Why Kashmiris did it to themselves

Wing Commander R V Parasnis (retd), August 2000

Convinced that India will desist from attacking Pakistan, as effectively demonstrated under grave provocation such as the open support to the Khalistani terrorists from their soil, Pakistan was sufficiently encouraged to turn towards Kashmir which was their basic goal.
The battleground had been prepared well by subverting the population in Kashmir deftly using the religious card, giving proper commando training and sufficient arms to the subverted youth and sending battle-hardened mercenaries to guide and lead them.

Kashmir was also a handy tool in the hands of every Pakistani politician, for, it was a cause with an emotional appeal in the heart of every Pakistani.

 I had written an article on `Op Topac', General Zia's diabolical plan to destabilise and eventually occupy Kashmir, and sent it to the late Dilip Mukherjee of The Times of India, New Delhi. At that time, Op Topac was supposed to have been put into action and was in its second phase of progress. Mukherjee returned it with a note that he had consulted K Subrahmanyam, who had informed him that 'Op Topac' was merely a brainstorming game played by the think-tanks in India. If it was so, Pakistan has played it to the last alphabet and we, having conceived this idea (as per Subrahmanyam), did not know how to protect ourselves. A more disgraceful shame will be difficult to detect even in India, where shame has become our national characteristic.

Here again the media would have us believe that the Central government has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Having stayed in Kashmir for over three years, it is my observation that apart from the political leaders, the people in Kashmir are not really concerned about self rule and such philosophy. A square meal is their fundamental requirement and sipping the salty Kashmiri tea and making small talk occupies most of their time. The urban population is somewhat politically more active, but rural people are a different ball game altogether. No doubt political unrest in terms of bandhs, stone throwing and arson has become a habit with the Kashmiris as a result of, the National Conference must admit, the legacy given by them in the pursuit of their selfish aims to consistently pressurise the Centre to extract more aid and privileges.

The unrest was limited in the earlier times only to Srinagar. Today, thanks to the subversive propaganda and Pak-sponsored (often media-sponsored too) organised event management, the unrest is a lot more widespread. Be that as it may, the youth was seen to enjoy it more as a mischief in the early days rather than as a serious intefada, though that element was often seen prominently during the days when the JKLF led the struggle. These days again the Kashmiri youth does not have its heart in the intefada. The Kashmiri people are certainly getting disenchanted with the Pakistani designs and a score of young Kashmiri rebels are convinced that they were used in a nefarious plan which did not have the welfare of the Kashmiri people at its heart. Pakistan has therefore revised tactics by pouring in a large number of their own nationals and foreign mercenaries to intensify terrorism.

Yes, doctors, engineers and such others are also politically aggressive in Kashmir out of a selfish need to bag all the admissions to start with and all the government and international assignments later by depriving everyone else including their own Kashmiri brothers of other communities/faiths. Rules and regulations have no place in Kashmir. Self interest alone rules the roost. For example, my friend Dr Amarjeet Singh Reen Baramulla was denied admission for post-graduation of his choice, even though he had stood first in the MBBS. Out of disgust, he migrated to the US. It is true, I found the medical students (the overwhelming majority of them were Kashmiri Muslims) in Srinagar surprisingly politically active and overly aggressive to the point of violence, unlike elsewhere.

 Kashmiris have been pampered by the successive Union Governments and have been spoiled to the extent that every Kashmiri boy wants a free government job without deserving it and without the necessary qualifications. Why only a government job? Because it is permanently secure and it earns him his pay without working. Ask anyone who has lived there as to what kind of conditions prevail there. So many boys used to come to me and my friends with the sole aim of seeking a job on the strength of only our influence and with no qualifications or abilities on their part to back themselves up.

Our politicians have only succeeded in assisting the Kashmiris in becoming a dependent people, a role which the Kashmiris must admit, comes naturally to them. They themselves have not only failed to display any enterprising ability in last 53 years but have made no efforts to encourage outsiders to come and set up industries there either.

They are holding on to their special status for dear life and preventing outsiders from buying property in Kashmir. How myopic! Which outsider will go and invest there, if he is to be only a second-class citizen? Which MNC will think of starting manufacturing units in Kashmir unless it is built on their own free hold property? A mere speech by Farooq Abdullah in the Indian Merchants Chamber in Mumbai or in the Federation of Industries inviting industrialists to Kashmir will not get him investors. That apart, the Centre has tried its best to introduce industries in Kashmir by moving in public sector units like HMT watches etc, but all its efforts have come a cropper.

We have poured thousands of crores of rupees in Kashmir as aid, but most of it has been eaten away in corruption and the rest has been wasted away, literally sunk into the river Jhelum.

Tourism, carpets, fruits/dry fruits trade and engraved furniture are the things they are good at. So we will talk about that. How many tourists return from Kashmir with the feeling of having been cheated? Practically everyone. How many businessmen find themselves cheated? Many and the remaining are all the time on full alert to avoid getting duped. Why?

There was a popular joke in the Air Force circles in Kashmir. It talks about the smooth Kashmiri businessman. It said: "When you enter a shop in Srinagar and deal with a Kashmiri salesman, you find that he cuts your throat so fine, that he takes your head off and gives it in your own hands and you will say thank you before leaving."

Another anecdote will also justify what I am trying to get at. At one time I had purchased some saffron from the Kashmir government emporium in a bottle with a government seal. My landlord, a Kashmiri Muslim, happened to see that and said "Next time you wish to purchase saffron, you let me know and I will get you some excellent stuff."

I said, "This is also good. It is with a government seal."

He said, "Ravi saab, jaise hum sab Kashmiri log chor hai, waise hamari government bhi chor hai. Aap achhe bure ka farak theek nahi pehchan paoge, jaise hum samajh sakte hai." (Mr Ravi, as we Kashmiris are all thieves, so is our government. You will not be able to appreciate the finer aspects of saffron quality, as I do.)

The rigged elections is another point harped upon in the press repeatedly. To what extent? I really don't know, but can one election make such a difference? What about the other elections won hands down by the National Conference? Did the Kashmiris ever try to create an alternative to the NC? What support did Beg get when he differed with the Shaikh? An attack in a public meeting in the heart of Srinagar with stones big enough to have killed him? The police, it was claimed, did nothing to protect him. Who elected Farooq after the demise of the Shaikh? And now why blame us if they feel that the Abdullah family has only helped themselves?

Every politician and bureaucrat everywhere has made money. In Kashmir, perhaps, they have done it more greedily than in other states. A far lower portion of the Central aid has reached the poor people. Every government there has been a corrupt one. Possibly the Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed government was the most corrupt and lawless, judging from the stories I have heard. The standard of law upkeep in Kashmir is not the same as elsewhere. Is not the social fabric there to blame for this?

Zia hanged Bhutto in Pakistan and the Kashmiri people went on a rampage in Srinagar. They burnt the Srinagar and Amar Singh Clubs and the residence of the then director of Doordarshan, among many other buildings. Scores of cars and scooters were burnt. Damage worth crores of rupees due to stone-throwing and riots was the result and all work and movement was stopped for over a week! And all this while the great Shaikh was the chief minister and the most popular and powerful party, the National Conference, was in power.

Is it sane behaviour by any standard? What part did India play in the hanging of Bhutto? And who was Bhutto to them to have developed such an emotional attachment to him? If anything, India appealed for sparing the life of that India-hating man.

How often do the Kashmiris burn the government administrative offices to destroy the records? Is it not a regular happening there to cover up land-grabbing or other illegal acts? I saw it all happening before my eyes.

The amount of electricity stolen in J&K is in astronomical proportion and no one feels bad about it. Practically everyone, all well-to-do people and government servants included, steal power for domestic use. Theft for industrial purposes must be still higher.

It is not that I wish to condemn all Kashmiris. All of us have our faults and failings. My point is that we, rest of us Indians, are not villains in every way and the Kashmiris are not all saints. My question is: With what face can Kashmir blame India for her own failings? And how does the media, eminent journalists included, swallow it hook line and sinker? Admittedly, successive Indian governments have made their mistakes, but fairness demands that the blame be apportioned proportionately to all the parties according to their share.

Kashmir cannot escape her share of the blame. The Kashmiris today may accuse the Abdullah family to have made hay. The sun shone over this family's house the longest, but that was on account of the franchise given to the Abdullahs by the people themselves. I wonder if there is a single Kashmiri, who can say with confidence as to which party or leader will give them good governance. The entire society there needs to change its values to bring that good day.

My request to the Kashmiris is to clean their house first before they blame us and press their unreasonable demands, and to the columnists to study the ground level situation in Kashmir before dishing out sermons.