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The Ramzan Ceasefire is NOT a solution

May 28, 2018 09:14 IST

What the ceasefire does is to show the supporters of violence in the Kashmir valley an alternative to militancy, argues Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: A grenade blast victim being taken for treatment to the SMHS hospital in Srinagar, May 24, 2018.
It was the first breach of the Ramzan ceasefire announced by the Government of India.
At least 10 people were injured in the grenade blast at Bejibihara, Anantnag district, south Kashmir. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI Photo

The ceasefire (or, more accurately, the non-initiation of offensive action) declared on the eve of the holy month of Ramzan is a step that gives the Kashmiris living in the four restive districts of the valley a choice of more than one future.

As expected, the measure has come under criticism from some defence experts who argue that it will provide breathing space to the militants, who are currently under tremendous pressure. Separatist leaders have sarcastically asked if the armed forces will resume killing after Ramzan.

The critics on both sides of the divide miss the point. The Ceasefire is NOT a solution, but gives an alienated people yet another chance to pause and rethink their past actions.

Periodic ceasefires and resumed operations are not new.

During the course of the long-running Naga and Mizo insurgencies, there were several ceasefires followed by intense operations.

What it did in the north east (and is doing in Kashmir) is to show the supporters of violence an alternative to militancy.

After all, counterinsurgency is all about change of perception. Its aim is to shift the discourse from conflict to co-existence and, ultimately, cooperation.

 

A simplistic way of measuring success in counterinsurgency has been body count/weapons capture.

An alternative is to define success as absence of violent incidents in an area under a unit's jurisdiction.

With veterans of Kashmir (army chief General Bipin Rawat, for instance) at the helm, this is well understood in army circles. The proof of this is the ongoing Sadbhavana exercise and the running of goodwill schools.

I had some role in this effort way back in 1994 when the first kindergarten English medium school opened in Tregam in north Kashmir, the birthplace of Maqbool Butt, the executed Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief, and a hot bed of militancy.

The unrest in four districts in Kashmir (NOT the whole of Jammu and Kashmir) has a direct link to what has been happening in Palestine for several decades. The stone-pelting and violent actions in Kashmir are a direct copy of the intifada in Gaza.

It is time the Kashmiris (and their supporters elsewhere) pause and reflect on what the intifada has achieved for the Palestinians.

In contrast, in the same Palestine, the self-governing West Bank territories have been leading a peaceful life of progress and economic development. Like the Hamas-supported intifada in Gaza, the Kashmiri intifada is basically anarchist violence.

Let it be very clear, in the rest of India there are no takers for or sympathisers of the Kashmiri intifada.

Without the backing of the rest of India or a sense of fatigue setting in, there is no chance of these four restive districts in the Kashmir valley ever achieving their avowed aim of 'Azaadi' or whatever it is that they desire.

In a clear message to the violent mobs, General Rawat recently asserted that force will be met with force and the Indian Army was too strong for the militants to overwhelm.

One oft-heard slogan in Kashmir is 'Kashmir banega Pakistan (Kashmir will become Pakistan)'. In a substantive way, that has already happened.

Like Pakistan, the Kashmir valley has carried out ethnic cleansing and forced the migration of the minority Hindus.

Like Pakistan, the Kashmir valley has been unstable and violence-prone. A puritanical Islam has been established in place of tolerant Sufism.

All that the ceasefire does is to offer a chance for civil society to ponder the cost and benefits of its violent ways.

At the end of the month of Ramzan, the militants may opt for resumption of hostilities. In that case, the onus of civilian suffering will rest solely on their shoulders.

Will this help them retain their popular support? That is a million dollar question and peace in these four districts in the Kashmir valley will depend on the calculations of the militants.

The recently released film Raazi (based on a true story) showed how a Kashmiri girl spied for India and helped the national cause. The twitterati in Pakistan erupted and dubbed the film as false Indian propaganda.

It is time to remind the Kashmiris as well as the Pakistanis that as late as the 1970s, the citizens of Pakistan occupied Kashmir wished to merge with India.

On April 4, 1979, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the military rulers of Pakistan, anti-Pakistan riots erupted in the Kashmir valley. The lives of the pro-Pakistani Jamaat e Islami cadres were saved by the Indian Army who sheltered them.

In August 1965, it was Kashmiri shepherds who alerted the Indian Army about the presence of Pakistani infiltrators. Lack of support in the valley was a major cause for the failure of Operation Gibraltar launched by Pakistan to annex Kashmir.

The current measure gives peace yet another chance.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd), author of Let the Jhelum Smile Again, has been a student of insurgency for 40 years.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)