K L Chowdhury
Name of book : Kashmir Towards
Authors : Brig Pramathesh Raina
(Pentagon Press 2016)
A highly provocative title indeed! Especially when, at the time of writing this review, the valley of Kashmir is reeling under the longest spell of violent protests, attacks on police posts and army camps, road blockades, train cancellations, firing, curfews and mounting toll of injuries and deaths. But the author has clarified at the very outset that Indian army is not an occupation army and that Kashmir can’t be demilitarized, because ‘the primary reason for the presence of the army in J&K is not counter-insurgency but for ensuring the territorial integrity of the country’
As Brig Raina explains in the introduction to his book, Demilitarization here connotes reduction, redeployment, and realignment of security forces in a gradual process that may take as long as five to ten years. In the highly radicalized, communalized and exclusivist ideology that has been hardwired into the Kashmiri psyche, ‘central forces will always be seen as outsiders, no matter how noble their intentions be.’ He has forewarned like an oracle that if the recurring cycle of violent agitations and unrest is allowed to perpetuate ‘the leadership of the armed struggle (in Kashmir) would fall into the next generation which is more hard-line in their observance of radical Islam and less enamoured by Kashmiriyat; (in that case) we can then expect the insurgency to continue with renewed vigour for another ten to fifteen years’. Alas, that situation seems to have already arrived.
Who should know better about Kashmir than the author, an outstanding soldier, a son of the soil who grew up in Kashmir had two outstanding stints in J&K during the ongoing turmoil that led to the mass exodus of the whole Pandit community to which he belongs? Not surprisingly, he has come out with path-breaking ideas not only from the military angle but from a holistic and humanistic view of the intractable Kashmir conundrum that has been bleeding the nation ever since Pakistan sent the raiders to annex Kashmir by force soon after independence.
Brig Raina, who fully understands the professional and moral foundations from which the Indian army derives inspiration, has been motivated to write the book in a large measure because of the outcry not only by the separatists and the militants but also by Kashmiri people and politicians of every ilk, for the revocation of AFSPA. It is tragic that AFSPA has morphed into an easy stick to beat the Centre with, by ascribing all that ails the valley to the excesses committed by the army – the very soldiers who lay their own lives so that the lives of Kashmiris may be saved. It is in their memory that he has dedicated the book.
Kashmir Towards Demilitarization is not a theoretical treatise but a compendium of practical guidelines that have emerged from the author’s personal experience on the ground, from a painstaking study and research, from numerous interviews and feedbacks, from responses to questionnaires and, I must add, from intuition. From this long churning has emerged a schema for a three-pronged thrust in Kashmir as a prelude to demilitarization. 1- Creating an effective, credible, proactive intelligence network to pre-empt terrorist strikes. 2- A compassionate but firm and forceful administration that reaches out to the common masses, that does not give a long rope to separatists nor treats rabble-rousers with kid gloves. 3- Recruiting, reinforcing and reenergising the JK police force and raising special, highly trained battalions, including an anti-terrorist force. I feel, equally important is the need for a rededicated, motivated, impartial and apolitical police force that can safely take over from the security forces inside the valley so they can be redeployed to effectively secure the borders – a utopian wish, no doubt, that is not possible unless the whole of Kashmiri society receives a total overhaul for a change of the mindsets that have degraded from the sufi-rishi ideology into whabi-jehadi frenzy.
The author strongly argues against a prolonged deployment of army for performing fire fighting duties that should be the preserve of the police – like civilising hooligans, controlling violent mobs and stone-pelters, stopping vandals and arsonist. These tasks, if handed over to the army, can be highly stressful and may adversely affect their morale, motivation and discipline for they are meant to fight wars and not civilians. As he explains ‘their (the army) methods may be faulted but not their actions, because once they are faced with an armed opponent (be it even a stone) it is war for all practical purposes but in name.’
The book has interesting chapters on the history and diverse geography of Jammu and Kashmir; on the Kashmiri psyche and their cultural and religious traditions including the much touted Kashmiriyat; on the various actors in the armed struggle and the orchestrated disinformation by the militants and their overlords in Pakistan about human rights violations. It presents important information on the present status and size of the police forces and the immediate and long term requirements, including the need for, and the means towards, police reforms, as also civil and administrative reforms, economic development, the need to sanitise the politicians, and the strategies to tackle the Pakistan factor. There is additional information about the pacts, agreements, and dialogues, about WHAM and CBMs including back-channel diplomacy towards conflict-resolution as the major bulwark in the reparative process in Kashmir. As he rightly points out ‘demilitarization can’t take place in isolation.’
The text is richly substantiated by the inclusion of tables and charts, maps and graphs, notes and annexures. A prolific bibliography and a foreword by Amitabh Mattoo, a noted political thinker, add meat to the book.
In a fitting finale, the author has sent the strongest message across to the separatists, ‘freedom’ vendors and pro-Pakistan aficionados about the moral and historical legitimacy of India in Muslim-dominated Kashmir which has ‘over 5500-year long cultural and physical connect with the State before which the barley 250-year ethnic Kashmiri Muslim rule pales into insignificance.’
Written in a professional manner in superb prose, it is a highly readable book in spite of a few repetitions which, however, serve to emphasize the important inferences and corollaries that derive from the narration. Since terrorism has become a worldwide phenomenon this book should not only interest the professional but the common man as well who is affected directly or indirectly by this modern-day scourge of mankind.