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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 1 New Delhi December 21, 2019 | ANNUAL NUMBER

The Kashmir Imbroglio

Alienation of Kashmir Complete with Abrogation of Article 370

Saturday 21 December 2019

by M.P. Nathanael

way back in July 1989, I was returning to New Delhi after completing an assignment in Srinagar when I found two passengers in the flight harassing a Kashmiri by asking him now and then if he was going to India. When I could no longer stand the humiliation being heaped upon my Kashmiri countryman who silently with-stood the ignominy, I intervened and asked the two to desist from bullying him. I could not presage then, the repercussions such behaviour of my fellow citizens with Kashmiris would have. The situation worsened in no time. Terrorists of all hues dominated the State. The security forces came under severe attack. The local police was a paralysed lot. After suffering initial blows, the security forces gradually gained an upper hand. Militants—local as well as Pakistani—were killed in large numbers. In the cross-fire, the innocents too suffered casualties. Fidayeen attacks by the militants became a banal affair. The security forces had to be constantly on the alert to ward off such attacks.

On my posting to the Valley as the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), I reported there on October 2, 2006 and took over charge the following day. A fidayeen attack on October 4 on the Standard Hotel in the heart of Srinagar sent me rushing there. The firing continued till the following day. While one fidayeen was shot dead in the wee hours while attempting to escape, the other was killed when he rushed out of the hotel firing in all directions. In the exchange of fire, the Jammu and Kashmir police lost one of its gallant policemen while seven other CRPF personnel and Kashmir policemen were martyred.

For the next nearly three years, I remained in the Valley. The downtown being the hotbed of militancy, CRPF personnel had to be constantly on the alert. Having donned the uniform in the morning, I would be in it till late evenings. On my way back, I would check our patrols and guards and warn them against any laxity. After all, it was a matter of life and death.

Never during my three years stint did I ever feel that normalcy would not return. The turn of events from time to time filled me with the cool assurance that the Valley would once again be a paradise that it once was. Tourist inflow would swell and the locals would enjoy the fruits of prosperity. Bunkers were gradually being withdrawn from the town with the local residents celebrating the pull-out of the CRPF personnel. The few essential bunkers that remained were given a new look to merge with the beauty of the city. Even while the battalions were being pulled out from the Valley, a series of successes in operations against the militants gave a new hope. In combination with the technical input, the information provided by the denizens led to elimination of a good number of militants. The CRPF along with the Army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police were in the forefront in their efforts to restore normalcy.

As is emphasised in every training institution, no policing effort can ever succeed without the active cooperation of the local population. The degree of success achieved by the security forces in the Valley can in no small measure be attributed to the locals who provide intelligence. Denial of sanctuary to the militants eases the task of the security forces. Normalcy in Punjab could be restored largely due to the cooperation of the local population.

AFTER the Pulwama episode in February this year in which 42 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force lost their lives when an explosive-laden van rammed against one of the vehicles in the convoy, Kashmiri men and students were attacked in different parts of the country for no fault of theirs. Soon the fissures began to widen. The political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir was pushed into oblivion.

On August 5, the final nail was driven into the coffin with the abrogation of Article 370. This happened as was expected. After all, this clause found a prominent place in the election manifesto of the present dispensation. Even if other promises enumerated in the manifesto and announced in the election campaigns went unfulfilled, the clause relating to Articles 370 and 35 A had to be attended to on priority. With the Opposition virtually wiped out and many of their leaders incarcerated, it was virtually a smooth walk over for the government. For the first time in the history of independent India, the status of a State was not just split into two but downgraded to that of a Union Territory, though officially it is stated that it is only a temporary measure and Statehood would be restored shortly. But the damage has been done and done beyond redemption.

The manner in which it was done was outright despotic and arbitrary. The Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and tourists were directed to leave the State immediately. The labour from other States, largely Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, had to flee in panic. Chaos reigned the State. Never had such a situation arisen in any part of the country in post-independent India. On the pretext that militants had planned large- scale attacks on pilgrims and tourists, people were forced to leave while personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces—largely the Central Reserve Police Force—took up positions almost in every street and corner of the Valley. With all prominent political leaders confined to their houses or in luxury hotels and all channels of communication suspended, alienation was complete. All the efforts that the security forces made in the past to win over the hearts and minds of the denizens of the Valley under siege was washed out in moments.

While the powers that be furiously attempt to convince the countrymen that all is well in the Valley, the visitors to the valley return with dismay and outright rejection of the officialese doled out by the State officials. The people, more particularly the youngsters, are seething with anger over the way they have been enslaved with their human rights thrown to the winds. Well into the fourth month of abrogation of Article 370, things do not seem to be looking up. The future portends a dangerous bind. The nation has to be prepared to meet any eventuality.

The author is an Inspector General of Police (Retired), CRPF. He was posted in Kashmir for three years from October 2006. In this article he narrates his valuable experiences there and his clear-cut views of recent developments in Kashmir.

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