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The Truth About Kashmir


A lot has been said and written about the recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and about the dissolution of the state legislative assembly and imposition of President’s rule.

In my opinion, all these analyses were superficial and do not explain the inner realities. So let me explain step by step:

(1) The truth is that due to the shortsighted policies of the Centre over decades, almost the entire Kashmiri population has now become alienated and bitterly hostile to India, and more and more young men are steadily joining the ranks of the militants. No doubt, the number of Kashmiri militants are still probably not more than a few hundred or a few thousand, but their numbers are rising, and their sympathizers would be a large section of the Kashmiri population (I am not talking of Jammu). Whole villages become stone pelters.

(2) The militants use guerrilla tactics of hit and run, and are now resorting to new tactics eg. sniper firing, which is very difficult to deal with, as the Germans learnt in the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II.

(3) The Indian security forces consist of three groups—the Indian Army, the paramilitary forces ( CRPF, BSF, etc. ) and the Jammu and Kashmir police. The first two consist of non-Kashmiri personnel, and the third consist of local people of the state (though many senior police officers are outsiders ). Personnel belonging to the Jammu and Kashmir police, especially Kashmiris, are the most vulnerable targets for the militants as they have their families in Kashmir. The Kashmiri policemen are, therefore, in a very unenviable position—they either have to become secret informers for the militants or risk becoming targets, being branded as Indian agents and/or informers to the Indian security forces.

(4) There is a massive deployment of about 500,000 Indian Army, paramilitary and other armed forces in Kashmir. Thus, in theory, while there is a civilian government, the truth is that it is the Army and paramilitary forces are the real power in Kashmir Valley. The civilian government is just a phantom, like the South Vietnamese government, which was really a puppet, the real rulers being the US Army.

(5) An army does not like to fight with its hands tied behind its back. So, the Indian Army’s higher command must have told the Union government that it does not like politicians complaining about atrocities by the Army.

However, when there is such a huge deployment of security forces in such a small area like Kashmir, there are bound to be atrocities.

Consider the following scenario. A group of 10 or 20 Indian Army or paramilitary troops are on a patrol somewhere in Kashmir. From a distance, some militants fire at them, and then disappear (a classic hit and run operation). And, if in the process, two or three jawans get killed, what do the rest do? They unleash violence on people in the nearby villages. This is the normal reaction, and in fact, this is what people who have operated in Kashmir have told me.

besides, a soldier operating for long periods of time in such a deadly hostile terrain, where every moment may be his last, cannot be expected to be psychologically very normal, and can become unhinged on slightest provocations, committing atrocities, as happened in My Lai in Vietnam. The UN Committee report has referred to these.

The guerrilla has the advantage of surprise. He chooses the date, time, place and duration of attack, and normally makes meticulous preparations before launching it. Thus, the Indian security forces are often caught napping. The Kashmiri militants may be small in number, but they have a huge number of sympathizers who supply them not only food and shelter, but also intelligence about the Indian security forces, its deployment and numbers. Consequently, many Indian security personnel have been killed in Kashmir, and the number is only increasing.

(6) This being the ground situation, the Army commanders must have told the Centre that as the Army is facing huge problems in Kashmir, it does not want a further problem in the form of politicians who publicly accuse the Army of atrocities. The approach of the Army seems clear: either withdraw the Army from Kashmir, or turn a Nelson’s eye to whatever they do.

(7) Now, Jammu is mostly in the hands of the BJP, and the party MLAs do not create any troubles. The problem is with MLAs of the PDP, NC and the Congress. These will definitely complain of Army atrocities as these politicians reside with their families in Kashmir, and to collaborate with the Union government, or appearing to do so or even remaining silent may amount to signing one’s own death warrant.

(8) The Jammu and Kashmir assembly has 87 seats. In the last elections, PDP won 28, BJP 25, NC won 15, and the Congress won 12. After BJP withdrew support to government in June, Governor’s rule was imposed under section 92 of the state Constitution. However, recently the PDP, NC and the Congress came together, thus collectively having a clear majority in the house. Constitutionally, therefore, the Governor was obliged to invite the leader of this coalition to form a government, or at least hold a floor test as mandated by Bommai case.

(9) However, it seems that the Army, which really calls the shots in Kashmir, was not in favor of this, as it would result in forming a state government whose members would criticize the Army whenever atrocities were committed (and they are bound to be committed, for reasons already explained above). This is the real reason for imposition of President’s rule in the state. The Army commanders must have told the prime minister that they will not tolerate a state government which is critical of the Army even in the slightest, whereas the PDP, NC, and Congress leaders will definitely criticize it off and on when atrocities occur.

The orders of the Supreme Court for putting Army personnel on trial who are alleged to have committed atrocities and human rights violation must have been bitterly resented by the Army officers, and that is why some even approached the court. Now they must have said enough is enough.

(10) Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, President’s rule can be extended upto three years by complying with certain conditions vide clause (4) of Article 356, and who knows, the Constitution may even be amended for continuing President’s rule even thereafter.

So, we are in for the long haul in Kashmir, which though called President’s rule, is really Army rule.

By Justice Markandey Katju
former Judge, Supreme Court of India   
Disclaimer: The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not reflect the views and policies of the
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