Kashmir: Thinking Outside Control

Adfar Shah

The very first strategy of a versatile leader must be to learn all the inconvenient facts of the field he is operating.  Kashmir throughout has been full of such inconvenient facts like visible and invisible oppressors who suppress(ed) the natives, shaped a bloody history and life of indignity, poverty, exploitation, leadership crisis, half-revolutions, undone changes and unfulfilled promises. The key to success in Kashmir is very simple but still not taken enough cognizance of and that is the lack of effort towards enhancing credibility and social justice and simultaneously getting rid of ambiguous and invisible control. Therefore, the approach at the moment should be thinking outside the box, by which I mean shaping up a Kashmir where the heart rules and love and peace prevail. Every action today in Kashmir has a reaction purely because of dichotomous social realities. Amid a plethora of contractors of instability and peace, there always exists a relation between the equations of peace building and forces of the sustenance of uncertainty (mason vs bulldozer). While one party does either a good thing or a bad one, the other follows quickly as its reaction in terms of hollow opposition, the inevitable blame game, labelling, propaganda, motivating the masses against even good, etc,. Therefore, to understand and solve this vicious cycle of action and reaction, there is a need for the shifting of the methodological perspectives and methods of working on contemporary Kashmir and tapping its social collective. If we want to crack this sustained chaotic phenomenon, we have to understand the idea of ‘the local’ and ‘the other’. There are a few strategies that need to be institutionalised and followed strictly, like following the strong evidence-based practices in combat operations, retaining a cool mindset, the ideology of pardon, an enhanced professionalism while handling the unrests, etc. Besides systematic research (scientific observation), developing balanced methods of public handling need to be practiced to lessen the error factor. On the social intervention front, the chief stake-holders need to see whether the target population interfaces well with the problems addressed in the programmes launched for them, or there is a sense of discredit (due to enemy perception) despite doing so much of good. If so, there has to be some serious brain storming on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this sense of discredit and anger among the locals. Also how well the daily procedures of belted forces work, also needs a revision and to what extent does the target population reflect the range of plurality or diversity be that region, religion, caste, group, class, vulnerabilities, etc,. We also need to see who is still left out and why, with regard to the overall welfare interventions and goals of the projects. An empathetic approach needs to be incorporated with greater magnitude. There should also be cerebral capacity checks, seeing the useful work done by the responsible officials to gauge to what extent ethics are maintained, actual work done, peace efforts built, models prepared and evaluation and understanding of society done for further policy building. One more painful question to be considered necessarily while discussing strategic analysis, must be to see how well do  target groups understand what they are consenting to, what they are following and why? What are the motivating factors around them or behind their negative reinforcement? What are their compulsions and limitations? What are their weak points that are violated continuously by vested interests etc? We also need to evaluate to what extent poor local participation, brutal randomization and oft repeated and false generalizations destroy security calculations and the power to foresee eventualities? We also need to see our strategic failures in a proper perspective and find out why even effective change makers and participants are unwilling to be particularised? The fact remains that in all the perception management efforts, education system, exposure trips and techniques aimed at changing mindsets, even the target population has hardly understood the problems addressed through these very programmes (is it mere wastage?).Therefore, how well the policy framework and selection procedures work must be clear to the forces by now.

The need of the hour is to develop effective and functional links between local sociology, embedded social problems and social policy-making in a range of contexts. Just supporting and extending the learning summaries of key issues, closed door presentations, speeches and chosen statements is not enough but some positive action is needed as well. Actions of a mixed nature are needed at this juncture to make intervention efforts inclusive. Actions that are politico-military, social, environmental, action oriented and practical need to be executed simultaneously. For instance, probing fair and fast, issuing clear statements on sensitive issues from local/regional security head quarters, unlike the central hegemony and control on everything, actions like healing the bruised environment of Kashmir (launching massive plantation drives), purifying the polluted holy waters of Kashmir (addressing water pollution), saluting the resilience and suffering of innocent Kashmir (by accepting the past mistakes and tendering sincere apologies), and delivery of justice in pending cases including Pathribal, etc, are some of the measures which would go a long way in addressing past wrongs. We must believe in rehabilitation rather than adding to the book’s value as merely learning and teaching resource. The security apparatus has to incorporate some more laudable principles like honesty, transparency, quick action against HR violations, internal transformation of Jawans, understanding the local ethos, sensitivities and vulnerabilities, etc, to win hearts once again.

Currently seeing from a view of mass perception, the whole security apparatus is doubtful for they do not work sufficiently for social justice and resort to putting things in black and white as per the masses. They lack strong evaluations, decentralisation in judgements, clear statements, case study and case history approaches in the field, open documentation of their and others operations, public friendly decisions, etc. The case study approach (on Kunan, Dardpora, Machil, Pathribal, etc) could have enabled them to think beyond the big brotherly attitude and outside the golden standards they have created for themselves. Their perspectives on practice and strategy need some theoretical framework and know how that is not within the capacity of every officer. Therefore, sociological or psychological handling and tackling must not be given to any Tom, Dick and Harry in the office but selective officers, to do such sensitive jobs for the sake of success-that still seems invisible. Because thinking about and devising strategies for strengthening the credibility of actions and interventions are not within every soldier’s cerebral capacity. Furthermore, a new sample for intervention is to be found throughout, such as the extended treatment of the LOC people and the study of rural-urban diversity. Also, the effective use of new media and technologies, diagnosing clever political corridors, educated but vulnerable citizenship, apparently high political participation but volatile and delusional, reforming the shabby protest handling mechanism at place. Kashmir’s changing society, social and political preferences, new social dimensions and the extent of social inequality amid the conflicting situation has to be understood by the belted forces properly and strategies have to be framed accordingly.

Lastly, there is a need to develop effective literary articulation to become completely involved with literature building for the peace process so that a school of thought exists parallel to the rhetoric. To date, violence loving brigades have generated a variety of disempowerment and negative energy but a counter brigade must come into existence that is designed to vocalize views towards the welfare of marginalized groups, encourage research other than conflict, encourage and document a new political consciousness and effective social participation in nation building. There has to be a movement towards a social justice activism and youth need to be encouraged for this without any hassles. Most importantly, all the previous projects have to be evaluated to see the success rate (an approach of evaluating and assessing the past). Depending on the way in which the local sensitivity among Jawans is incorporated be that in the social, political or cultural context, the chief concern has to be the attainment of peace and normalcy. A new model for training belted forces for peace building roles has to be devised. From social engineering to effective perception management to military reforms, nothing is impossible given the current security leadership in Kashmir but it needs a will to implement these measures effectively and in such a manner that they will last. In Kashmir, the desired social change can be achieved if Kashmiris are empowered to exert influence and make decisions about their own social collective without any fear. The time has come when we need to think out of the box definitely. The time has also come when the women of Dardpora need to be given justice, a time has come when the Pathribal culprits need to be put behind  bars and the time has also come when the Jawan deployed in Kashmir should say himself that I am here for my own people so ‘I don’t need AFSPA’. Seeing the outsider’s view or treatment for Kashmir, why is it that it never seems as if India is looking at Kashmiris as its own people who should be treated without discrimination and looked at with dignity, equality and love?

(Adfar Shah is a Delhi based Sociologist and Columnist.  This article first appeared in Kashmir Monitor.Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com)

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