Don’t appease the monster

Joginder Singh ji
( Former Director -CBI)

Last week’s newspapers had a telling photograph which showed a group of young men thrashing a policeman lying on a road in Srinagar. Nobody had stepped forward to save him from the wrath of the protesters or stop the assailants from perpetrating the outrage. The photograph reminded me of my tenure as Inspector-General of Police in Srinagar during 1988-89, which was the worst period of insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir.

That was the time when the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, which had kidnapped the daughter of then Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and demanded the release of five Pakistan-trained terrorists. The Government had abjectly surrendered to the JKLF’s demand to secure the release of Rubaiya Sayeed. A decade later, another Government released three terrorists to secure the freedom of the passengers of an Indian Airlines flight which had been hijacked to Kandahar.

The Government of India has been persisting with the mistaken belief that its perverse policy of appeasement will lead to some positive results. On the contrary, such repeated capitulation has been a morale-booster for terrorists and separatists, and has led to the Union Government finding itself pushed into a corner.

One only needs to look at a few examples for evidence of the Government’s folly: Parents and families of terrorists killed in open encounters are given an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh meant for their rehabilitation while assistance hardly ever reaches the families of their victims. More is being done for terrorists than for the four lakh Hindus and Sikhs who were forced to leave the Kashmir Valley as part of the ethnic cleansing launched by the terrorists and separatists. The region-wise demography of Jammu & Kashmir is reproduced with this article and the figures are are self-explanatory.

Things have come to such a pass that any use of force in self-defence by security forces in the Kashmir Valley is not only frowned upon but openly criticised by all, including the State Government. In some places, if a terrorist is killed, their supporters run riot. Every citizen of India has the right to defend himself except, it seems, the personnel of security forces.

Whether it is by the media or the Government, security forces are labelled the villains of the piece — responsible for all ills in the Kashmir Valley. It is this tacit support that emboldens the terrorists, encouraging them to make anti-India statements which they are then allowed to get away with. Mrs Margaret Thatcher had once rightly said that “publicity is the oxygen of terrorism”. It is publicity which gives terrorists a larger-than-life image.

The result of all of this is that political parties compete with each other to offer implicit support to terrorism. Winning remains the first, second and third priority of all politicians — regardless of the means, even if that means selling one’s soul to the devil.

The common Kashmiri citizen, who wants to lead a peaceful life, is dragged unnecessarily into the vicious circle of violence. He cannot defy the diktat of the terrorists with even the local Government going overboard to appease them. He feels that it is pointless to look to the Government for protection as even politicians are living under the shadow of the gun.

Nowhere in the world has terrorism been countered with sweet talk and dismal surrender. The security forces do not bear a grudge against any Kashmiri. They are merely following orders to maintain law and order. Hence, anybody who throws stones at security forces or attacks them must expect retaliation with double the might. This simple reality is lost on the terrorists and separatists, many of whom have been ironically provided with security by the Government, who instigate violence on any and every issue — be it temporary rest houses for Hindu pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath shrine or the visit of the Prime Minister to the Kashmir Valley.

The worst sufferer is the ordinary Kashmiri. Investors shy away from a place where strikes are called regularly and violence erupts at the drop of a hat. Tourists, too, think twice before booking a flight to Srinagar. It suits the interests of the terrorists to keep the Valley in a disturbed state lest pro-Pakistani politicians lose their audience. In the span of one week last month, five persons died and 65 others — including 32 policemen — were injured in violent clashes in the Kashmir Valley.

The way small-time politicians are going about wrecking the economy of the State is reprehensible. No amount of financial assistance can improve this situation. Despite the Prime Minister’s repeated visits, his offers of dialogue have found no takers.

Terror-mongers have got away with massacres of Hindus and Sikhs in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, with the Government of India playing the role of a mute spectator. If anyone from Kashmir is unhappy to be in India, including those speaking of secession, it is time for them to quietly migrate to Pakistan or any other country.

On February 15, 2006, US Congressman Frank Pallone introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning the violation of human rights of Kashmiri Pandits. He stated that an ethnic cleansing campaign was being run by jihadis to convert Kashmir into an Islamic state and four lakh Kashmiri Pandits had either been murdered or displaced from their homes. The resolution was passed by the House (with the Senate concurring). It stated that the US Congress condemns the human rights violations committed against Kashmiri Pandits in the strongest terms and that it is the sense of Congress that the Government of India and the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir should take immediate steps to remedy the situation and act to ensure the physical, political and economic security of this embattled community.

It is now up to the Government of India to pick up the gauntlet. Responsibility walks hand-in-hand with power which, in the present case, does not appear to have been exercised. What we need is a clear, consistent and comprehensive policy on Jammu & Kashmir that is free of past errors of judgement.