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The rise of alienation in the Valley - The Indian Express

Madhvee Inamdar ()
January 28, 1998

Title: The rise of alienation in the Valley
Author: Madhvee Inamdar
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 28, 1998

India currently spends over one million US dollars per day
towards the cost of army operations and subsidiary activities to
maintain its military forces in Kashmir to counter insurgency and
militancy. The conflict is sapping the economies of both India
and Pakistan.

Since the early 1950s, the successive Central governments in
India have not permitted the local leadership to grow in Kashmir
and attempts to control the state through rigged elections and
other political machinations fuelled resentment among the state's
Muslim political leaders, and ultimately led to the emergence of
Muslim militant groups. Such groups found ready support and arms
in Pakistan. By 1990, popular resentment toward India's policies
in the state had grown into a mass movement. for azadi
(independence).

The army's role in the conflict expanded in 1993 with the
introduction of the Rashtriya Rifles, an elite army unit created
specifically for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. As of
1996, at least 300,000 troops were deployed in the valley,
including those positioned along the Line of Control. The local
Jammu and Kashmir policemen are generally not involved in counter-
insurgency operations, largely because they are believed to be
sympathetic to the insurgents. However, in 1995 the Special Task
Force (STF), a counter-insurgency division of the Jammu and
Kashmir Police, made up of mainly non-Muslim non-Kashmiri
recruits, was formed apparently to create the impress-ion that
the counter-insurgency effort had local support.

Since at least early 1995 Indian security forces have armed and
trained local auxiliary forces made up of surrendered or captured
militants to assist in counterinsurgency operations. These
forces, who wear no uniforms and operate outside of the normal
command structure of the Indian army and other security forces,
nevertheless are considered state agents under international law.
These groups participate in joint patrols, receive and carry out
orders given by security officers, and operate in full view of
army and security force bunkers and camps. Some members of these
groups are even housed in military compounds.

The BSF and the Rashtriya Rifles are financing their own
paramilitary forces. According to one press report, competition
to claim a greater number of surrendered weapons and recruits has
led to friction between army forces and the Border Security Force
(BSF).

A group of concerned citizens from Pakistan and India has
initiated a process of discussions to build up a movement for
peace and democracy in the subcontinent. The first formal
discussion was held in Lahore, Pakistan, on September 2, 1994.
The group is convinced that the politics of confrontation between
India and Pakistan has failed to achieve any benefits for the
people of both countries. Rather, it has been ruinous for both
the countries. Peace in the subcontinent will help the South
Asian region to progress economically and socially, especially in
the context of the new economic order. The group also demands a
democratic solution to the Kashmir dispute.

The most important task for India in Kashmir at present is to
chalk out a coherent politico-economic policy for the people of
Kashmir in which the local people would be able to participate
not only in planning but also in implementing the plans. The most
important task therefore would be to let the local leadership
grow rather than impose Delhi-backed regimes to which the people
of Kashmir remain hostile. The Indian Government has to take all
such steps as are required to stop the people of Kashmir
identifying the people of the rest of India with the Security
Forces.

The Kashmir conflict is costing India millions of rupees and
thousands of innocent lives with no coherent political policy to
control it, and there is little chance of winning people's minds
with such a policy. India and Pakistan are living beyond their
means to maintain the hostilities in Kashmir since it is
politically more paying than the solution to the problem itself.
The people of both the countries, along with the people of
Kashmir, now have to force their respective governments to stop
taking them for granted.

(The writer is with the Nehru Centre, Mumbai)


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