February 2016 News

Why Did The Armed Insurgency 'fail' In Kashmir?

14 February 2016
The Nation
Arshid Malik

Lahore: One question deeply demands an answer which is whether Kashmir's recent insurgency has taken a back seat of its own or has it been totally annihilated at the behest of the armed and paramilitary forces, intelligence tactics, psychological warfare waged by India and its agencies. Recent pointers of sporadic incidents of armed attacks on the military and armed forces in Kashmir, especially in south Kashmir in the past few months indicate that insurgency has not been totally 'wiped out' while there is the seed of the struggle for freedom of the people of Kashmir which is branching out every now and then into all kinds of protests and demonstrations against the oppressor, i.e., India. But a bird's eye view of the recent history of Kashmir confirms the belief that armed insurgency in Kashmir which started in the late 80s 'failed' in a resolute manner and all that remains now is activity to mark presence of that very something which had started back in the late 80s, which is by all means paltry and does not amount to much. Kashmir is no longer a 'nuclear flash point' and all that goes in Kashmir stays within Kashmir except the concern for the TRP rat race which pushes national news agencies to have a take on prevalent conditions in Kashmir. But why did armed insurgency 'fail' in Kashmir? Was it India's military might which 'beat' the armed insurgency at it (which the Indian political and intellectual elite more than often like to believe); was it Pakistan's twisted policies towards Kashmir or was it conditions that were intrinsic to the movement of insurgency within itself that was responsible for its collapse to the maximum of a decade after the whole thing started. There are different sides to the argument and I would say most of them hold some water. While the defence paraphernalia in Kashmir caused a great amount of damage to the armed insurgency in Kashmir (this factor cannot be ignored) and especially its psychological military operations which put a decent dent into the whole affair of armed insurgency. At the same time Pakistan was weaving its own policies all along since it would have preferred 'taking over' Kashmir at some point of time and did not quite subscribe to the idea of an independent Kashmir. Under these pretences, Pakistan wove a web which led into a quagmire and eventually superseded the sentiment of independence prevalent in Kashmir. This was a point where the movement of insurgency in Kashmir was transformed in character from a polemic for independence into a characteristic regressive fundamentalist hue which led to in-fighting between different militant outfits in and around Kashmir. I would not delve deep into these subjects since my approach to the whole matter is based in culture and ethnicity and my argument revolves mostly around that since this is an aspect which has been least addressed. The main agenda of active discourse that led to the laying of the seed of revolution, an armed insurgency to 'liberate' Kashmir, did not accrue much more than a turbulent opposition to Indian authority and alliance with Pakistan from which assistance was sought to 'wage a war' against India. This was the basic foot rule and therein lay the fault since the culture of Kashmir and its people was largely ignored. Kashmir's was largely a political revolution and did not deal with the cultural imperatives that were needed to weave it together into a more salient fabric of resistance to evade being hijacked. The whole thing started on a political footing without any groundwork on the subject of cultural resistance. For instance, language was never an integral part of Kashmir's struggle for freedom and it was ignored to the hilt, which founded the basis for a pseudo-culture of war mongering and that only. Language, if it had been addressed, would have lent a certain indigenous flavour to the struggle and earned it a more refined cultural ground. There was also a Kashmiri literary deficit which was never addressed. As for instance at the school level, where a good chunk of the population is always lodged to learn, the books taught Indian, Western and World history while there was almost no mention of the history of Kashmir. This created a moral disconnect in understanding the moorings of the freedom struggle and thereof difficulty in attaching importance to the struggle. Poetry, which is found to be an inspiration for all kinds of revolutions, was lacking down here. There were no Kashmiri poets writing to inspire the freedom struggle in Kashmir since there was a permanent language deficit which means that most of the people of the region could not write or read Kashmiri. At the dawn of the insurgency in Kashmir we witnessed a different plethora of songs written to inspire the militants in Kashmir and these were constructs from across the border and did not find much relevance to the culture and times of Kashmir and its people. Since there was almost no indigenous literature to compensate understanding of the cause-effect of the whole struggle, foreign narratives pitched in and eventually distorted the contours of the freedom struggle. The eventuality was such that Kashmir's fight for independence was left listless in the local context while both India and Pakistan managed to make the best of it to their best use and utility. There are two more factors the absence of which cost the struggle, the movement, the revolution (though I do not want to categorize it as such since without the involvement of cultural imperatives a revolution is not even a revolution) heavily. One was the non-inclusion of women into the 'discourse' except for the handful who stepped out owing to their relative affiliations with people actively involved in the armed struggle. The active participation of women would have significantly led to the ripening of thought perspective inside the entire movement itself. But on the other hand what happened was that women were disempowered by creating a dialect of woes which were entrusted to them. Women were categorized as a people who would just weep over the deaths of their sons, husbands and brothers and just that. They were never involved into the micro or macro structuring and restructuring of the movement in Kashmir and thus a large part of the population was left out which eventually downgraded the basic foundation and imperatives of what could have been a long surviving holistic and inclusive struggle. The other was the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. I would not debate the conditions under which the exodus of the Pandits of Kashmir, a very worthy minority, took place since there are conflicting points of view on that, but I would like to point out that the very moment this section of the population was 'driven' out of Kashmir the structural identity of the freedom struggle of Kashmir dismantled into a carcass of intolerance. The very movement which was to achieve at bringing justice to the 'suppressed' population of Kashmir metamorphosed into an elaborate human rights violation and therefore lost credibility at the very outset. At the onset of the armed insurgency in Kashmir the entire population was somehow convinced that the struggle was genuine as the whole idea was catapulted in the context of the political jargon of injustices that had been perpetrated against the people of Kashmir and besides there was a certain heroism to the whole affair which led to mass association of people with the movement. But most of the population had not been sensitized to historical facts that had necessitated 'waging a war' against India with the support of Pakistan. Pressing again there was absolutely no literature for the common people in Kashmir to gain a genuine understanding of the basis of the struggle. As popular momentum yielded to the course of time, people became disenchanted with the whole thing. Besides the political movement not being accompanied by a cultural rationale moulded a sphere of isolation where the people started discontenting from the polemic of the struggle. The revolution failed to address the issues of the common people and was at large engaged in beating India militarily. The result was that the issues, the problems, the desires apart from the aspirations (which formed the crux of the idiom of the freedom struggle) were never carried forward and this led to a certain form of alienation among the masses eventually leading to a struggle which was limited to the militarily equipped 'mujahideen' and thus forth the movement for the independence of Kashmir was eventually contained - at least to a major extent if not completely wiped out. It can be well said that the struggle for freedom of Kashmir was not a movement of the people since the construct which would have woven the two together was missing and that was the cultural part - the part that concerned the daily routines of the people. Large scale military clampdowns to lockdown the uprising in Kashmir was something which eventually led people to stay indoors and not being able to earn for their families was a matter which could not be overlooked. The movement did not ever care about this factor and eventually people who had managed to stay associated at least in word if not in practise to the political motifs found themselves fighting their daily 'battles' on their own. There was no one to speak up for them since the militant camp was rhetorically engaged in a crisis at the armed level from which it could not disconnect since it was the only thing that offered some semblance of character. To this day, with sporadic incidents of armed insurgency, in Kashmir the people are disillusioned since the separatist leadership - the only live camp which signifies that the struggle for freedom is still going on in Kashmir - has not been able to connect itself with the people and the local culture and ethos. The separatist leadership, seemingly, does not want to get into the role of self-introspection and analyse the factors that led to the failure of a struggle, which is being kept alive by lip service and that only. As long as the Hurriyat does not adopt a more people-centric role it is not getting anywhere, whether they get to hold parleys with India or not. Nothing is going to make sense unless it makes proper sense.