve in 55 years can be solved by “out-of-the-box thinking” in five weeks;
• Individuals must give up the delusions of what has been rightly called “the Gujranwala School of Foreign Policy” — the delusion, namely, that while others have failed, I will succeed because I am manifestly more sincere, because I am from that part of the sub-continent.
Next, the Government must spell out what the ultimate solution is that it has in mind for Kashmir. It must share with the people and Parliament what is happening in talks around Round and other tables.
In the alternate, Parliament must insist that it be taken into confdence. Once the deed is done, it will be too late.
Parliament must also get Government to specify what it understands by “Self Rule”; by “making borders irrelevant”; by “autonomy” - is “the sky the limit” still?; by the proposals that are being bandied about — joint management for power, tourism, horticulture...
Most important, it must rescind the fatal concession it made in the April 2005 statement — that we will continue the “peace process” irrespective of terrorism.
And a final plea — to the media: report in detail what the “nationalist”, mainstream political leaders of J&K are saying in the Valley. Unless the country is alerted now, obituaries will be all that will be left to pen.(Concluded)