Posts Tagged ‘Kashmir problem’

Can Terrorism in Kashmir be Ended by Force

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Can Terrorism in Kashmir be Ended by Force?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

BJP has ended its three year alliance with PDP in Jammu & Kashmir. Governor’s Rule (sick BJP rule, BJP being in power at the Centre) has been imposed. The reason given is break down of law and order and PDP Government’s soft attitude to terror. As an example of the first is the murder of senior journalist and a soldier on leave in Kashmir. (Murder of journalists and lynching of Muslims on suspicion of cow slaughter in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, gang rape of NGO women in Jharkhand all BJP ruled states, are not breakdown of law and order.) The example of the second is PDP’s insisting on a ceasefire during Ramadan and releasing about of 11,000 stone pelters. BJP hopes to defeat terrorism in the valley by an all out offensive by the entire Government machinery and bring peace and prosperity to the State.

This article is not intended to question BJP’s decision. It has a national security advisor, an Army Chief and a host of senior generals and police officers to advise it and implement its decisions. This article simply seeks to apprise my readers of possible pitfalls of this strategy.

Terrorism around the World

There is hardly any country in the developing world that has not faced insurgency or terrorism. Colonial powers were defeated in armed struggles for independence in Indo-China, Kenya, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Cuba etc. The insurgents could defeat first world powers like Britain, France and the US because they had a cause which had popular support of its people and economic and military assistance from the Soviet Union.  USSR withdrew from Afghanistan after 8 years of counter insurgency operations because they could not defeat the Afghan Mujahideen funded by the US and trained, armed and provided sanctuaries by Pakistan’s ISI and US CIA. USA, the world’s only superpower, has not been able to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan in 16 years because Pakistan provides Taliban support and sanctuaries in its border areas. Turkey has been fighting Kurdish insurgents the PKK since 1984 with no end in sight. Israel has been fighting Palestine terrorists since 1967. It will be seen that military power has been unable to end any insurgency which enjoys popular support and external aid and sanctuary.

Insurgency and Terrorism in India

The Naga Insurgency started in 1947. Nagas did not want to be a part of India. Insurgency was active till 1973. The Nagas accepted the Indian Constitution by signing the Shillong Accord in 1975. Two factions did not accept the Accord. One faction is camped in Myanmar and occasionally ambushes Indian Army. The other has signed a secret agreement with the BJP Government and lives in a sanctuary in Nagaland with their arms on government dole.

Insurgency in Mizoram started in 1966 and ended with a negotiated settlement in 1987 when the Congress Party under Rajeev Gandhi agreed to make the rebel leader Mr. Laldenga the CM of Mizoram. Insurgency stared in Manipur in 1965 and continues to this day on a low key. Ulfa insurgency started in Assam in 1983. It is low key with its cadre are happy living on extortions from tea gardens and truck drivers. Its leader lives in exile in China. The insurgency groups of Northeast India received military and economic aid from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh under General Zia ur Rahaman and Begum Zia. They would have made peace if they had not received similar aid from China and sanctuaries in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Insurgency started in Punjab in 1987 with assistance from secessionist Sikhs in Canada and military aid and shelter from Pakistan. Terrain in Punjab does not favour insurgency. Insurgents lost popular support with their excessive extortion and atrocities on women and were eliminated by the Army and Punjab police by 1997.

Maoist insurgency is the successor of the Naxalite movement which started with a peasant revolt in Naxalbari in North Bengal in 1967. The movement was crushed in Bengal by 1972 but spread to Bihar, Odisa and Andhra. At its peak in 2008, the Maoists were active in 11 states. They are being dealt with by state police and paramilitary forces. They are most active in Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisa. No end is in sight.

Terrorism in J&K

J&K was peaceful and a prime tourist destination till 1987. In fact when Pakistan parachuted its Special Forces into J&K during the 1965 War, the locals rounded up the Pakistanis and handed them over to the local police or army posts. In Jan 1987, when corruption and misrule was at its peak, 14 Muslim Parties came together to form a united front to contest elections. The elections were shamelessly rigged. On 15 August 1988 first anti India demonstrations erupted in Srinagar. Demonstrators were fired upon. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, established in UK in 1977 and with presence in Pakistan and POK, led the armed insurgency. Yasim Malik was in charge of Indian Kashmir. The first batch of 300 Kashmir youth went to Pakistan in 1998. They returned in 1989 with arms and ammunition and engaged in raids on security forces. Pakistan was able to infiltrate over 2500 well trained and heavily armed battle hardened foreign militants who had become unemployed by the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Islamic terrorists began an ethnic cleansing campaign. Nearly 400,000 Pandits were either murdered or forced to leave their ancestral homes. But the foreign mercenaries alienated the local Kashmiris with forced marriages. Lack of tourists led to a drastic economic downturn. Yasim Mallik disbanded the military wing of JKLF in 1994. Level of violence began to decline with Mr. Vajpayee’s efforts to improve relations with Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited Delhi and Agra and put forward a peace plan. The Kargil War in mid 1999 further reduced the level of violence. A degree of normalcy returned and tourism revived.

Hizbul Mujahideen is currently the only active Kashmir based militant group. They are assisted by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from Pakistan. The number of Kashmiris joining militancy is linked to events that spark civilian anger in Kashmir. Hanging of Afzal Guru in 2014 became a rallying point for Kashmiri youth to take up arms. At least 54 Kashmiris joined the militants in 2014, a sharp rise from 16 the year before. Violence increased when the Hizbul Mujaheedin Commander Burhan Wani was killed by the Security Forces in 2016. 88 Kashmiris joined militancy in 2016, highest in six years. Violent clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces have increased. Almost 100 people including security forces have been killed during the months of protests which followed Wani’s death. Thousands of others have been injured. Over 6000 agitators have suffered eye injuries due to pellet gun fire. Cease fire violations, attempts at infiltration, attacks on Army and CRPF camps, grenade attacks and encounters between terrorists and security forces continue unabated.

Support from Pakistan

The primary reason why Indian Security Forces are not making much progress in dealing with terrorism in Kashmir are increasing local support, aid from Pakistan and safe sanctuaries in Pakistan. This lack of success is only to be expected.  External support is a very important requirement for successful separatist movements.

Terrorism in Kashmir is supported by Pakistan Army, Pakistan’s ISI and terrorist groups like Laskar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Many of the militants in Kashmir are from across the border. Infiltration and cease fire violations have not stopped after the valiant surgical strike by our armed forces which killed many militants and destroyed a number of camps. Those killed have been replaced by new recruits and the camps have been relocated and their security enhanced. Data shows that in 2016, at least 371 attempts were made by militants to infiltrate from across the border. It was the highest since 2010 when 489 infiltration bids were recorded. Pakistan is also paying the stone pelting mobs who try to disrupt operations against militants. Such Pakistani actions are only to be expected. During a visit to Kashmir recently, the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had warned of strict action against protesters who attack security forces during anti-insurgency operations. The threat has not deterred the Kashmiri protesters.

Use of Counter Terror or the Hard Approach

To many theoreticians, the answer to separatist terror is state terror. The main followers of this doctrine are Israel, and Turkey. Over fifty years of this policy has not been able to subdue the Palestine people who have little external support and nothing but stones, small arms, improvised rockets and kites to fight back with. State terror includes the use of weapons like pellet guns, use of excessive force on demonstrating unarmed civilians and fake encounters. The main drawback of state terror is that it alienates the population. It violates human rights and creates unfavourable opinion both inside and outside the country. It is abhorred by intellectuals and the media. It increases the resolve of the population supporting the insurgency to continue the fight. Hanging of Mangal Pandey did not prevent the Sepoy Mutiny. The Jaliwana Bag Massacre did not stop the Indian freedom movement.

The Soft Approach

Mrs. Mehbooba Mufti, the outgoing CM, has said that hard approach will not work in Kashmir. Is there any other approach possible? There is. First is to accept that killing and capturing militants and hurting unarmed civilians is not going to solve the problem. Divide Kashmir into white, grey and black areas. White areas are those under government control. Grey areas are those where security forces and militants are both active and both have a degree of support of the population. Black areas are those where the militants have strong support of the population and security forces are at a disadvantage. The government and security forces must defend the white areas with adequate force; patiently try to make grey areas white and black areas grey. Kashmiris must be made to feel that they are cherished citizens of India and not a bunch of terrorists and anti-nationals. The role of the security forces should be to maintain law and order and protect loyal citizen.

Killing and capturing militants should never be the focus. When you kill one, another five will join. Try to get them to surrender. Have a practical surrender policy. The government and the security forces must focus on stopping the funding and arming of the militants by knocking out Hawala traders and effective monitoring of vehicles bringing arms and ammunition into Kashmir from outside the valley. Efforts must be made to win the hearts and minds of the people.


A fundamental fact about state terror is that it alienates the population and absolute terror alienates absolutely and permanently. The running of an administration based on terror requires an uncommonly high degree of ruthlessness. Leaders like Stalin, Idi Amin or Pol Pot who could kill millions of unarmed civilians are extinct.  The Kashmiri problem is unlikely to go away till either Pakistan or India give up. But the intensity of the conflict can die down and a degree of normalcy as in the North East or the Maoist belt can return.

History tends to repeat itself. But sometimes history is made. India made history when it it defeated Pakistan in just 17 days and liberated Bangladesh in 1971. It is possible that BJP and General Rawat will create history. I wish them success.

Every Kashmiri wants peace and prosperity. The BJP government wants the same. Only time will tell whether a military solution can be imposed on the people of Kashmir.

(Col Sarkar has authored five books on military matters; “Tackling Insurgency and Terrorism: A Blue Print for Action”, Vision Books New Delhi; “Outstanding Victories of the Indian Army” and “Kargil War: Past, Present and Future”, Lancer Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi; “Who is Afraid of the Chinese Dragon: I am” and “Tackling the Maoist Insurgency”, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.)