Jammu & Kashmir: Time to set aside ‘soft’ image

India’s reputation as a ‘soft’ state has often resulted in this country being taken for granted by those who deal with it. This has been true of Pakistan which is known to train, arm and infiltrate terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir for decades without having to worry too much about Indian retaliation.

The Pakistan government egged on by its military establishment constantly fuels subversion in J & K and gets away with it.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time, the Pakistanis are tending to get wary of India, finding Indian military reaction to Pakistani infiltration and subversion swift and severe. Whether Indian intelligence agencies are at work in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan as Pakistan has started alleging is unauthenticated but if there is such retaliatory action, it should be a cause of satisfaction in India which has in the past failed to deter a recalcitrant Pakistan.

Any act of police or army firing or lathi charge in Jammu and Kashmir has long been blown out of proportion by the Pakistanis but Indian response to any demonstration against the Central or provincial government in PoK has been muted.

Now, there is a slow and steady change coming about, hopefully. The statement made by Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to national media a few days ago that there are no human rights in PoK and that this had become amply clear on many occasions in the past, was, apparently, a well-calibrated salvo fired by the Narendra Modi government against Pakistan.

Rijiju’s statement came in the wake of protests in PoK by those owing allegiance to Jammu and Kashmir National Students’ Federation (JKNSF), along with some members of Jammu and Kashmir National Awami Party (JKNAP), who had held a demonstration in Muzaffarabad area of PoK, condemning the “oppressive rule” by Pakistani authorities and the puppet PoK government.

The protesters raised the issue of job vacancies, which are rare in the area, only being given to Pakistani youth, marginalising Kashmiri youth of the area. This issue has indeed touched a raw nerve among PoK youth but the Pakistani establishment which muzzles all dissent in the region has been keeping a lid over it. There is simmering resentment in PoK over this blatant discrimination as the impact of it gets felt more and more.

That Rijiju, an important minister in the Narendra Modi government, has now spoken about repression in PoK to Indian media may well be a sign that this country is, after all, waking up to the need to pick up cudgels on behalf of Kashmiri youth in PoK who are oppressed and persecuted if they express dissent.

Rather than abandoning the youth in PoK to the mercy of the Pakistani establishment India should now tell the world that they are living in fear and deprivation. Indeed, the Indian government must pay the Pakistanis back in the same coin by using diplomatic channels to get the message across to the world at large that it is not all hunky dory in the part of Kashmir that is under Pakistani occupancy. It would only be stating the truth.

The protesters in Muzaffarabad raised slogans demanding an independent Kashmir. They also raised anti-Pakistan slogans resulting in crackdown on the rally by the local police. They carried placards which read “Kashmir Bachanay Nikley Hain, Aao Hamaray Saath Chalo” (We have set about to save Kashmir, come walk with us). The police reaction was a heavy lathi-charge on the peaceful demonstrators in a savage demonstration of its might.

Immediate dismantling of the training camps for terrorists that Pakistan has created in PoK should have been the first Indian demand for this country to leave PoK alone. But despite defeats in wars in 1965 and 1971 when India took over 93,000 Pak prisoners, the Pakistanis have got away with the training camps with India failing to use the battle victories as a bargaining chip. The result is that the soft state that India has come to be seen as, has allowed Pakistan’s ISI and the military establishment to take India for granted, inflicting wounds on India that go further deep.

The Americans may pretend to be angry over Pakistani excesses but the two are hand-in-glove when it comes to foreign policy and strategic interests that converge.

Take the case of Mangla Dam in Pak-occupied Kashmir. This dam is said to supply 65 per cent of the electricity needs of Pakistan, but the so-called ‘Azad’ Kashmir does not get any royalty out of it. Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Agency is estimated to be earning over Rs. 50 crores from the electricity produced at Mangla, but the total budget of ‘Azad’ Kashmir is in the vicinity of Rs. 10 crore.

There is almost complete denial of democracy in PoK but while we in India call PoK to be our own, we hardly ever espouse the democratic aspirations of the people in that region. Governments are foisted there by the Pakistani establishment based on their proximity to the Pakistani army and on credentials of spewing venom on India.

If the Pakistani High Commissioner in India and visiting Pakistan ministers see nothing wrong with their closed-door meetings with Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir, why should Indian leaders be so shy of meeting pro-India leaders in Pak-occupied Kashmir?

It is time India behaves in a manner that befits its status and position in the world. Subversion and attempts to spread hatred in Indian Kashmir must be met with suitable reprisals in the Pak-occupied region overtly and covertly. Indeed, Pakistan must be made to pay a price for its numerous misdemeanours so that it does not take this country for granted and reins in its state and non-state actors.

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