Paraphrasing Victory in the Valley

Adfar Shah

Gen Ata Hasnain’s recent article, ‘Victory in the Valley’ (December 11, Indian Express) actually a counter argument against Shekhar Gupta’s piece, ‘National Interest: Disarming Kashmir, (December 7) and followed by Ajai Shukla’s articulate and objective commentary, ‘Winning and losing in Kashmir’ (December 17) both upon the Hasnain’s and Gupta’s view points on the idea of aim and victory in Kashmir, was much in discussion among my friends here in Delhi and Kashmir as well. Ata Hasnain, having the core knowledge and experience of the ground situation out of his work and long stay in Kashmir, has though jotted a small rejoinder for Gupta however worth pondering for all Kashmiri’s, Mr. Gupta and particularly for K-analysts thereby opening the panorama of actual impediments to security situation and peace return. A few questions that he has asked are though brain storming but honest and his revelations on aimless armed forces interventions are though bitter but truth. Of his very first theme on aim in Kashmir, the first question that he raises and answers in negative is absolutely factual when seen on the ground situation-the aimlessness, that Kashmir was reflecting yesterday or at the moment. Basically the lack of functional communication between political establishments and armed forces has undoubtedly played its role by hampering the realisation of the goal of conflict termination and successful and sustainable peace building. Though the aim of political establishment and forces should have been one and ideally seems it is but seeing the outcomes, it reveals that ideas of peace have still not been translated on the ground. Hasnain’s aptly questioning that, ‘have we ever enunciated an aim in Kashmir’ clearly reflects the lack of the aim in the conflict torn valley. His idea of ‘no political aim given to the security forces’ also reflects the immature vision of both the leaders of armed forces and the government(s) who just carry on with Kashmir (mis)handling but without any solid and peace based targets. Also the mere controlling of infiltration or eliminating what they call terrorists hardly returned piece even both the targets still remain a bigger challenge. The General further argues that ‘no one realises that in such situations, political and military aims cannot be separated’ that is true and should be because the army belongs to the country run by the government (political establishment) however the fact of the matter is which government we are referring to when we talk of a politico-military aim? If we mean the state government(s) then we are bound to fail for the local governments anywhere thrive upon the local politics, saga of grabbing the vote bank and typical issues that hardly bear a link to the nation building but aim at self building and power wielding. Even the trend is more intense with the local governments in the conflict zones where governments maintain a dual role to maintain both the conflict situation and aimless hollow efforts for peace.  The question is, do they (local establishments) locally own armed forces? Do they help or facilitate the goodwill by the armed forces? Do they claim that Fauj belongs to them openly in public or do they even generalise or declare their aims as one? I am unsure. Therefore, the creation of the dichotomous self fulfilling power poles occurs and currently we witness the same in Kashmir where the two major power poles have erupted- army and the local politics whose aims are not in line with each other (though they pretend to be) but different, so where is a common aim possible that Hasnain is talking about? Not only the difference in or clash of aims but even a covert tussle between the said power poles exists, thereby defeating the actual goal of binding to a single, functional, possible and practicable peace building model. On Hasnain’s joint politico-military aim (in 2001) for commanders giving them the aim to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with mainstream India, politically, economically, socially and psychologically’, the ground reality says that it all worked in Hasnain’s tenure only being the effective and finest Corps Commander however, later couldn’t be institutionalised for most of the stakeholders probably understood this whole people’s model as an individual pursuit and merely personality based. Hasnain is also right when he argues that ‘eliminating terrorists was the easiest part of this war but eliminating terrorism was the real challenge’. Yes, solely because of the work undone at the psychological level and delivery of justice on the ground. Even the lack of sincere apologies for wrongs done by armed forces contributed to this. Forget about the articulation of a politico-military aim by analysts, i would say the term itself remained unaccomplished and un-understood in the bigger corridors of power. On declaring victory prematurely or on right time is not so significant to many of us today, but seeing the ground situation of fragile peace and uncertain calm, i am sure victory in the valley still lies in vacuum. Victory for the belted forces should mean when people whether express it or not but feel secure both in the presence of the security forces and due to their interventions. For a political leadership victory should mean the grass root development particularly strengthening the institution of social justice however both the targets are still too far in Kashmir because of no set objectives to be achieved together and Hasnain rightly puts that ‘victory has to be measured against an aim, or else all kinds of versions are thrown around’. Though he believes victory in a realistic assessment of the future but the fact remains that future assessment has always been an illusory game in Kashmir due to the abundance of volatility, uncertainity, vested interests, rumour mills and fast changing socio-political paradigms. Hasnain’s treating Kashmir a case of rim-land insurgency holds weight because unlike all he treats both inside Kashmir and LoC equally important to concentrate upon for he knows well that all the mess is not holistically gifted from across the border. On re-evaluating the actual military situation in the valley over loss of the Jawans and treating it least important in assessing victory, he perceives it correctly, when he also maintains that ‘in counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism campaigns, the answer finally lies in what the people think’. Because he conceptualises all efforts of forces for the people and thinks like a People’s General. He further unfolds another bitter truth when he says that ‘no serious attempt was made to project to the Kashmiri people how and why their future lay only with India. The only agency that did this was the army’. He is i think partially right but army did it from the very beginning of the conflict seems a little exaggeration because the idea of a brutal and oppressive India to a common Kashmiri was initially given by none other than the armed forces by their atrocities on civilians and mishandling the social crisis. Who can forget fake encounters, who can forget molestation of our women, who can forget torture of the innocents, who can forget mass nameless graves, who can forget Dardpora, Kunan Poshpora or Asiya-Neelofar or Machil killings, who can forget abuse of human rights with impunity and who can forget Afzal’s hasty hanging (that actually retrieved the sense of alienation)? His guess about the lack of proper perception management is also true because not just Centre, Army (except his own started and much discussed WHAM) or local politics but honestly no agency has sincerely tried to own the Kashmiris’ by heart or through psychological tactics or WHAM (winning hearts and minds) for that matter and that is why there is confidence in none and a gulf of trust deficit except the emerging changes in the politics like the appearing of young brigade (young Turks-as called by media) as a new political force. His concluding statement is out rightly true when he argues, ‘to presume that the army has done its job and should hand over the responsibility to civilian agencies is absolutely correct, provided there are agencies who can take it forward to ‘peace’. The irony is, who is actually interested in peace except a few like Hasnain himself and who is capable enough to replace armed forces in such an atmosphere of uncertainty. We must bear in mind that sometimes conflict over peace is preferred to gain, win or maintain ones political capital. I believe that less violence but more hypocrisy, double (dual) standards and plethora of vested interests have tuned Kashmir to a hell on earth, while the hollow praises of it being still a paradise continue. Karl Popper aptly says;

              Those who promised us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.

(Adfar Shah is a Delhi based social analyst and columnist at various reputed media groups. This article first appeared in Kashmir Monitor. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com)

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