Dialogue stasis in Kashmir driving civilians to confront army - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 18 February 2017

Dialogue stasis in Kashmir driving civilians to confront army

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Feb 17

The government’s silence in the face of simmering anger in Kashmir is throwing into dangerous confrontation two crucial protagonists --- the army, versus unarmed Kashmiri civilian mobs.

The army, on the one hand, must intensify counter-infiltration operations to keep militants at bay until snow closes routes across the Line of Control (LoC). And with nothing to show for months of violent street protests after the killing in July of popular local militant, Burhan Wani, Kashmiri separatists have little choice but to up the ante, if necessary by confronting the army directly.

On Wednesday, a day after four army men were killed and several others injured in three encounters in North Kashmir, army chief, General Bipin Rawat bluntly warned that stone-pelting Kashmiri mobs who interfered in army operations would be fired upon.

Calling such mobs “over-ground workers of terrorists”, Rawat also warned that civilians waving Pakistani or Islamic State (IS) flags would be treated as “anti-nationals”.

These strong words had been carefully calibrated. The army, highly experienced in counter-insurgency operations (COIN), faces a worrying new challenge from flash mobs of Kashmiri civilians, who hurl stones at soldiers moving to cordon a suspected militant hideout, or closing in for the final engagement. This facilitates the militant’s getaway. Alternatively, like on Tuesday, it distracts soldiers at a critical moment, causing additional casualties.

Since insurgency broke out in the Kashmir Valley in 1990, even through sustained spells of violent civilian protests, mobs had prudently avoided direct confrontation with the army and its counter-militancy wing, the Rashtriya Rifles.

Most seminal confrontations with civilians have involved the “central armed police forces” (CAPFs), or the J&K Police (JKP). From the bloodbath in Srinagar in May 1990, when some 50 Kashmiri mourners in Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq’s funeral procession were shot dead by a panic-stricken Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) detachment that feared it was being overwhelmed; to the three summers of violent street protests across Kashmir in 2008, 2009 and 2010, it was always CAPFs or JKP that came into direct confrontation with civilian mobs.

Even through periods of extended bitterness, the army and civilians extended unusual courtesies to each other. Army posts were seldom directly targeted and army convoys moved with relative freedom.

There were two reasons for this. First, violent civilian mobs were largely an urban phenomenon; and the police, not the army, controlled the Valley’s big cities. Second, Kashmiri separatist leaders realised there would be bloody costs to directly confronting the army, since that would be responded to, not as civilian protest, but as a threat to the territorial integrity of the Line of Control (LoC), which the army guarded.

Few Kashmiris would admit this, but there is a grudging public respect of the army’s operational restraint and “winning hearts and minds” campaigns that have materially uplifted living conditions in remote border areas ignored by the state government.

This balance, however, began changing in 2014-15, when the first civilian flash mobs appeared in rural South Kashmir and challenged on-going army cordon-and-search operations. Inexorably, incidents grew of unarmed locals pelting stones at armed soldiers in cordons and of interference in actual firefights.

This mindset change across rural Kashmiris is blamed on two reasons. Firstly, after the mass agitations of 2008-10, Kashmiris expected an outreach from New Delhi, including a political dialogue. Not only did the United Progressive Alliance betray that expectation but, since 2014, the National Democratic Alliance government inflamed Kashmiri opinion with “anti-Muslim” confrontations like the beef ban, the Dadri lynching and the “love jihad” controversy. As bitterly resented were a series of local controversies, internal to Kashmiri politics, that separatists presented as an assault on the Kashmiri identity -- such as allegations that New Delhi was transforming the Valley’s demographic profile by sponsoring “Pandit Colonies” and “Sainik Colonies”.

Further, Kashmiri youth were bitter at the abject failure of armed militancy, with new militants often surviving less than a month in the field before being gunned down by the security forces. The frenzy after the gunning down of Burhan Wani last July, more a social media star than a dreaded militant, reflected public bitterness at an underdog swallowed by the maws of a pitiless security establishment. Many of those pelting stones at an army cordon are driven by the frantic need to rescue a young man whom they know intimately.

The army, however, does a dangerous job, in which it already imposes numerous restraints on itself to make COIN operations less hazardous to the public --- such as abjuring the use of mortars, artillery, helicopters or air power. Senior commanders realise that soldiers’ hands cannot be tied beyond a point.

Hence General Rawat’s warning to civilians, which is not the first. Last April, after a dozen soldiers were injured in stone pelting, the army publicly warned it would use force against civilians breaking a cordon. Earlier, two civilians were actually killed near Pulwama while they attacked an army cordon.

“We have painted the Kashmiri youngsters into a dangerous corner. The only way of relieving the pressure is dialogue. Otherwise, this will not end well”, says a senior military officer, serving in the Valley.


  1. Precisely what "political dialogue" and "outreach" is expected .... and with whom? With mobs of stone pelters? Or with the Hurriyat, most of whom are pawns of Pakistan? What does Col. Shukla believe they want? Azadi. Is it what we should offer them? The government can be expected to deliver education, healthcare and law&order .... once the stone pelting and cross-border infiltration stop. Investment, jobs and a normal existence will follow. But that is not apparently what the mobs and their so-called leaders seem to want. There is no solution to Kashmir until the Valley is resettled with Indians, and until Pakistan is paid back in the same coin as it has been paying us in since the 1980s.... and eventually Balkanized. Until then our soldiers and policemen will unfortunately continue to face the very tough situation that they do.

  2. why bother with dialogue with a cruel islamic civilian population that actively participated in ethnic cleansing half a million kashmiri pandits.....anywhere cruel community in majority - all others decimated

  3. A dialogue with Kashmiri separatists is like a dialogue with the deaf. They won't get what they want from any Indian Government. They have been warned by the army and the next time if they interfere with army ops am sure some of the terrorist sympathisers will end up dead. I won't be spilling any sentiments or tears if the terrorist sympathisers are shot dead.

  4. Colonel Sahib,

    I check your website almost daily because of your in-depth knowledge of the armed forces. I love your articles but not this one.

    What exactly is this so called "political solution" that experts like you keep talking about. I would love to see an article by you detailing the solution rather than just point out the problems here(and saying a "political solution" is needed).

    Almost 28-30 years of propaganda and brain washing has been going on starting especially from the local mosques and local newspapers like kashmirreader.com , greaterkashmir.com , risingkashmir.com where it is hard to find a single article from India's point of view. Even if you go with a so called political solution, all it will do is prove their point that the Indian govt is willing to bend to pressure tactics and will give another life to the separatists.

    For lack of a better analogy, it took some years of "encounters" in Punjab to clean up the terrorists that had built up and terrorized the locals in the 80s. Yes there was collateral damage. No amount of sweet talking would have helped. Same goes true for Bombay and its mafia problem in the 80s and 90s.

    I, for one, don't mind the current approach. Unless, you or any political expert can present in detail what exactly would comprise in your "political solution".


    One of your many true admirers!

  5. Kill all the prosters who attack Army. This is the final solution.

  6. Your thrust on highlighting NDA govt policies of bla – bla needs an honest assessment and relook as that inevitably seems to suggest a change in regime in Delhi would lesson if not eliminate insurgency in Kashmir because of Hindu orientation of the Party in Power and their stance towards Pakistan. That is the central theme of Indian Macaulays nowadays. That further suggests that BJP as a Party needs to be banned / eliminated as it is seen as Pro Hindu by Islamicist Terrorists of the valley and may be other parts. You also need to assess whether terrorism’s achievements in valley such as ethnic cleansing of Hindus be allowed to be an acceptable permanent feature of the valley and thus of the political landscape of the country. The neutrality of the Armed Forces is of course only a tool of fight between the white and the black to control the Grey and in doing so both sides will increasing resort to what works – more violence. The violence will escalate in both cases – whether the white inches towards the Greys or the black do so. In the case of the valley, the classical dictum of “if whites are not winning they are losing” applies well and so the whites must keeping winning. There is limited scope for the Greys to be pushed into the Blacks if they are already there throwing stones (they would fire bullets if they have guns) and in that case the Greys must be treated as blacks to save the remnants of the Whites. That is what constitutes movements and manoeuvres in counter insurgency ( a la Richard Simpkin) and whatever Gen Rawat has said must be seen in that light. The greys must accept supremacy of the Whites and that is only possible if whites are seen as winning – not only over blacks but over Greys too. Army certainly must adhere to the spirit of the Constitution and the law of the land rather than to political needs of the modern Indian Macaulays like you ( notwithstanding your claims to the cast and creed as done in your writings on blog pages many a times). The “other” methods of the whites for winning hearts and minds will also continue as in the past. However your description of the situation as “stasis” is apt and need to be taken cognisance of.

  7. Dear Col,
    The situation in J&K has become untenable. The militant supporters of terrorists have become very bold because they feel the press are with them. The way reports are published in some of the Indian newspapers makes one wonder whether the press are on the take from terrorist organizations. The army and the civilian govt should follow the hard-line actions such as the one taken by the Israeli army. Any action taken against the army by civilians, adults or otherwise should be considered as anti-national. Tear gas and if necessary pellet guns or even live bullets should be used below to shoot the agitators' legs. When some of the paid agitators become lame then only they will realize it is not worth to be sympathetic towards terrorists.

  8. Dialogue with politicians will NOT help. They are a useless bunch.
    The youth need jobs. This will come by construction, agriculture & industries.\uc0\u8236 \
    This will happen if the state government wakes up and pays less attention to some vague articles in our constitutions. If you see nothing constructive is ever discussed in the assembly.
    Now our central government bears all the burden.
    Let the state government announce a global investor meet at Srinagar coming summer, even if 5% of money committed flows in things will change.

  9. @Ajai Shukla
    Q: Answer the tough questions Ajai. Share with your audience as to how the Jawans are treated, what quality food are they fed?

    Q: What about the Sahayak culture? When is it going to end?

    Q: Why can't our Army buy enough helmets made indigenously for our own soldiers? Good enough for US Army but not for IA! Ha!

    Q: Why out Generals shoot rare and endangered birds?

  10. The crux lies in these comments, 'Kashmiri separatist leaders realised there would be bloody costs to directly confronting the army', If that is not to be, why won't they attack army too? Irrespective of what happens to J&K or Govt, the first responsibility of the local military cdr is to his men. If he allows anything or anyone to increase cas to his men, he has no right to be in that position. If that means that civilians get more anti-army, let them. Since when has army started looking at their popularity ratings? That seems to be one bad effect of operating in CI areas. Must use the approach James Bond takes in movie 'SkyFall' - 'Hire me or Fire me'.

  11. Let me clarify my position. A dialogue with stone pelters, or even with terrorists, is a MUST. Without it, nothing can improve. Only, it is for the govt to do it, not the army. Also, do know that a dialogue is not the same as surrender or anything derogatory. Why don't people get this? J&K has been royally screwed by Govt of India and that of J&K. However, it is the army that is paying the price for these selfish people.

  12. Ajji, You no visit Aero India??? Why So? :(

  13. NSR says ---

    My comments were not published. Why?

  14. India's only interest in J&K is the land, not the people. That comes across clearly even in the comments. Whereas for the Pakistani's it is the kinship. The land of J&K belongs to the Kashmiris, irrespective of whatever Moodi Bakhts say. Even if it takes another 500 years, Kashmiris will feel the same. I would go as far as saying that the mentality of the indians (there are exceptions) and its establishment has pushed them completely over and any that remain are being pushed. The comments from your CoAS, shows why he was selected. Simpleton! The azad kashmiris told them (IHK) in 1940's that they will be an occupied (gulam) nation if they do not rise up and fight for their freedom. They didn't and now their children and grand children pay for it. The Kashmiris have woken up, albeit with some prodding from Pakistan. I have confidence that Indians will make sure that the fire continues to burn deep in their hearts.

    The history of the world shows when a nation awakes and has a burning desire for freedom, there are only two options, let them go or destroy them. The latter would destroy India it self, even if it was possible in todays age. What option is there? This problem really needs to be settled by grown ups.

  15. This MHA report within a week of your article. Bingo!


  16. During the ongoing encounter in Tral, locals are again stoning the security forces engaged in operations. Despite strong words and warnings by Army Chief and MHA, no action even now on these guys. Empty threats lower credibility. That is why army was taught never to fire in the air!


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