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The ‘Freedom Struggle’ Myth In Kashmir – OpEd

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The last two Thursdays have proved ominous for terrorists in Kashmir. Last Thursday, four terrorists [one belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad and three from Lashkar-e-Taiba] were gunned down by security forces two separate encounters that erupted in the Pulwama and Kulgam districts of South Kashmir. On Thursday, before that, five terrorists [including a self-styled ‘commander’] belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba were neutralised in Hanjin Rajpora village of Pulwama district. 

While conducting six successful anti-terrorist operations in a matter of just two weeks is in itself a great achievement, it has also demystified the intricate web of falsehood woven by Islamabad, terrorist groups and their proxies to eulogise terrorism. 

Overwhelming public support?

The pro-Pakistan lobby proudly claims that ‘freedom-fighters’ [euphuism for terrorists] in J&K enjoy overwhelming public support and there are only a handful of ‘bad apples’, who for pecuniary gains or some other inducements, serve as ‘mukhbirs’ [informers] for security forces. However, since the last fortnight saw half a dozen operations being launched by security forces on the basis of specific intelligence regarding precise location of terrorists, the claim of ‘overwhelming popularity’ that terrorists purportedly enjoy doesn’t sound convincing.

The pro-Pakistan lobby also asserts that the Sopore-Shopian-Kulgam- Pulwama and Srinagar belt in Kashmir is the impregnable bastion of ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ [Kashmir will become part of Pakistan] ideology. However, with all encounters during the last fortnight predominantly erupting in these very areas, it is obvious that this perceived bastion is no longer a safe haven for terrorists. This in turn exposes the attempt by vested interests to paint a misleading picture that people in Kashmir Valley are wholeheartedly supporting the so called ‘freedom struggle’.

Unconditional ‘loyalty’?

Six successful anti-terrorist operations in a matter of just 14 days is adequate proof that the number of locals who are willing to cooperate with security forces in J&K is far greater than what the pro-Pakistan lobby claims. Infact, desperation amongst terrorists on this account and their attempt to arrest this trend can be gauged from the “We don’t want to kill anyone [locals] but they [informers] are forcing us” remark made by Riyaz Naikoo, self-styled ‘operational commander’ of Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] two years ago. To further terrorise the public, HM also released two videos in November 2018- the first showed 17-year-old Nadeem Manzoor being mercilessly shot dead, while the second video captured the barbaric throat-slitting of 19-year-old Huzaif Ashraf. 

In an audio tape released soon thereafter, Naikoo justified Nadeem’s killing by saying was that “This informer met his fate yesterday. During investigation, he confessed that he tipped off the forces after he was promised money…” However, this explanation isn’t convincing as terrorists in Kashmir act as judge, jury and executioner-all rolled in one. Moreover, when someone is being ‘investigated’ with an AK47 pointed at his [or her] head, the resultant ‘confessions’ invariably tend to coincide with allegations levelled by the interrogator against the accused-not only sentence by sentence, but even word to word! So, it’s more than obvious that far from being voluntary and spontaneous, the so called ‘overwhelming’ public support for terrorists in J&K is actually being enforced through the barrel of the gun and killing suspected informers. 

In January 2019, terrorists released yet another video shows 22-year-old girl named Ishrat Muneer Bhat, begging for mercy with folded hands before being shot twice at point blank range. Though no terrorist group has taken responsibility for this gruesome killing, but it’s absolutely clear that the chilling intent behind release of this video was to unambiguously convey the message that those who consider themselves to be ‘mujahids’ [Holy warriors] won’t even spare girls suspected of helping security forces! 

The issue of terrorists murdering civilians in J&K is so serious that even though the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] report titled “Update of the Situation of Human Rights in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019,” was prepared at behest of Pakistan, it still couldn’t avoid making damning observations regarding summary execution of civilians by terrorists. 

This OHCHR report mentions that “According to JKCCS [Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society], 18 civilians were killed by armed group members[read-terrorist groups] and another 25 civilians by unknown gunmen [another euphemism for terrorists] in 2018.” It has also expressed explicit disapproval of such killings by stating, “The Special Rapporteur [on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions] has previously highlighted that “absolute prohibition against extrajudicial executions applied to armed nonstate actors [terrorists] that control territories and populations.” 

Security Forces response 

Pakistan, and its minions in J&K use every conceivable occasion to berate security forces by portraying them as a trigger-happy lot with no empathy, but facts on ground have convincingly exposed this canard. All the six operations during last fortnight were conducted in densely populated areas, yet thanks to the exemplary professionalism and concern for safety of innocent civilians demonstrated by the security forces, these were executed with such surgical precision that there was no collateral damage. What is even more noteworthy is that despite extreme belligerence displayed by terrorists, security forces continue to treat them as misguided youth and hence, make genuine efforts to save the lives of terrorists by giving them more than a fair chance to surrender prior to using force as the last resort. 

When this was done on June 30, the four terrorists who had taken refuge inside a house in Chimmer village of Kulgam refused to surrender and instead, opened indiscriminate fire on the security forces injuring two soldiers. In the ensuing encounter, while three terrorists were killed, the fourth decided to give himself up and once he communicated this decision, security forces ceased firing and thus saved him from certain death. What needs to be appreciated here is the fact that even though the terrorist who surrendered had been firing at the security forces and could well be one of those responsible for wounding two of their comrade-in-arms, the soldiers bore no grudge against him nor sought any retribution.

‘Freedom Struggle’ farce  

For over three decades, terrorist leaders in J&K, while enjoying a safe and luxurious life across the Line of Control, have held the peace-loving people of Kashmir hostage to Pakistan’s proxy war by making unachievable promises and forcing them to follow their unreasonable diktats. Like any organisation that enjoys unlimited powers and is answerable to none, terrorist groups have been grossly abusing power, and have thus alienated themselves from the people. So, while they may perceive huge crowds congregating for a terrorist’s funeral as a sign of overwhelming public solidarity, the truth is that a large number of people do so solely for self-preservation. Everyone in Kashmir knows that should you choose to skip such an event and this news reaches terrorist sympathisers through your not-so-friendly neighbour or a jealous collegue, then you’re in serious trouble. 

This is the distilled reality of what Pakistan and proxies on its payroll are trying to peddle as ‘freedom struggle’ in J&K!  

Tailpiece: Naikoo, firmly believed that posting graphic ‘execution’ videos would put an end the practice of people passing-on information about terrorists to security forces. He was also sanguine that no one in Beighpora village in Awantipur Tehsil of Pulwama district would ever betray him as this was the village where he was born and brought up, and having successfully eluded security forces for a decade, probably further strengthened his beliefs. 

But while strongarm tactics may breed fear amongst the people to the extent of absolute subservience, but it doesn’t dissuade many from following the call of their conscience or those seeking vendetta for having been wronged by terrorists.

On May 20 last year, when Naikoo who was on a secret visit to his home found himself trapped by security forces, he certainly would have realised that someone from his own village had tipped off the security forces. So, one wonders whether in his final moments did it dawn on him as to how wrong he was in assuming that he could ensure his longevity by murdering fellow Kashmiris to instil fear of death amongst the people?  

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Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

7 thoughts on “The ‘Freedom Struggle’ Myth In Kashmir – OpEd

  • July 10, 2021 at 7:31 am
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    Encouraging signals from the Valley but too early to be complacent. The ‘Freedom Struggle’ has been a Myth in Kashmir earlier and so is today. Pakistan and its proxies on its payroll have sold this idea of ‘freedom struggle’ and Azaadi in J&K through the barrel of the gun of the created Jihadis. On ground the populace knows the quality of life,prosperity and freedom on both sides and are really not interested to be linked to Pakistan. Longevity of this struggle provides power to few which appears now coming to an end with the firm resolve of the Govt abrogating Article 370.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2021 at 8:33 am
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    What a profound and accurate analysis by a renowned expert. Time to resolve the Kashmir question is now. The GoI should not delay or dither. A Senior Veteran

    Reply
  • July 10, 2021 at 10:47 am
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    Every house in Kashmir has pro Pakistanis not because they want to be a part of Pakistan but to fight against the injustice regime of India. You have mentioned few districts of pro Pakistanis. this is just your opinion to misunderstood the world Kashmir is stable. Lets us speak our hearts you will know the reality of Kashmir. We have never accepted India and will never and this is our fundamental rights as per constitution to speak our mind. Every articles which are written to spread stability of Kashmir has a lobby of hinutuva policies and it wont work. Find the best solution to make everything better. These political propagandas dont work for long. India is loosing major players due to Kashmir. The BJP regime is in a shock why did they abrogate the Article 370 and 35A unconstitutionally. India is not a developed nation nor powerful. Just talk and nothing else. last but not least the Indian media has never spoken truth ever if they the media houses will be closed due to lack of interest.

    Reply
    • July 10, 2021 at 10:08 pm
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      If anti India sentiments are so strong in Kashmir, then please explain why-
      1. Are security forces getting so much information regarding the so called ‘ freedom fighters” that they have been able to neutralize 18 terrorists in the last 15 days?
      2. In the more than 3 decades of terrorism in Kashmir, why hasn’t even a single leader of any terrorist group been able to motivate his son to become a ‘mujahid’?
      Nevertheless, after reading your comment, I’m reminded of Ghalib-
      “Dil ko kush rakhney ke liye Ghalib yeh khayaal accha hai”
      (To keep the heart happy, O’ Ghalib, this thought is good)

      Reply
  • July 10, 2021 at 9:21 pm
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    The history of Kashmir after India and Pakistan gained independence is one of missed opportunities to amicably come to an agreement where the interest of all parties are protected. The closest one came to such an approach was when Musharraf, Vajpayee and subsequently Manmohan Singh came to an understanding, where the borders between the Indian controlled and Pakistani controlled would be open for trade and commerce and family visits, with both , India and Pakistan maintaining political control of their respective territories. Politics in both countries came in the way of an agreement. This opportunity was lost. Using force to maintain control as BJP is now doing is a loosing proposition.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2021 at 1:12 pm
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    India must push on with the momentum of confronting the terrorists and spreading economic and social development in J&K . The rest will settle itself.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2021 at 5:14 pm
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    A new dawn of hope for Kashmir, the sensible , rational reversal of noxious enactments, is bearing fruit. Peace appears to be settling in this most beautiful and idyllic pieceof land in the world.

    Reply

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