War and Peace in J&K

by Mohan Guruswamy


New Delhi, 17 July 2002

Guru takes a look at the realities of the peace efforts in J & K

On January 31, 1968 the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong launched simultaneous attacks in over one hundred towns and major villages and astounded the world with the sheer daring and ferocity of the offensive. Since it coincided with the Tet festival, this assault came to be called the Tet offensive. The USA repulsed the Tet offensive with a mighty show of military power, but it is now agreed by military historians that that was the war’s turning point and that it effectively lost the war then on.

David Halberstam in his book “The Best and the Brightest” tells of a meeting in the White House shortly after the Tet offensive. In this Gen. William Westmoreland was listing out the causalities taken by the Vietnamese during Tet and telling his superiors of the great victory won on the battlefields of Vietnam, prefacing a request for more troops to finish the war by Christmas. At that point the USA had 542,000 troops deployed in that small country. As Clark Clifford soon to be the new Defence Secretary sat toting up all the previous enemy causality figures he arrived at an astounding total of nearing a million killed and incapacitated. He then posed the question which went something like this: “If you have killed that many communist troops then you have already killed several times their official strength. Then who are you fighting?” Halberstam records that at that moment President Lyndon Johnson realized that his generals had taken him for a ride and decided that the USA must get out of Vietnam as soon as possible. It still took them another six years to get out with the last Americans desperately clinging on the skids of a Huey helicopter as Gen. Van Tien Dung’s victorious North Vietnamese Army columns swept into Saigon.

It would seem that in every prolonged and inconclusive conflict there comes a time when the numbers just stop adding up. Then it is time to do a rethink. Here are the official numbers for the Kashmir conflict since 1988. There have been 47234 incidents with 3278 in just the last year. It is claimed that 15246 terrorists were killed of which 3099 were foreign terrorists. The number of so-called foreign terrorists being killed has dramatically risen in the past two years accounting for 1902 of those killed. This is in line with the official view that the insurgency is now almost entirely a foreigner-waged war upon us. In the years 2000 and 2001, it seems, more foreign jihadists are dying for Kashmir than Kashmiris. Since 1988, 11377 civilians have also died and as the Americans would say are collateral losses. We have lost 4102 jawans and officers of the police, para-military and Indian Army. Battlefield causalities in 2001 have been the highest at 4499 for all combatants and civilians. The maximum number of terrorists – 2850 – were killed in 2001, a year in which 1067 civilians and 582 security personnel also died. Since 1999 the security forces have lost 1772 men and this does not include Kargil losses. The annual security force losses have crossed the 500 mark during this period with the kill to loss ration touching new levels. We have over 500,000 troops of varied hues and colors deployed in J&K.

Now here’s another clutch of figures to boggle our minds. Since 1990 we have seized 23387 AK-47, 56 and 74 rifles; 989 universal machine guns; 878 carbines; 9181 pistols and revolvers; 878 rocket propelled grenade launchers; 135 light and medium machine guns; 326 sniper rifles; and 3347 rocket launchers. Almost two full Indian infantry divisions can be equipped with these captured weapons. It also means, since the weapons were recovered by mostly either killing or apprehending the terrorists, and after providing one weapon per terrorist – only Rambo walks around with a full arsenal – that we have also apprehended over 21000 terrorists. Since 1991 the estimates of the number of terrorists operating or lying in wait in PoK has seldom exceeded 3000. Since over 35000 have either been arrested or killed, we must then also ask the question as to whom we are still fighting?

But it is not how we are fighting the war and even whom we are fighting that bothers me as much as how and with whom we are trying to make peace in J&K? At this moment the government has two official and high-level interlocutors searching for peace. They are AS Dulat, the former RAW chief now operating from the PMO, and KC Pant, the former almost everything and perennial also ran, who is considered to be the Deputy Prime Ministers chosen man. Like the security forces in J&K who spend more effort on undermining each other, it would seem that the main pre-occupation of the two peacemakers is to make war upon each other. Then there are others like Salman Haidar, the former Foreign Secretary; and AS Anand, the former Chief Justice of India who are also making some officially sponsored efforts. And I suppose that where there is Anand there must be Jethmalani in hot pursuit, and so we have Ram Jethmalani conducting his own peace mission. Also in with his own effort is Jethmalani’s former son-in-law, Prem Shankar Jha.

Since peace doesn’t come cheap much money also changes hand and the lifestyles of the former militants, pro-government militants and militant non-combatants is showing this quite openly. The valley is agog with stories about Dulat’s munificence. Just to give one instance, Syed Firdaus also known as Babar Badr a “pro government militant” belonging to Doda and the former commander of the Muslim Janbaaz Force, who Dulat in touch courtesy the good offices of a JNU academic has since come to acquire houses in Jammu and Srinagar. Others similarly doing well are Zafar Iqbal Manhas the former spokesman for Al Barq and Muslim Janbaaz Force; and Ghulam Nabi Naiku, formerly of the Peace Conference and lately the spokesman for Abdul Majid Dar the one time deputy commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) who has broken from the Pakistan based outfit.

KC Pant, the DPMO’s man is talking mostly to Shabbir Shah of the Peoples Democratic Front and Azam Inquilabi a former Pakistan based militant who has now apparently has seen through the Pakistani game! AS Anand is working with advocates like Nazir Ronga and Ghulam Nabi Shaheen of the J&K Bar Association who in turn are working with people like Khaliq Hanif who is said to have left the Jamaat-e-Islami after an association of 33 years, and Rashid Naiku and Bashir Assad, both former HUM militants. Ram Jethmalani as is wont works only the big fish is talking directly with Professor AG Bhat of the Hurriyat, while his former son-in-law is in contact with Shahidul Islam who is an aide to Omar Farooq. Ghulam Nabi Naiku who is dealing with Dulat’s academic is also talking to Salman Haidar and came up with the quite novel idea at a seminar in Chandigarh recently that “the Kashmir issue should be frozen for the time being!” Naturally nobody is telling as to how this freeze can be accomplished in a territory where several thousand illegally armed men are running about? It’s seems not for nothing that Jagmohan called his Kashmir memoirs “My Frozen Turbulence” but alas the catchy contradictory title doesn’t make up for the turgid and self-serving prose.

In a government where frozen heads are a dime a dozen freezing out too comes naturally.  Almost definitely frozen out of the peace process are Farooq Abdullah and his merry band of bureaucrats like Ashok Jaitly, BR Singh, MY Khan and Khurshed Naqueeb. The last named is the head of the Lake Area and Water Development Agency with a somewhat inelegant resultant acronym - LAWDA -whose budgets evaporate more quickly than the Dal lake waters in summer.

The J&K government accounts have not been audited for more than a decade and the consequent prosperity shows not just in the valley but also in far off places like Delhi and London. After all these years of militancy and terrorism a small shop in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area can go for as much as Rs.70 lakhs when it could have been had for a fifth of that just a few years ago. All over the Kashmir valley people are building houses at a pace not seen in any other part of India. This is also the price to be paid to buy peace with Farooq Abdullah. And Farooq doesn’t come cheap. Now Arun Jaitely has joined in the peace process. It seems that the government’s of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, while disagreed about how to go about making war or buying peace, are agreed on one thing: The more the merrier. Surreptitious wars and peace initiatives are an expensive business with more leakages in them than a major irrigation project. Like irrigation projects they too go on and on. 

No wonder everybody is fighting everybody to get onto the peace bandwagon!

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