Who is playing ‘dirty war’ in Kashmir ?

Some months ago Leftword published an important book on Kashmir ‘The Dirty War in Kashmir’ written by late Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari

Who is playing ‘dirty war’ in Kashmir ?

Anish Ankur

Some months ago ‘Leftword’ published an important book on Kashmir ‘The Dirty War in Kashmir’ written by late journalist of Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari. Fifty year old Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead by motorcycle – borne gunmen in Srinagar on June 14, 2018. He was editor of ‘Rising Kashmir’ along with Srinagar correspondent of English magazine ‘Frontline’. This book is collection of his ‘Frontline’ reports from May 2017 to his assassination.

After abrogation of article 370 and 35A Kashmir has become the centre of debate and discussion everywhere. Everyone is speculating what will happen to Kashmir when the curfew and sanctions will be lifted. This book helps us to understand the true nature of problems of Jammu and Kashmir. Shujaat Bukhari was considered one of the sane voices of Kashmir and was fully aware of the dilemma of Kashmir. In this book, he had discussed the dangerous consequences if in any case article 370 and 35 would be lifted. Although he had written it long ago but it seems he is writing today. As Shujaat Bukhari had put it “The concern is that the removal of article 35 A will help the BJP fulfil its long standing dream of complete integration, which eventually will make it possible for people of other states to settle in Jammu and Kashmir. Whether the pro-India and anti-India forces will stage protests together is not known, but the case has set the ball rolling not only for a grater confrontation between New Delhi and Srinagar but also for a possible revolt.”

Quoting the warning by the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, He wrote “If Article 35 A was tinkered with, there would be nobody to shoulder the Indian flag in Kashmir”. Going through Shujaat Bukhari’s reports, we realise that the scrapping of Article 370 and 35 A was in the air since BJP formed a coalition government with PDP in the state. As he had indicated in one of his report “The BJP government at the centre discourages all the discussions on Kashmir as a political issue. The ruling party seems to believe that the entire state, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) is an integral part of India. The complete integration of the state in the Indian Union has been the BJP’s political agenda. Article 370, which gives the state special status within the ambit of the Constitution, has been a thorn in the party’s eye.”

Going through this book reader also gets a rough picture inside Kashmir valley. How people are caught between Indian state, militants and Pakistan. Shujaat Bukhari had clearly reported how after PM Modi came to power, the situation worsened. He writes “Journalists who have covered Kashmir since 1990 would point out that those days people would run away from encounter site, but today they run towards the encounter site. New Delhi has lost whatever space it had gained.”

This happened due to high-handed attitude of the central government towards the people of Valley. Shujaat Bukhari had clearly observed in his reports how militants are getting local support particularly after BJP rose to power. “In the past few years, there has been a steep rise in the number of local militants. Earlier, the ratio of foreign militants to local militants was 70:30. Today, according to officials, it is just the reverse. According to official source, the number of youths who joined militancy in 2010 was 54. It decreased to 23 in 2011. There was a further decline to 21 and 16 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. But the number went up to 53 in 2014 and rose dramatically to 66 in 2015 and 88 in 2016.”

The Writer gives concrete data which shows how incidents of militancy changed as he put it “According to official data, in 1995, around 4,390 militants were arrested and 1,332 were killed. In 1996, about 3,453 militants were arrested and 1,332 were killed. The highest number of militants were killed in 2001, a total 2,421 were killed and with it militancy started declining. As 9/11 changed the world view by about the Kashmir insurgency and Pakistan began to be engaged on the Afghanistan front, the number of infiltrations decreased so much so that the Army described 2015 a zero-infiltration year.”

In different reports, Shujaat Bukhari has elaborated upon how lack of political engagement left space to be filled up by militants “Apart from the support they seem to be getting from the general public, today’s militant seem more committed than those who became militants in 1990, when all roads led to Rawalpindi. In most cases, a militant today has graduated from being a stone-pelter first. To begin with, the space for stone-pelters opened up because of the vacuum created by the absence of political engagement to address the larger issue. And the way the police have gone after them has consequently herded them into the ranks of militants.”

Analysing the different characteristics of militancy in North and South Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari has written “But south Kashmir is also in the news because the militants themselves chose to be seen in public through social media. Burhan Wani became a poster boy for the militants as he repeatedly used social media though, as a senior police officer wrote soon after his killing, ‘ he had not fired a single shot’. Compared with the south, the situation is grimmer in the north, where there are, according to the police, 141 active militants, of whom 118 are foreigners and 23 locals. They, however stay away from social media and do not hype up their presence. That is the stark difference between militancy in the north and in the south.”

Shujaat Bukhari also describes the fate of various enquiries set up to by government to held accountable security persons guilt of atrocities committed. Citing example since 1990 he said “In the Hawal massacre of May 1990, 56 civilians were mowed down by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in what became a classic case. An FIR was registered, but the case is not closed and the investigation remains incomplete. There have been an estimated 65,000 FIRs registered since 1990, but no major action has been taken.”

The book is relevant in the sense that it highlights various facets and aspects of the issues of Jammu and Kashmir. Shujaat Bukhari has deftly refrained from making judgmental remarks and tries to portray the picture of Kashmir in such a way that the reader gets an overall view of the tragedy of this state. Who is playing the dirty war in the valley-- this books helps us understand.

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