Mohsin Raza Malik |
Indian security forces and law-enforcement agencies have been using the term “Over Ground Worker (OGW)” to refer to an individual involved in providing logistic or intelligence support to hardcore militants or insurgents in the volatile Himalayan state of Jammu & Kashmir. However, essentially modifying this very term, now Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat has also included “stone-pelters” in the list of so-called OGWs.
He, in a recent statement, suggested dealing “sternly” with those who pelt stone at Indian personnel in Kashmir after calling them Over Ground Workers of “terror groups”. Though this statement looks a bit harsh, it somehow conforms to some hard facts in the troubled valley.
Since the killing of young Kashmiri ‘poster boy’ Burhan Wani by Indian security forces in mid-2016, the Kashmiri resistance movement has undergone a substantial transformation. Sparking a series of mass protests and anti-India public demonstrations in Indian-held Kashmir, it just gave rise to what has been dubbed the “Third Kashmiri Intifada”.
India’s conventional strategy to tackle the Kashmiri resistance movement comprised some kinds of kinetic military actions against militants besides detaining various Hurriyat leaders in prisons for varying periods.
Not only did this Kashmiri Intifada instantly bring Kashmir into the international limelight, but it also gave new impetus to ongoing separatist or freedom movement in the valley. It has more become a mass movement than anything else by the participation of a considerable segment of the Kashmiri populace. It has also resulted in blurring the line between combatant and non-combatants in the state of J&K.
Therefore, most of the Kashmiris are now just militants or their supporters, protectors, sympathizers, or at least anti-India souls who no longer want Kashmir to be part of India. Indeed, we can divide them into pro-independence secessionists and pro-Pakistan annexationists.
It is not the conventional Hurriyat leadership but the Kashmiri youth which is the pivot of current Intifada in Kashmir. This youth, regardless of age, gender, class or orientation, is actively resisting or protesting against Indian rule in the state of J&K. These Kashmiri youngsters are now the forerunners of the ongoing resistance movement in the valley.
Read more: Kashmir: A new intifada
The ‘martyred’ Hizbul Mujahideen boys Burhan Wani and Sabzar Bhat are an iconic symbol for this movement. These two young Kashmiri boys have become a role model for a large number of youngsters. Besides street protests, holding anti-India public rallies is their common activity. And Social Media is their most powerful tool.
Pakistan, which is usually blamed for supporting Kashmiri separatists, appears to have nothing to do with the latest uprising in Kashmir since it has been busy in overcoming its domestic counter-terror challenges for more than a decade. In fact, it is really frustrating for young Kashmiris that they have been denied their basic human, political and civil rights in the 21st Century.
They have not been allowed to determine the crucial question of their political sovereignty by exercising a right to self-determination. India never seriously tried to uplift the socioeconomic status of Kashmiris. Owing to no significant economic activity in Kashmir, there are only insufficient economic opportunities for the Kashmiri youth. The conflict-hit Kashmir is currently one of the most deprived and backward regions in India.
Indian authorities are currently employing this tool to stop Kashmiris from communicating and collaborating with each other through Social Media and mobile phones.
This economic deprivation gave rise to a sort of frustration among Kashmiri youth which, over the years, has transformed into aggression. Therefore, the deprived, alienated and frustrated Kashmiri youth has revolted against India, which symbolically represents a political status quo in the troubled valley.
India’s conventional strategy to tackle the Kashmiri resistance movement comprised some kinds of kinetic military actions against militants besides detaining various Hurriyat leaders in prisons for varying periods. This strategy, however, looks absolutely ineffective to contain the current Kashmiri Intifada.
There is now relatively a bigger and graver challenge for India to control and pacify a large segment of civilian Kashmiri population which is in conformity with militants ideologically, and which is also actively participating in street protests and anti-India public demonstrations. To cope with this challenge, Indian has apparently devised another multipronged strategy in addition to a number of conventional tactics.
The first component of India’s new strategy involves the use of excessive force against civilians and protesters to disperse anti-India protest rallies and demonstrations. It ranges from using pallet gun to open indiscriminate fire on protesters at point-blank range. So, Indian forces have shot seven unarmed protesters dead in Pulwama district last month in a naked display of this sort of force.
Imposing curfew, mostly for long durations, in the troubled valley to stop people from assembling and holding demonstrations against India and Indian atrocities is the second component of Indian strategy in Kashmir. We have seen that Indian-held Kashmir remained under the 53-day curfew, which was also the longest ever period of curfew in the valley, following the killing of Burhan Wani in mid-2016.
Kashmir was placed under Governor’s Rule following the collapse of PDP-BJP coalition in June last year. This Governor’s Rule has been followed by the President’s Rule in the state last month.
A curfew was again imposed throughout the valley following the killing of another Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Bhat in May 2017. According to a report of Times of India, curfew and restrictions were imposed for 168 times in nine districts of Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 and 2017.
The media blackout and suspension of mobile internet services is the third major tool of the current Indian strategy in the troubled valley. Indian authorities are currently employing this tool to stop Kashmiris from communicating and collaborating with each other through Social Media and mobile phones. In addition to these measures, now Indian forces have also reintroduced cordon and search operations (CASO) in the valley after a gap of 15 years.
The conventional, as well as modern tools of Indian strategy to suppress the political aspirations of Kashmiri people, have apparently been quite counterproductive. Rather than pacifying disgruntled Kashmiris, it has been instrumental in fanning the anti-India sentiments in the volatile state of J&K. It was official political agenda of ruling BJP to scrap Articles 35A and 370 of Indian Constitution which confers special status to the state of J&K. However, Modi-led BJP could not implement this plan owing to strong opposition from Kashmiris.
Now political space for BJP is gradually shrinking as it has just suffered a big defeat in the Hindi heartland states in the recently held state elections in India. Thus, the people of India have somehow rejected BJP’s Kashmir and other policies. There is currently a political deadlock in Kashmir. Kashmir was placed under Governor’s Rule following the collapse of PDP-BJP coalition in June last year. This Governor’s Rule has been followed by the President’s Rule in the state last month.
The 70-year long Indian subjugation and suppression of Kashmiris have turned Kashmir into a simmering volcano which would erupt at any time beyond the control and capacity of occupying Indian forces in the volatile valley.
Indian forces have frequently been blamed for committing massive human right violations in Indian-held Kashmir. In June last year, calling for an international inquiry into alleged violations in the disputed territory, UN Human Rights Chief had accused Indian security forces of killing and wounding numerous civilians by using excessive force in Kashmir since 2016. This UN report says that some 145 civilians were killed by Indian security forces during this period.
Similarly, the use of pellet guns also caused eye injuries in more than 6000 people. As per data available with Indian agencies, at least 413 people lost their lives in various acts of violence across the valley in 2018, which is also the bloodies year in a decade in Kashmir. According to some estimates, more than 70 thousand Kashmiris have been killed in Indian-held Kashmir since 1989.
It would be hard for India to continue its killing spree in Kashmir at will in this modern era of human rights and media activism. The international community and world human rights’ bodies now look more concerned over mass killings and gross human rights violations in the Indian-held Kashmir.
No mass movement in the contemporary world can be suppressed through military means. The 70-year long Indian subjugation and suppression of Kashmiris have turned Kashmir into a simmering volcano which would erupt at any time beyond the control and capacity of occupying Indian forces in the volatile valley.
It won’t require the United Nations to intervene to implement its past resolutions on this issue. Nor will it wait until two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours sit at the negotiating table to resolve this longstanding ‘bilateral dispute’.
Mohsin Raza Malik is a lawyer and columnist/political analyst based in Lahore. He is a regular (commissioned) columnist with Pakistan’s leading national English daily The Nation and has regularly been writing a weekly column for this Newspaper since August 2014. The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.