(To be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 8, 2010, titled First Things First)
We are facing an Intifada of the Palestinian model in J & K for the first time. It is a spontaneous outburst of anger by sections of the youth over what they allege is the disproportionate use of force by the police and the CRPF ( Central Reserve Police Force). They have not raised--not yet--issues regarding the future of J&K.Pakistan is now exploiting the anger of the youth for raising the issue of the future of the State once again, but it did no create that anger.
Initially, we might have been able to reduce the anger if we had ordered enquiries into the allegations regarding disproportionate force and false encounters. We hesitated to order enquiries probably because of fears that the CRPF's morale might be affected. We then vaguely promised enquiries, but never carried out the promise after a lull set in.
The lull is now broken. The spontaneous anger is showing signs of becoming organised anger. There are fund collections in Pakistan to keep the anger sustained. Since the international community looks upon J&K as a disputed territory and understands Pakistan's interest in it, it will not exercise pressure on Pakistan in the way it did after 26/11. The UN Secretary-General has already issued a disquieting statement on the situation in the State.
A new generation of youth, who were not even born or who were just toddlers when the first phase of the insurgency broke out in 1989, is now in the forefront. The 1989 vintage of youth believed in the use of terrorism, involving attacks on soft targets and indiscriminate killing of civilians and driving out the Hindus. There is a new generation of youth activists which believes in street violence directed against the security forces without targeting civilians and which has seen to it that the on-going agitation does not affect the Hindus participating in the Amarnath Yatra. We are seeing a new insurgency in J&K similar to the one in Gaza.
When the first insurgency started in 1989, we did not have private TV channels to give a voice and photo-ops to the insurgents. The present insurgency is taking place at a time when private news channels have mushroomed and are focussing on the anger of the youth. It is a vicious circle. The security forces cannot tolerate street violence. Their legitimate use of force to protect lives and property is resulting in increasing fatalities--most of them unavoidable.
There have been some fatalities which are unclear. On August 3, one youth died during clashes between the security forces and the agitators. According to the security forces, he was trampled to death by the fleeing agitators. According to the agitators, he was beaten to death by the security forces. The failure of the Administration to explain such incidents in a satisfactory manner, is adding to the anger.
We must avoid demonisation of the youth who are participating in the agitation against the security forces. We must mobilise law-abiding youth to win over the law-breaking youth. All political parties-- in J & K as well as in New Delhi-- must activate their youth wings and give them this task.
The government should actively interact with media editors--particularly those of the TV news channels-- and convince them of the need for anger-mitigating balance in their coverage-- spot reports and studio debates. Retired senior officers invited by the TV channels to comment should avoid adding to the anger of the youth by demonising them and avoid giving the impression that even in retirement they continue to bat for the security forces without consideration of its likely impact on the anger of the youth.
We rightly consider J & K to be an integral part of India. It will remain so only through conviction and persuasion and not through use of force. Repeated use of force against our own citizens may be tactically unavoidable and justified, but strategically counter-productive. We must be ruthless in our actions against the Pakistani infiltrators, but more nuanced and balanced in dealing with our co-citizens.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies
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