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Resentment Persists in Kashmir

Despite the (stop-start) peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and the decline in infiltration, it would be a mistake to infer that people's anger has subsided in the state.

COMMENTARY

Resentment Persists in Kashmir
with paramilitary formations). Instead no more than cosmetic changes are recommended by way of resolving old cases, vacating some buildings and reworking of Gautam Navlakha convoy timings. Besides, the “ongoing

Despite the (stop-start) peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and the decline in infiltration, it would be a mistake to infer that people’s anger has subsided in the state.

Email: gnavlakha@gmail.com

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
february 9, 2008

F
aced with a public demand for troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the government had constituted three committees in March 2007. An expert committee headed by the defence secretary to look into the question of troop reduction, a review committee headed by M A Ansari to study the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) as well as the Disturbed Area Act (DAA), and a high powered committee headed by the union minister of defence to study the recommendations of the two panels.

It is evident that as long as Indian security forces are engaged in fighting a “low intensity war”, the likelihood of reducing troops and revoking AFSPA and DAA was ruled out. Therefore, in April 2007 when the review committee submitted its report and called for revoking AFSPA and DAA, it was not taken too seriously because it was the recommendation of the “expert” committee which mattered most. On December 5, 2007 in response to an “unstarred” question number 1672 in the Rajya Sabha, which asked the minister of defence to state “whether the committee headed by Defence Secretary…to look into demand of troops reduction in J&K has submitted any report and if so the salient features thereof”, a terse answer was provided:

The main recommendations pertain to re conciling of the details of the properties occupied by the security forces and the rentals paid as also to resolve old cases that have remained unsettled for many years; vacation of public utility services by the security forces such as school buildings, hospitals; the timings of the convoys of the security forces may be reworked so as to cause least inconvenience to the local population; dos and don’ts issued by the security forces need to be strictly followed. Implementation of the recommendations is an ongoing process…

The conspicuous absence of any reference to “troop reduction” speaks for itself. Also missing are terms such as “relocation” (moving forces from one place to another) and/or “restructuring” (replacing army process” of implementation reveals its own drawback. For instance, out of the 1,572 buildings occupied by security forces, only “public utility service buildings” (such as schools, hospitals) would be vacated. The total number of such buildings is less than a hundred. And even these are being vacated half-heartedly. According to the state government education secretary “in certain cases they (security forces) have vacated (school) buildings but are still holding the schools’ grounds that makes not much difference in the problems we face” (Economic Times, November 26, 2007). All this amounts to trivialising a popular demand and raises serious concern over Indian government’s sincerity to address real issues.

Land Question

There are reportedly 671 security forces camps in J&K (excluding those in Jammu, Kargil, Leh, Akhnoor and Udhampur) and these occupy 90,000 acres of farm and orchard land and 1,500 buildings. But the quest for land continues to grow.1 For instance, in saffron rich Lethapora in Pampore tehsil the central reserve police force (CRPF) has demanded 5,000 ‘kanals’ (one-eighth of an acre) for its group headquarters. The army is demanding 10,000 kanals for expansion of its Kundru Field Ammunition Depot (FAD).2 Besides, the air force, which is in possession of 850 acres in Awantipora, has asked for an additional 763 acres. Such is the demand for land that the army, which was given 212 acres in Sharifabad, in exhange for vacating 139 acres of Tattoo grounds Garrison in Srinagar, has taken possession of 100 acres at Sharifabad but refuses to vacate Tattoo ground. In the Cattle Research Centre at Manasbal, spread over 352 acres, the army first asked to set up a few bunkers in 1990. Then it built barracks and in 2005 laid claim to 252 acres!3 Moreover, the annual Landmine Report 2007 states that about 160 sq kms in Jammu and 1,730 sq kms in Kashmir remain mined. The speaker of J&K assembly recently pointed out that 3,500 acres of

COMMENTARY

agricultural land in his constituency its authority over a recalcitrant people. Chamb (Jammu) have been mined and But the government does not enjoy the

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6,000 families displaced. The J&K tourism minister told the media on October 19 that the army violated the master plan for Gulmarg and without requisite permission “(t)hey have occupied 400 acres of land on which they have raised huge concrete structures” (The Asian Age, October 20, 2007).

It is obvious that involuntary alienation of land in general, cultivable tracts in particular, will arouse passions. This turns into fury when land is acquired for armed security personnel, who maintain an intrusive presence among civilians designed to control their public and private lives, and indeed even “transform their will and attitude”.4

Why is this ground reality so difficult to comprehend? And why is the government unwilling to reduce troop levels or withdraw 6,67,000 security force personnel to the barracks? After all, the new army chief Deepak Kapoor recently stated that the situation in J&K “starting from 2004 onwards has improved” (Statesman, December 10, 2007). So much so that the government now claims that there has been a 70 per cent decline in militancyrelated incidents between 1990 and 2007, from 3,500 to 1,000 incidents. Firing incidents came down from 671 to 183. Bomb explosions declined from 1,000 to just 50. Killings of civilians declined from 914 to 153 (Tribune, December 12, 2007). Besides, the ceasefire is being observed by India and Pakistan along the line of control since November 2003 resulting in an end to mortar shelling and a fall in infiltration.

In any case infiltration is said to have peaked in 2001 when an estimated 2,706 persons allegedly entered the state illegally. The estimates tabled by the ministry of home affairs in the Lok Sabha on November 27, 2007 show that their numbers declined to 597 in 2005, 573 in 2006 and 499 up to October 2007. As final proof it is being claimed that non-militancy related crimes have shot up. Granted that statistics can be manipulated any which way, the point is, if the government is itself downplaying militancy, then why are they fighting shy about troop reduction?

Evidently, 18 years of military control have enabled the government to restore confidence of the people. It is naïve to believe that presence of a military armed with “unrestricted and unaccounted powers”,5 would be a source of comfort to the Muslims of J&K, who have borne the brunt of atrocities. Unfortunately, this reality has escaped public perceptions of J&K.

While crimes by government forces occur in other parts of India as well the difference is that in J&K it is the scale, simultaneity and sustenance of which set them apart. A death toll over two decades of 70,000, detention of more than 60,000, torture of at least 20,000 detainees, enforced disappearance of 8,000, denial of passports to 60,000 persons are evidence of this. As an aside, it is worth noting that when Nandigram hogged the limelight the local media contrasted the outcry over the incidents there with the muted response of India’s democratic minded people to 18 years of repression in J&K.

Limits of Peace Process

What perpetuates a narrow minded perspective is the belief that with Pakistan and India now engaged in working out a deal between themselves and imposing it on the people of J&K the situation is on the mend. What is missed out is the fact that precisely for this reason no longer does the militancy depend on outside assistance for training nor has the resistance wilted. And however much infiltration is cited to whip up public support outside J&K, even the security forces are split on its importance. The Deputy Inspector General of Border Security Force once said that more than infiltration it is an estimated 1,000 militants already present in J&K who pose a bigger problem (Indian Express, June 29, 2007). Be that as it may, to this day6 people come out in large numbers to mourn the death of a militant. In owning the militants as their own there is a message not to write off the resistance.

These militants are maligned as “cross border terrorists” or “Islamic terrorists”, although it is the government and the judiciary, going by the Masooda Parveen case,7 which remains innocent of the

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EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

COMMENTARY

Rome statute, Geneva conventions and protocols.

Significance is also attached to recent incidents of clashes between people and soldiers. It appears that resentment is now spilling over into the public sphere. This overcoming of fear of security forces is in many ways the defining feature of 2007. Soldiers have been detained, paraded and in some cases beaten by villagers and even by residents of towns. The presence of the armed CRPF soldier in cities is also no longer as intimidating as it once was. On Srinagar’s Residency Road on December 13 a scuffle between the CRPF and people saw one jawan being beaten. On June 26 two army soldiers villagers for attempting to set fire to buildings. There have also been a spate of incidents when young boys and girls have protested frisking and misbehaviour by personnel of security forces.

Consequently, scepticism mounts over the legitimacy of the “peace” process which does not address the issue of the presence of hostile security forces among civilians and instead has turned into an excuse for doing nothing. It is, therefore, misplaced enthusiasm to believe that we are anywhere close to a just solution, let alone a democratic closure, to a six-decade-old dispute.

Notes

mass destruction, as indeed was the case in the Kundroo blast, which affected 30,000 people in a 225 sq km area. Now in the name of modernising the FAD the army has asked for more land.

3 Hilal Ahmad, op cit. 4 See Gautam Navlakha, ‘Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations: A Critique’ (EPW, April 7, 2007). While assembly elections are a good 10 months away, senior police officers in their respective areas have reportedly begun warning political activists who are likely to campaign for election boycott, to desist from such campaigns or else face preventive detention under Public Security Act for two years. 5 To borrow the description of the new chairperson of the J&K State Human Rights Commission. 6 Hundreds of villagers staged a dharna in front of Bandipora police station on December 23, to demand that the bodies of the two militants killed in Papachan village of Bandipora district be given to them for a burial befitting a martyr. In the siege of the Mosque at village Palan Yaripora in Kulgam district on December 24, three militants died. The next day thousands gathered to complain against security forces and

demanded the bodies of the militants and then

were detained and paraded by people in

1 A remarkable comprehensive four-part study on joined in the last rites.

Gujjar Patti, Kunan (Bandipora) who the issue of land occupation by Indian security 7 See Missing in Action: A Report on the Judiciary,

forces in J&K and its consequences is provided in Justice and Army Impunity in Kashmir by Public suspected they were behind the attempt

Hilal Ahmad’s articles in Greater Kashmir of Commission on Human Rights (J&K) and People’s to molest a young woman. More recently December 7, 12, 16 and 24. Union for Democratic Rights (Delhi), November 2 Khundru was in the news on August 11, 2007 when 2007. It is worth noting that in contrast to the

in Kakroosa (Handwara dist) on Decem

an accident caused explosion in which 40 persons muscular tone of national security employed by ber 15 and Panzgam (Kupwara dist) on died and affected 54,000 kanals of agricultural the government, the language of resistance in

and horticultural land in 13 villages. The presence J&K has become acutely political. This change

December 14, personnel of the special

of FADs across J&K, particularly in the densely among other changes have yet to be noted by operations group were detained by populated valley, is akin to placing a weapon of commentators.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
february 9, 2008

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