Lessons From New Year’s Day Rajouri Massacre – OpEd


The targeted killing of members belonging to the minority community in Dangri village of Raujori village in Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] on Jan 1 that left seven innocent people [including women and children] dead and 14 injured, has once again exposed the ugly face of what Pakistan, its proxies and apologists eulogise as a ‘freedom struggle’. However, while this despicable bloodletting may appear to be an act of sheer madness, it’s amply evident that there’s a definite method to it, which if not addressed immediately, can have serious repercussions not only in J&K but entire India.

There can be no two views that this horrendous mass murder has been orchestrated by the Pakistan army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] as part of its post Article 370 abrogation strategy. This isn’t just wild speculation but an obvious interpretation of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s menacing prognosis made from the United Nations General Assembly [UNGA] podium in 2019.

Article 370 abrogation completely demolished Pakistan’s ludicrous narrative that Kashmir is ‘disputed territory. Islamabad’s efforts to garner support of the UN and international community to compel New Delhi to restore the status quo on this issue found no takers. To make matters worse, Pakistan’s UK based legal advisor barrister Khawar Qureshi made it clear to Islamabad that “in absence of these evidences [of genocide in J&K], it is extremely difficult for Pakistan to take this [Article 370 abrogation] case to the ICJ [International Court of Justice].”

With the then UN Secretary General António Guterres ruling that Kashmir was a bilateral issue that needed to be mutually resolved by India and Pakistan without any third-party intervention, the situation for Islamabad became really hopeless. However, in this desperate time, the ISI rose to the occasion by adopting an equally desperate measure- desperate, because while its stratagem furthered Pakistan’s interests, it also served as the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the already floundering so-called ‘self-determination’ movement in Kashmir.   

As the Pakistan army lacked military capacity to seize Kashmir while Islamabad had conclusively lost the diplomatic battle for Kashmir, Rawalpindi realised that it had nothing to lose. So, the ISI drew up a devious plan to continue its proxy war in J&K post-Article 370 by exploiting the ‘crab-bucket effect’, [which is nothing but the perverse manifestation of an “if I can’t have it, neither can you” mindset to seek consolation. Accordingly, ISI unilaterally converted what it had touted all along as the ‘ideological’ issue of Kashmir, into a patently communal one.

Imran Khan gave a hint of this during his 2019 UNGA speech by saying, “Don’t you think that 180 million Muslims will be radicalised in India as they see 8 million Kashmiris locked up?” He even prognosed that “But what will happen when 8 million Kashmiris come out of a lockdown and face 9,00,000 troops? I fear there will be a bloodbath.” While his morbid apprehensions didn’t come to pass, it was not at all surprising that several new terrorist groups exclusively targeting members of minority communities and migrants sprang up overnight.

In an attempt to conceal involvement of existing terrorist groups in targeting religious minorities with the aim of fueling communal disharmony in J&K, the ISI has cleverly created fake entities like United Liberation Front of Kashmir [ULFK], The Resistance Force [TRF], Kashmir Tigers [KT] and People’s Anti-Fascist Force [PAFF]. While these groups don’t physically exist, their fictitious ‘spokespersons’ promptly take responsibility for targeted killing of innocent men and women of minority communities and migrants.

Some Islamic references can be found in the names of all terrorist groups that are fighting in J&K. However, even though the terrorist groups that have surfaced post-Article 370 abrogation brazenly exhibit fundamentalist ideology by solely targeting people on the basis of their religion, none of their names contain any reference to Islam, and this is certainly not coincidental. Au contraire, knowing fully well that killing people solely on the basis of their faith would invite international condemnation, the ISI has intentionally given these phony groups names with no religious connotations, not the least realising that this is the biggest giveaway!

During the last year, security forces alongwith J&K police and active public support were able to virtually wipe-out the entire terrorist leadership in Kashmir Valley. In addition, while 186 terrorists [including 56 Pakistani nationals] have been neutralised, 146 terror modules have been busted and more than 550 terrorists and their sympathisers arrested. This has put terrorists in Kashmir Valley on the backfoot.

Therefore, the Dangri mass killings could well have been executed with the aim of enlarging the area of conflict to South of the Pir Panjal Mountain range, as it would necessitate shifting of troops from Kashmir Valley to counter this new threat. This in turn would substantially reduce security force pressure on terrorist groups in Kashmir Valley and give them time to regroup.

Three important lessons emerge from the Dangri massacre. One, since domination achieved by security forces in Kashmir Valley is solely due to sustained pressure on terrorists, the temptation to interpret any reduction in terrorist activity levels as an enduring phenomenon and shifting troops to South of Pir Panjal or other trouble spots on Sino-Indian border should be avoided. Two, the objective of terrorist activities has shifted and its focus now is to create communal disharmony throughout Kashmir. So, measures for increasing public awareness to prevent this nefarious plan from succeeding needs to be accorded due importance.

Lastly, what J&K is experiencing is not just terrorism inspired by secessionist ideology but a full-blown proxy-war.  This again is not an unsubstantiated allegation but an established fact accepted by none other than Pakistan based United Jihad Council head and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin in his candid admission that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.”  So, since it’s Kashmiris and not Pakistanis who are bearing its brunt, Rawalpindi loses nothing in continuing this low-cost proxy war in J&K to bleed India through a ‘thousand cuts’.

Hence, instead of being unrealistic and predicting an early end of this scourge, we need to mentally attune ourselves for a long haul, and with full resolve, give “Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” a befitting reply! 

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.

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