WHY DO KASHMIRIS PELT STONES AT THE MILITARY

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Mohan Dudha | Empowering Goa

Disclosure: I am Kashmiri.

They’re mostly paid. This is why all this stopped virtually completely after demonetisation and has only now built-up as cash of the new denomination has become available. You might recall that one of the first things that happened once the new notes came in was attacks on banks in J&K to get to these new notes.

The videos are actually part of it. You usually don’t get paid until there is some video evidence of you doing what you’re supposed to. There are different rates for pelting policemen and military people. The objective is to get the security people to retaliate. While unusual, it does happen from time to time. It is very different from Pakistan or China where you would simply be shot in the head, no questions asked, end of story.

Pelting police vs military is an interesting tradeoff. Police is less heavily armed and is always local. So, they know where you live but are also less likely to be dangerous in containing lots of people. The army is more dangerous to mess with but also knows less about where you come from. If you get children to come out, you are paid even more but most people won’t do that, obviously. Where there is security deployment, there are bound to be transgressions and some blow-back, so yes, that too is happening.

Speaking dispassionately, in aggregate, none of this really has even a remote chance of working as an actual separatist tactic.

One big factor is that there are actually very few Kashmiri Muslims by population, only about 5.5 million in a country of 1.3 billion. By way of a chilling comparison, Pakistani forces are estimated to have killed about 3 million Bangladeshis (Bangladeshi govt figures) in the 1971 conflict – makes you wonder what Pakistan would have done here and reminds you how different the two countries are in their very essence.

Also, Jammu and Kashmir has a very mixed demography. 35% of the population is Hindu and Buddhist, i.e. there are more than twice as many non-Muslims by percentage in J&K as there are Muslims in all of India. 90% of the issues are in a very tiny geographic area (the southern part of Kashmir valley).

Third, culturally there is far too much connection between Kashmir and the rest of India, even though Kashmir is also a genuinely unique subculture for sure (as someone said – a Hindu Kashmiri is much closer to a Muslim Kashmiri than to any other Hindu, a Muslim Kashmiri is much closer to a Hindu Kashmiri than to any other Muslim – people who are not from such tight subcultures cannot understand what this means – it is not threatening or anything – it just is the way it is).

Fourth, India is simply too powerful a country and both very immune to external pressure and innately skilled at extracting concessions from any would-be negotiators as well as applying reverse pressure.

Fifth, the Kashmiris actually have a pretty loud voice and presence in the rest of India. They are significantly present in every Indian city (for example, Lajpat Nagar in Delhi is about a fourth Kashmiri Muslim at this point). They are too integrated into the system to opt out completely, no matter how many protests happen. This is why so many turn out for army recruitment also (dwarfs most protest rallies). Sixth, the costs have begun to add-up for Pakistan and the asymmetry has flipped around. The cost of a militant influx is that for every Indian killed some large multiple of Pakistanis are killed in blow-back. And where India can simply contain it, because the militants are Pakistani, they try to change the structure in Pakistan to their liking also. There is also the Baloch aspect that India has available as a lever.

It is just structurally not setup for success (too small, too mixed, too dilute, too integrated, too much ongoing pressure relief, too many counter-options), which is why India can simply deal with it forever. It is inevitably going to get resolved within the system.

There will be some proposal for increased autonomy. That will inevitably result in demands in Ladakh and Jammu divisions for increased internal autonomy within J&K. Both areas want to secede from J&K, but under Indian law you cannot secede to form a different state unless the state legislature agrees, which won’t happen.

Indefinite election boycotts cannot be sustained, as that will make the BJP win by itself in the state (there are just too many Hindus and Buddhists there) and the first thing they will do is repeal Article 370, which will be the end of the Muslim majority there. So, one way or another, they have to participate in the election to maintain status quo. Even the separatists themselves understand this and, beyond sporadically sending a message now and then by threatening to shoot people who vote, they are out of options themselves. If it was an assembly election right now and BJP victory looked imminent, they would probably threaten to shoot people who don’t vote.

So, there will have to be some kind of package deal when the time is right. That could happen next year, 10 years from now, 50 years from now.

To go back outright army retaliation is not an option. The victims will haul you to the Supreme Court and you’ll spend the rest of your life in the slammer. This is India, not Pakistan. So, you’ll keep experimenting with one non-lethal method after another. Nothing is going to work well but what are you going to do? You’ll do what the Constitution says. That’s all there is room for in India.

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