In a recent issue, the Daily Excelsior of Jammu informed that the Army was contemplating re-structuring of the Rashtriya Rifles Headquarters for better operational capability and strategic and logistic efficacy. Rashtriya Rifles (RR) force was raised soon after armed insurgency surfaced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Ever since the force with headquarters in New Delhi has been fighting the jihadi armed groups raised and helped by Pakistan to sneak into our side of the border across both LoC and International border.
It is more than two decades and a half that the force is operating in J&K, particularly the valley. It has inflicted heavy losses on the enemy but has also suffered casualties at their hands. The question is not of numbers killed or captured. The real question is that after nearly twenty-seven years of operation, the institution and the network of armed insurgency have not been totally eliminated or destroyed. Therefore it becomes pertinent to find out why the situation is like this, and what are the precise countermeasures that might succeed at the end of the day to bring back normalcy to the war-torn State?
Let us analyze the issue threadbare. We call it a proxy war. That is a misnomer. A proxy war is usually fought by mercenaries. Those who are fighting in Kashmir are not mercenaries but jihadis, and a jihadi is one who fights and dies for his religious conviction, and not for money. And those fighting for religion do so essentially owing to two motivations. One is that they are indoctrinated methodically in homes, seminaries, mosques, and public places that their religious beliefs demand them to fight for the global expansion and victory of the faith. It is not only to dominate the human society and civilization but to rule over it as ordained in their scriptures. The second component is that of hatred for the unbelievers, particularly the polytheists and idol-worshippers for whose destruction the faith was sent by the God.
These two motivations do not produce only the Islamic warriors but also a re-oriented Islamic society dovetailed to a distinctive ethos that must lend full support to the mission undertaken, especially when the enemy is a kafir. What is the overarching contour of the ethos in question? The entire society at home and its Diasporas anywhere in the world are enjoined by the conviction to get actively involved in the mission politically, psychologically, socially and financially. We naively give epithets such as Islamization or Wahhabization or Arabization to this emerging ethos whereas it is the intent of these Islamic ideologues to prepare the entire Muslim community for outright domination of humanity. Echoes of this have been seen in the war in Syria where Muslims from all across the globe who have gravitated towards this idea, have gathered to fight for the cause.
What has contributed to the strengthening of this ideology is the surprising success which it has been able to record, in theory and in practice in gradual stages. The current stage could be considered its culmination point, essentially because of the tremendous use of highly sophisticated and effective information technology of which the missionaries as a whole have made the fullest use. Therefore, no wonder that the jihadis sent from across the border to fight in Kashmir are equipped with the most sophisticated means of electronic communication, which the RR and other security establishments do not have or have to import belatedly.
The Islamic ethos sought to be created in our times involve the entire community, and not only the jihadis or their networks and organizations. The entire ummah is behind the mission and it is easily noticeable anywhere in the world as far as their operations in Kashmir are concerned.
Therefore, Indian security forces, be it the Police, BSF, CRP, ISBT, Commandos or the Army, one and all, have to understand that they are not fighting only the armed jihadis hiding somewhere in the forests away from the habitats but they are fighting an ideology. There may be a few hundred of the armed jihadis against whom the RR might exhibit superior tactics of fighting but what is to be realized is that the real war is with the large part of the society that has been radicalized. These people are unarmed and untrained for military operations, yet they most tenaciously support the gigantic mission of a new dominating and ruling ummah. It is not a proxy war, it is actual fighting between two sides in which one side is motivated by a deeply embedded life-mission, and the other side is motivated by professional allegiance to a system.
Most of the political leadership in the State will not deviate an inch from the guidelines of the “divine” mission not for the sake of threat to life but because of the intensity of conviction. There is no threat to anybody’s life whatsoever in Kashmir and the crores of rupees spent on the security of so-called VIPs is sheer wasteful and unnecessary expenditure. These VIPs speak the language of the jihadis on public platforms, inside and outside the legislative assembly, in mosques, offices, on playing grounds, farms and fields, in marriage and in mourning assemblies, in hospitals and in clinics and all other conceivable places. The idiom is one, the intent is one, and the implication is one. And we have sycophants to lionize them who seem to be suffering from the Stockholm syndrome.
What does it mean to shift the RR Headquarters from New Delhi to Udhampur in J&K? Is this shifting a solution to the situation facing the Indian nation? It is not just the military which is engaged in this war, but the whole nation. Therefore, a national effort is required to come to grips with the situation. It is for the national leadership to take up this challenge.
We need to stop these pointless gimmicks and hollow gestures and come to grips with the matter at hand. The country is at war, and the war that is raging is totally different from the war we are used to knowing. This war is not a war of guns and bullets. It is not a war of eliminating a few jihadi terrorists. It is a war of the mind, a war of ideologies.
The above conceptualization puts to question not only our vast defense establishment but essentially our pattern of democracy and much-profaned secularism. The ground situation beckons for an awakening of the masses and propagation of an alternate ideology to confront jihadis thought. Why only pit the RR or other forces against the jihadis; the entire nation, its resources and its capabilities must be used.
The military needs to be given a free hand to deal with the terrorists in the valley. But more importantly, the entire nation, united as one must stand up to counter the violent extremist ideology prevalent in Kashmir valley and send out a message that jihadi extremist thought will not be acceptable in any part of India. This is the reason why legal provisions such as Article 370 and 35A which seek to divide people must have no place in India’s polity. This message too should go down to every nook and corner of the land, especially in the Kashmir valley.
It is not for the RR Headquarter to safeguard Indian democracy and the Indian way of life. It requires a collective national effort involving all elements of the state to see that Kashmir is retrieved. We should not let ourselves get blackmailed ever again.
(Prof. K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, and Srinagar.)