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Pakistani, IS flags in Kashmir: Need for firm action; By Jai Kumar Verma

C3S Paper No. 0142/ 2015


The separatists in Jammu and Kashmir in utter disregard of the orders of security forces and the country they live in hoisted Pakistani flags as well as flags of the dreaded Islamic State (IS) in Jama Masjid of Srinagar right after Friday prayers on June 12, 2015. The separatists who were wearing masks carried IS flags from Jama Masjid to Nowhatta Chowk.

The separatists also fought with security forces when the latter tried to stop them from waving IS and Pakistani flags. The security forces claimed that the separatists who were waving these flags left the demonstration early. However, a case has been registered against them.

Pakistani flags were also unfurled in Kupwara by Shabir Ahmad Shah, a separatist leader who is also founder and president of Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP), which is a pro-Kashmir independence outfit. Shabir Shah and other demonstrators shouted pro-independence and pro-Pakistani slogans and also insisted for the return of mortal remains of Afzal Guru, who was sentenced to death and hanged for assisting Pakistani trained terrorists in attacking the Indian Parliament in 2001.

The JKDFP workers also waved Pakistani flags in Anantnag on May 29 for more than 30 minutes but the security agencies did not take any action against them.

This is the first time when Hurriyat cohorts waved flags of the IS although the separatists have been waving Pakistani flags since 1990 in the Valley. The flags of various terrorist ogranisations sponsored by Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), especially Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were also waved but recently there has been an unprecedented spurt in hoisting of Pakistani flags, shouting of pro-Pakistani slogans and singing of the Pakistani national anthem.

Syeda Asiya Andrabi, founder and president of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, also claimed that she unfurls Pakistani flags in the Valley on Independence Day as well as on the Republic Day of Pakistan. She asserted that her outfit, which is a separatist organization, also recites the Pakistani national anthem on both these occasions.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a known pro-Pakistani leader, called for demonstration because Altaf Ahmad, a Tehreek-e-Hurriyat worker, was shot dead by some unknown miscreant in Sopore on June 30. Consequently, the separatists organized anti establishment demonstrations in Sopore and Baramulla. The protesters fought security forces personnel with the ulterior motive of inflaming the sentiments, but the security forces remained calm and averted an unwarranted situation.

The separatist leaders are uncomfortable as the populace of Jammu and Kashmir is tired of slogans, demonstrations, protests, strikes and bandhs. They want to lead a peaceful normal life so that the province can progress and their children can study. The tourism industry, which gives employment to large number of Kashmiris, is in jeopardy.

The separatist leaders’ call for demonstrations on local issues such as killing of some party activist, restrictions on the Amarnath Yatra, retrieval of forest land, anti-encroachment drive, support to Pakistan, incidents of high-handedness of security forces real or imaginary.

Few terrorist outfits issue threats to show their authority. Recently a little known terrorist group Lashkar-e-Islam threatened cellular operators to close down their services.

Geelani claims that since Pakistan supports the Kashmir struggle the Kashmiris wave Pakistani flags and chant Pakistani national anthem. Security forces cannot stop Kashmiri youths from supporting Pakistan.

The instances of waving Pakistani flags and chanting of pro-Pakistani slogans increased manifold after the release of 47-year-old Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam, who was released in March 2015 after four years of imprisonment. Alam, who is considered as successor of 85-year-old Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is a specialist in using social media and Friday prayers to disseminate anti-India and pro-Pakistani views and literature.

The time has come when India must formulate a long-term strategy so that anti-India and pro-Pakistani sentiments, which are increasing because of malicious disinformation campaign launched by malevolent Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is curbed. ISI stooges are systemically increasing Islamic fundamentalism in the valley. The fundamentalism would generate extremism and then the youths would resort to terrorism.

There was great impact of Sufi saints in Kashmir and the inhabitants of Kashmir were secular. Unfortunately, from the last few years radicalism has increased in the younger generation and it is a disturbing factor.

The Modi government took a bold step by suspending foreign secretary level talks with Pakistani when its High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leaders in August 2014. Pakistan, which has waged a low intensity war against India, is in the defensive as it is apparent to the world at large that Pakistan does not desire an amenable solution to the Kashmir problem; it only foments trouble in the Valley.

Pakistan would incite trouble in Kashmir, border violations including firing would be enhanced, more Pakistani delegations would visit to Western world and Muslim countries and would try to malign India with extra diligence because it knows that US-led NATO troops would leave Afghanistan by 2016, and afterwards the significance of Pakistan would be considerably lessened.

The Kashmir problem is unique as Pakistan is financing, training and sending Pakistani as well as misguided Indian youths to carry out terrorist activities and disturb the law and order situation in the state. Hence both central and state governments must work in cohesion so that peace is restored in Kashmir.

The policy planners must try to take the local population in confidence, as while the public is disillusioned with the separatists it has also no faith in government agencies.

Government must try to enforce more and more e-governance in the state, particularly in public dealings departments, as it would reduce corruption and undue harassment of the masses.

The public dealing departments must be more people friendly and various laws which are redundant and causing trouble to the public should be repealed. Government policies and their implementation must be more transparent.

Government should invest heavily on construction of roads, power generation, health, and education. In fact education should be employment oriented. The terrorist outfits recruit unemployed youths and involve them in violent activities.

Utmost attention should be given on the development of the tourist industry, which is the backbone of the state. Instead of being fully dependent on conventional agriculture, the farmers should also resort to floriculture, cultivation of medicinal plants etc.

J&K state receives liberal assistance from the central government, but several times it is misappropriated and does not reach the public. There should be strict scrutiny and the culprits should be punished.

The security forces should pay the compensation as per market rate for all the land and buildings of private individuals occupied by them.

In terrorist-infested areas security forces work under pressure but there should not be any human right violations. State Human Rights Commission should be strengthened and it must probe judiciously and speedily all human rights violations and the culprits should be penalized.

Indian security forces lack proper training and actionable intelligence. Modernization of police force is urgently required. The security agencies need latest weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mine protected vehicles, minesweepers, latest arms and ammunition, efficient and fast transport.

The working condition of the force should also be improved. The security personnel must get the leave to sort out their family problems.  In case of death of security personnel in the operation, the family should get instant compensation of Rs.1 crore.

Kirti Chakra holder Ajit Doval, who is National Security Adviser and has wide experience of Pakistan, Kashmir and terrorism, and Special Secretary (Internal Security) Ashok Prasad, who also worked as Director General of Police in J&K, can chalk out a comprehensive policy to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Besides bureaucrats, India has a strong government at this juncture and Modi is capable of taking hard decisions. Surgical operation against terrorists on June 9 inside Myanmar clearly indicates that government is determined to deal with terrorists firmly.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. He can be contacted at editor@spsindia.in)

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