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'Kashmir is a battle of the mind'

April 19, 2017 09:53 IST

'Tying somebody to the jeep is not the military way, but the officer was able to come out of the situation without any bloodshed.'
'I am not supporting him, but I am also not criticising him.'
'He had to use some mechanism to save the uniformed personnel, many of whom were Kashmiri boys of the J&K police,' points out Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar (retd), who was instrumental in the surrender of a record 1,267 terrorists in Kashmir.

Police stops proesting female students in Srinagar  

IMAGE: Jammu and Kashmiri policewomen confront lady students at a protest in Srinagar. Photographs: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar (retired) has studied 1,127 terrorists across the world to understand how they lead and control terrorist organisations.

A few months ago, then defence minister Manohar Parrikar asked the general to head a committee to recommend ways to enhance the combat potential of the armed forces. The Shekatkar Committee has submitted 120 recommendations on defence reforms.

The cerebral general served four decades in the Indian Army, serving extensively in the north-east combating insurgency. He was instrumental in the surrender of a record 1,267 terrorists in Kashmir.

A prominent speaker on defence affairs and author of several books, the general's third PhD thesis will discuss psychological warfare in the 21st century and the role of the media.

Speaking to Rediff.com's Archana Masih from Pune, General Shekatkar says Kashmir needs moderate Internet imams, points out to the hypocrisy of secessionist leaders who keep their own children away from terrorism while encouraging Kashmiri youth to take to the streets and reiterates his belief that Pakistan will be divided again.

You have served in Kashmir and have seen both sides -- the army and civilian population -- why do you think the young Kashmiri is so angry?

It is the ideological mindset. Anger has been artificially created. Their minds have been subverted.

With reasonable confidence I can tell you that less than 2% of the young are active in this, the rest have joined them.

I refuse to buy this theory that there is so much anger. It is the human rights activists, politicians, media who are saying it is anger.

The government has to be tough and improve the administrative machinery.

Nowhere in the world has the gun been the final solution to controlling subverted minds. These minds have to be subverted back into thinking about peace.

The army has its limitations. The army did not create this problem and it cannot be the solution.

The problem has been created by politicians.

Should the army officer have tied the Kashmiri to the jeep?

It was the ingenuity of that young officer's mind. Nobody told him to do that. He had to resort to this.

The ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police), CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and J&K police were escorting the poll party. They could have been killed. Otherwise, there would have been dead bodies.

He did not kill them or beat them (the stone-pelters). He put the man in front of the jeep. He (the army officer) must be a young man, 25 or 26 years of age, and must have thought this is the best way of escorting the poll party safely.

But that has been blown out of proportion.

Does it not affect the Indian Army's image? Some former generals have said that this is not militarily correct.

The Indian Army is not so weak. The Indian Army is always militarily correct.

Tying somebody to the jeep is not the military way, but he was able to come out of the situation without any bloodshed.

I am not supporting the officer, but I am not also criticising him.

He had to use some mechanism to save the uniformed personnel, many of whom were Kashmiri boys of the J&K police.

An FIR has been lodged by the J&K police and the video has gone viral.

It can go viral or anywhere and they can lodge an FIR. If this starts getting picked upon, tomorrow the CRPF, police will refuse to act.

The police, CRPF and BSF (Border Security Force) had given up in Punjab and that is why the Indian Army had to be called in for Operation Blue Star.

The army dealt with it militarily. As a result, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and army chief (General Arun S Vaidya, Mahavir Chakra bar, under whose tenure Blue Star occurred) were killed. Do we want that situation in Kashmir?

The Indian Army has been working in Kashmir with its hands tied, it is a challenging task.

The Indian Army is the only army in the world which has adopted the use of minimum force as the guiding principle for operations because we are operating within our own people.

The Indian Army has not allowed Kashmir to secede since 1947 despite Pakistan trying its level best and will not allow it in the future.

Look at the Pakistan army in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province). They use every weapon in the world on their own people.

The Americans dropped 52 Tomahawk missiles in Syria. Each missile is a deadly weapon. Nobody questions them and here the Indian Army is being attacked in articles and TV debates.

Soldiers cordon off an area after their convoy was attacked by terrorists in Srinagar

IMAGE: Soldiers cordon off an area after an army convoy was attacked by terrorists in Srinagar, April 1.

You meet a lot of young officers at your lectures. What advice do you give officers serving in the Kashmir valley who may be frustrated with the situation they encounter?

We tell them not to get frustrated and lose heart because this stage will pass over.

I also tell them that Pakistan will be divided once again very soon.

Pakistan will face a revolt like it did in Bangladesh.

Kashmir is a battle of the mind.

No gun or missile can change the mind. And the battle of the mind has to be fought on the negotiating table, not in an akhada.

Negotiations at multiple levels?

Yes, including school and college students. The Government of India should involve the common people in the dialogue, the real stakeholders -- not the Hurriyat or Opposition parties.

The Hurriyat Conference will never allow normalcy to return to Kashmir because it will then lose its relevance. It is surviving on anti-India sentiment to get money from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. There was a time when some Western countries also used to encourage them.

Worst of all, the Government of India is showing a soft corner to them (Hurriyat leaders).

Who allows them to get visas and go abroad?

Who provides them security despite being traitors?

Who provides them monetary assistance?

Who allows them treatment in AIIMS (the All India Institute of Medical Sciences) at government cost?

Tomorrow when normalcy prevails, will they get these facilities?

The central and state governments are equally responsible for this.

In Kashmir, our energies are being tested, but things will improve, I am 200% sure. We must not give up.

If something happens in Kashmir, the north-east is just waiting. Don't forget the Greater Tamil Eelam included Tamil Nadu.

What can be done to contain stone pelting in Kashmir?

This is a new phenomenon. They are brainwashed. Parallels are drawn with the Haj ritual when pebbles are thrown which means 'shaitan ko marna hai.'

These youngsters are told by the so-called mullahs and the Hurriyat Conference that India is the bigger shaitan, therefore you need to throw bigger stones.

This is the misinterpretation of that philosophy and ritual. This poison has been put into their minds.

There are no stones in Srinagar, so they are collected.

Boys are paid Rs 500 for 3 hours (of stone pelting).

They are paid 10,000 for snatching one rifle.

It is a commercial venture, not because of ideology.

The army and police cannot be allowed to throw stones back at them.

The army and police have weapons, but those weapons are not to kill, therefore they have to shoot in the air and use small calibre weapons which do not kill.

A J&K police personnel fires a tear gas shell

IMAGE: A Jammu and Kashmir policeman fires a tear gas shell to control protesting students.

The security forces use pellet guns which cause many injuries.

Training is given to shoot below the waist. Pellet guns were brought when Omar Abdullah was the chief minister. Now the same people are crying hoarse that it is inflicting injuries in the eyes and face.

You have to bend to pick a stone, and in that process people get hurt in the face. Otherwise, the troops are told not to shoot above the waist.

The pellet guns are used by the BSF, CRPF and police. The army doesn't use them. These are bought by the state government and used by the police and paramilitary.

What is the way out in Kashmir?

When I was in Kashmir, I was ruthlessly rude to the Hurriyat.

I told them if you create a problem in Kashmir, then you are not safe.

We used to tell them not to use the Friday prayers to fan communal violence because when hate speeches are given, people get charged.

The battle is of winning the hearts and minds of the people.

We used this in the north-east and Punjab and I did this in Kashmir with great success. That is how Operation Sadhbhavna started.

I was there when terrorism started in Kashmir in the 1990s. They destroyed school buildings and targeted administrative buildings.

Once you stop education, you produce a madarsa culture.

Those who went to the madarsas then are now 15, 20 years old.

They are thoroughly brainwashed. Those who were young in the 1990s have taken over the leadership. The cycle is complete.

When you say 'battle of hearts and minds,' you can open the brain and do brain surgery. Twelve inches below is the heart and you can open that too and do open heart surgery, but between the brain and heart -- which is linked to both -- is the mind.

A mindset is built over a period of time. Once that is formed, you cannot fire any bomb or nuclear missile to destroy the mindset -- and that is keeping terrorism alive in Kashmir.

Those that started the terrorism have mostly died.

The middle rung leadership is at the top now and those deprived of an education are the youngsters picking up stones. The cycle is going on.

How can the hearts and minds be won then?

How do you tame the mind?

The mindset has to be countered by a counter mindset.

My belief is that you need moderate Internet imams to tell the young people not to get misguided, not to endanger their lives and destroy their future.

It is time we take the intellectual boys and girls out of Kashmir.

When you are confined to that area, you do get influenced. They should be given moderate education and sent back to the valley.

90% don't want to go back because they get good jobs, but unless they go and work there, the intellectual vacuum will be filled in by goons and this is going on for 20 years.

Thirdly, if (Hizbul Mujahideen leader) Syed Salahuddin's son can study in Kashmir and become a doctor in Kashmir -- if his son can be kept away from terrorism, why can't other children?

(Dukhtaran-e-Millat's) Asiya Andrabi's daughter is in Singapore.

The government and media need to highlight these points about these people who claim to be fighting for the Kashmiris.

Why don't they ask their children to join the movement? Why this hypocrisy?

The government should also stop too many development projects in Kashmir.

Why?

That has also become a way to make money because that money is siphoned out by politicians, bureaucrats, contractors and the common man remains poor.

Funding must be controlled. The local contractor should be paid directly from the GoI.

I did a study and presented it to Farooq Abdullah that the amount of money that the GoI had spent from 1989 to 1996 -- if you place the Rs 100 notes (2.5 inches by 3.5 inch), you could cover the entire Kashmir valley.

The money that is being siphoned off from government projects is being used to pay the stone pelters.

A continuous flow of money becomes an incentive for the continuance of terrorism.

There are 246 influential families in the five districts who have made terrorism a cottage industry to make money from the government, extortion and money in the name of fighting terrorism.

Even the local bureaucracy has developed interest in keeping terrorism alive.

The local politicians themselves don't want terrorism wiped out from Kashmir, irrespective of which party.

In the name of terrorism you can spend any amount of money and there is no accountability.

From 2001 to 2016, the Americans have spent 21 billion dollars. The government of Pakistan will be foolish not to continue terrorism in Afghanistan because there is a constant flow of money.

Pakistan is bluffing when it says it is supporting Kashmir's demand for self determination.

Their problem are the rivers that sustain the economy of Pakistan -- the Indus, Beas, Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab -- which originate from China and Kashmir.

If India controls or diverts the flow of water, Pakistan can become registan (a desert) because Pakistan's economy is agricultural based.

It is for this fear that they want to control Kashmir.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com