In the age of self-serving nationalism the best the rulers are capable of is enlightened self-interest. But the ruling class is not naturally inclined towards this. Circumstances and an informed public opinion are capable of compelling a change. A recent example of this is available in the de-privileging of nuclear weapons by the National Democratic Alliance government. While nuclear capability remains and the development of a delivery system carries on in fits and starts, the mounting of nuclear devices as well as their deployment remains frozen; a sort of reversal to the pre-Pokharan II phase. Thus the bilateral anxieties between India and Pakistan generated by n-weapons are much reduced. This restores to the centre-stage the Kashmir dispute in its trilateral dimensions. This shift is the result of international pressure as well as domestic opposition. In other words, it is possible to force the policy-makers to resile from bolstering the repressive arms of the government by de-mystifying policies and by foregrounding the real issues. For this exercise it is incumbent to begin by establishing the size of the military allocation.
What constitutes military expenditure? The resources ear-marked for the military are deliberately under-estimated. There is no reason to exclude the defence pension from the arithmetic of military allocation when it goes to compensate ex-servicemen. It may be a liability from the point of view of the auditors, but what is paid out annually is nevertheless an expenditure. Again it is known that India’s atomic energy and space development have a military as well as civil dimension, after Pokharan II there is even less room for confusion. Therefore, fifty per cent of the allocations for the two departments too must be included. Furthermore, when it is the considered opinion of the Indian government that external and internal security are intertwined and when use of the army and paramilitary forces is widespread then the allocations for the Assam Rifles, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibet Border Police, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry cannot be kept out of the military budget. As it is the Assam Rifles and Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry operate under army command, even when the allocation for them appears under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The above gains in credibility using the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s definition as a guideline, this includes ‘all current and capital expenditure on: (a) the armed forces, including peace-keeping forces; (b) defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects; (c) paramilitary forces when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and (d) military space activities’. This should include ‘military and civil personnel, including the retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel’. While the data provided by SIPRI does not follow these guidelines and restricts itself to listing that which is presented by Indian government to be its ‘defence budget’, there is no reason for us to deviate from the definition. Barring the fact that the civil expenditure of the Ministry of Defence, the National Cadet Corps, coast guard and border roads organisation has been excluded, the Budget Estimate for the military sector in 2001-02 comes to be Rs 81,107 crores. (See Table 1) This represents nearly 22 per cent of the Indian government’s total expenditure of 375,223 crores; about 30% of the non-plan expenditure of Rs 275,123 crores; and is 3.85 per cent of the estimated GDP, for 2001-02.
The allocation is supposedly based on an assessment of threats, capabilities, geo-strategic location and the role that the country seeks to play. But the public has no way of knowing the basis for the inferences which have been drawn. The policy is decided in secrecy by persons who are not directly accountable to the people, without even the bother of sharing the security perceptions with the elected representatives of the people, i.e. when they are emboldened to challenge the received wisdom. As for the public it is the ‘need to know’ domain that operates which invariably means keeping the people ignorant. So it is fallacious to assume that there is an across the board consensus over the fundamentals of the security policy. The Pokharan II nuclear explosion brought out the tenuous nature of the parliamentary consensus, although every political party tries to outdo the other in demanding higher allocations for the military. As far as public perceptions are concerned it is a distortion to translate the people’s urge to be respected into a drive towards regional leadership through the augmentation of the country’s military prowess. And it would be a stretching credulity to believe that there can be a consensus between the ruler and the ruled over the use of this military prowess against one’s own people. Even among the narrow circle of decision-makers it no longer holds; three Army chiefs have stated that there can never be military solution to insurgencies. Yet, there is abundant evidence that the military power continues to be deployed primarily against the people earning India the dubious distinction of having the busiest ‘peacetime’ armed force!
But let us suspend our critical faculties and accept the threat perception and its translation into military requirements. In order of precedence manpower is always on top. In the Indian context even more so because their services are critical to force the people to submit to the government’s diktat. This has brought reduced peace station tenures, higher stress levels, break down of discipline, rampant corruption, blunted reflexes due to mundane tasks such as road opening, cordon and search operations and acting as convoy escorts. In Siachen soldiers still do not have warm gloves. And jawans receive Rs 400 per month as Siachen allowance compared to Rs 7000 for officers. Those deployed here ‘come down from 18,000-21,000 feet altitude after their three month tenure with grey hair, shriveled bodies and sunken faces’ (Gaurav Sawant, ‘Indian Express’, 1st October, 2000). The problem over pay and allowances for service personnel took three years to resolve and witnessed a revolt by the technical staff of the Indian Air Force and a seven month stand-off between the forces and the government. The difficulty arose over the manner in which bureaucrats interpreted the Fifth Pay Commission award. The bureaucracy also did not take kindly to the armed forces approaching the pay commission directly with their representation. The revolt by more than 3000 Manipur Rifles jawans in December 2000 and the support extended by the 11th battalion of the Indian Reserve Battalion over the alleged misappropriation of funds and the non-payment of arrears and special compensatory allowance, corroborates that the rot runs deep. ‘One rank, one pension’ for defence personnel continues to remain a promise. The Fifth Pay Commission’s revised scale of disability pension has not been implemented. Nearly 74% of personnel below officer rank cannot get 50% of their last salary drawn as pension on retirement. Pensions are a sore point with ex-servicemen especially amongst the lower ranks (sepoys, naiks, havildars and naib subedars) because of the condition of 33 years of service to earn a full pension. Since they are compulsorily retired to maintain a young profile for the armed forces they are retired after serving for 15 to 21 years and so they fail to fulfill the formal requirement. And as a result they have to be content with a pension of Rs 1275 per month, which is a pittance.
Take another issue, the occupation of Siachen in 1983-84 is in clear violation of the Shimla Pact of 1972.* Let us accept the myth that Siachen is India’s property and note what has become of this property which costs Rs 4 crore a day to maintain just one brigade at Siachen – there are three brigades deployed at Siachen and an entire division in Kargil thus the cost of manning these inhospitable heights is a minimum Rs 6000 crore per annum. During discussions with the Punjab Haryana Delhi Chamber of Commerce on December 17, 2000, Lt General Arjun Ray said ‘the Siachen region is facing the problem of environmental degradation due to an ever increasing amount of discarded packing material, food tins, parachutes, ammunition packaging cartons, human excreta and leftover prepared food’. Apparently 1 ton of waste material was generated per person in a year. About 2 out of 3 brigades are located here and the Indian army has been present since 1983-84. Thus the garbage accumulated runs into thousand of tons. If to this is added the ecological disaster from cordite poisoning from heavy artillery shelling by Indian and Pakistani troops, it is eroding the world’s largest glacier outside the poles. It would appear that India’s major contribution in Siachen is to turn the property into a garbage dump, facing, and its turn posing a major ecological disaster. Moreover the 12 year war against the Kashmiri people is contributing to the drought in Jammu and Kashmir due to the loss of forest cover of up to 100 kms (in which armed forces are implicated), non-preservation of catchment areas, lack of de-silting work of irrigation canals and nullahs. It's not as though all this is not known, except that the doctrine of ‘national security’ dulls sensibilities and, therefore, the gravity of the danger is lost.
If for the sake of argument one accepts the official logic of ‘national security’ there remains the question of utilisation of scarce resources. Long before ‘tehelka’ (exposure of corruption in defence contracts) hit the small screen enough evidence existed in the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General which brought out how resources allocated for the ‘Armed Forces of the Union’ were improperly used, wastages were endemic, and the Ministry of Defence guilty of doing nothing and offering lame excuses. Now information is coming from elsewhere too. According to the Northern India Hosiery and Textile Manufactures Association, the Army was losing Rs. 1200 crore annually by routing its purchases through Ordinance factories which actually acted as agents for private suppliers and ended up buying woolen socks for Rs 97 a pair when private Ludhiana manufactures are offering better quality for Rs 27. Similarly they pay Rs 75, Rs 305 and Rs 180 respectively more for every piece of heavy woolen socks, woolen jerseys and barrack blankets and whose quality leaves much to desire.
There is also the cost of delay in the completion of projects regarded as essential for defence such as the decade long delay for the Main Battle Tank, Light Combat Aircraft, Advanced Jet Trainer etc which has jeopardised indigenisation. This jacks up the cost of the projects and imports continue to be high: Rs 6728 crore in 1997-98; Rs 6507 crore in 1998-99; and Rs 7864 crore in 1999-2000. To this must be added the cost of purchasing military equipment from sources who violate contractual obligations with impunity; about 60 per cent of the Indian navy’s fleet of some 35 Sea King helicopters were grounded because the British manufactures GKW Westland was prevented from supplying spare parts manufactured in US under sanctions imposed by the Clinton Administration after Pokharan II. Worse was to follow because Britain also refused to return 169 critical parts sent for repair virtually grounding the fleet of Sea Kings. In 1998 the US reneged on selling gun locating radars after Pokharan II and an EU consortium refused to sell it to India when approached in 1999. The Indian army says 80 per cent of its soldiers killed or wounded in Kargil war were hit by shrapnel from Pakistan artillery. Pakistan was provided ANTPQ-37 LR by the US in 1995-96 as a one-time waiver to the Pressler amendment. The US also prevailed on Israel not to sell Falcon AWACS to India ostensibly to not upset the current regional military balance. Upgradation of 125 Mig 21 bis would be completed only by 2004 and that too at an enhanced cost of Rs 1700 crore As for the Advanced Jet Trainer deal with British Hawks negotiations have been stalled over the question of replacing US components, and suspicions remain about being over-charged as well of landing equipment that is nearing obsolescence. It is known that most military equipment does not have a fixed price. Thus emergency purchases can jack up prices.
When everything is said and done it is clear that large allocations are economically unwise. The practice of spending 30 per cent of the funds in the last month of the budget because the unutilised money lapses is tailor-made for spurious deals. The 10th Finance Commission had proposed the creation of a revolving defence fund where unutilised money could be parked. Even such reasonable suggestions for the prudent use of resources remain on paper. The beauty of ‘national security’ doctrine is that even fleecing can be justified using the plea of ‘strategic trade-off’ as was proposed for letting Enron over-charge Indian consumers in exchange for taking their help to persuade the US administration to put pressure on Pakistan to dismantle militants’ camps. Since ‘national security’ operates in the ‘need to know’ domain requirements can always be manufactured based on a ‘creative’ threat scenario. Therefore, the point is to de-mystify the policy regime, thereby to help identify and argue for non-militaristic options. For instance it would be wrong to argue that all Pakistanis are sworn to break up India because this is one among several points of view, just as not all Indians are committed to breaking up Pakistan. Assuming that at some point this view becomes dominant, how is this challenge to be met? Most assuredly not through competitive xenophobia or in providing a fertile ground through injustice and persecution of people for others to prey.
Table 1: Expenditure Under Different Heads of
Dept. of Atomic Energy***
|* Excludes outlay for National Cadet Corps
(outlay comes under Army) and the civil expenditure of the Ministry of
** Out of a total allocation of Rs. 9818 crore only the allocations for Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, National Guard, Indo-Tibet Border Police, Assam Rifles, Special Police, Security Related Expenses & India Reserve Battalion have been included.
*** Only 50 per cent of the budgetary allocations included.
Wars as the Politics of Suppression
Since the Indian government claims that internal conflicts have acquired an external dimension ‘internal security’ has acquired a high profile. The Union Cabinet’s recent recognition of the Rashtriya Rifles, used against the Jammu and Kashmir militants, as an army regiment symbolises this. It is also implicit in the decision to appoint a chief of defence staff, accountable to the defence minister and entrusted with the task of ‘higher defence management’. This is not the way to deal with bureaucratic high-handedness, it is un-wise to encourage formal coordination between the three wings, and un-democratic to allow them a critical role in the cabinet’s decision-making process. This enhancement is reflective of the dependence of the executive on the military; fifty per cent of the ‘Armed Forces of the Union’ are deployed in internal wars which cost the central exchequer at least Rs 25,000 crore annually (see table 2) which is one and half times more than the total outlay of Rs 17,000 crore for health, education, and development of women and children. This segment of military expenditure promises to rise. Beginning this year thirty battalions or 25,000 personnel would be added to Rashtriya Rifles over the next five years. Also starting from the last financial year in five years 209 battalions (each with around 800 persons) would be added to the paramilitary forces, and four of them – Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibet Border Police and Central Industry Security Force – brought under a unified command. Apart from the paramilitary forces there are state armed police force (apf). In 1995 the total size of the state police was 12 lakhs out of which 3.25 lakhs or 27 per cent were apf. (It is reasonable to argue that 40 per cent of the Rs 6000 crore of the state budget for the police in 2000-01 went towards the armed police.)# The combined expenditure by the centre and the states on the police in 2000-01 came to Rs 23,000. Of this only 40 per cent went to the 21 lakh civil police whereas the rest went for the 6.3 lakhs paramilitary forces and 8.7 lakh armed police force..
Since matters related to internal security come under the domain of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) one expects it to provide an intelligible assessment and analysis of internal security. The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2000-01 obfuscates matters. Chapter IV on Jammu and Kashmir begins with ‘security scenario’ and one on the North East with a bland statement on suffering caused by militancy ‘for quite some time’ but no reason is cited for the emergence of militancy nor mention made of the political demands of the movements in these areas. The 11 incidents of ‘terrorism’ since 1999 in Jammu and Kashmir not only stop in November 1999 but none of them include the terrorist acts of the security forces. For any statement to be truthful requires doing away with half-truths. But half-truths and the refrain of ‘evil designs of Pakistan’ become tools to justify coercion. Surprisingly there is no mention made of the movement’s non-violent manifestations especially as the militancy is also said to be ‘run by foreign mercenaries’. This denial mode gets worse. The chapter on the North East begins by claiming that militancy in Nagaland ‘has been there right from Independence’ and a little later it is stated that at present ‘a political dialogue is going on between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM)’. Neither of them is true. The Naga movement took to arms only in 1954, long after the Indian military operations began in 1952 and a political dialogue has not yet begun. The charge levelled against Nepal as having become a base for the ISI propounded in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ 1999-2000 report is reproduced verbatim in 2000-01, which states that ‘since the 1990’s, Pakistan intelligence agencies have been very active in setting up logistic facilities in Nepal....and there has been a noticeable growth of religious fundamentalist institutions along the Indo-Nepal border’. This claim was undermined by the Minister of State for Home Affairs Vidyasagar Rao in a written reply to the Lok Sabha in May 16, last year which stated that there are no reports to indicate ‘a steep rise in activities of terrorists, criminals and anti-social elements’ on the Indo-Nepal border. It was also refuted by Nepal’s prime minister who, in an interview to the Asian Age (July 31, 2000), said that the ‘question of security perception was brought up by India several times, we asked them what they meant by it. ISI was mentioned. We said point out specifics. We can’t keep rubbing stones in the dark.’ And now, contrary to allegations by Indian media sourced to faceless officials, a three member judicial commission of enquiry into the so-called anti-Hrithik Roshan riots in Kathmandu, has ruled out an ISI conspiracy behind them. This does not mean that the ISI ceases to be a matter of concern. However, if the threat has to be taken seriously it requires a realistic assessment, including an admission of the government’s own contribution in creating the fear psychosis, and their failure in addressing the demand for justice. (See ‘Economic and Political Weekly’, December 18, 1999, pp. 3570). The Ministry of Home Affairs does not leave the public wiser about the internal conflicts and how they graduate to security threat and war. Speaking to top intelligence and police officers, in April last year the Union Home Minister held the biggest challenge to be the threat posed by the activities of ISI, characterising it as waging ‘war’ and explained:
‘I use the word ‘war’ deliberately. It is a twenty year old war, which has considerably obliterated the dividing line between the nation’s external and internal security. It is a war with a battlefront that extends from Kashmir to Coimbatore and from Mumbai to Manipur. It is a war in which every state of India is a border state’.
Note that this perspective was presented before the police and intelligence officers. War is not a private affair between various branches of the government, but a matter of public concern. Especially because the conduct of wars provokes few questions, one against our own people even less. In the two towns mentioned by the Union Home Minister the connivance of the government in causing communal hostilities, subverting the criminal justice system, and creating the foundation for politics of retribution, is fairly well established. The evidence exists in the findings of the Justice Srikrishna Commission on the anti-Muslim carnage in Mumbai and the Justice Gopalkrishna Commission on the Coimbatore riots. When crimes go unpunished the sense of injustice lays itself open to a variety of influences. Instead of recognising this to virtually designate them as a war zone means to white-wash the crimes committed by the government forces and the communal-fascists, and to sanitise events. And it implies a singling out of Muslim organisations, fuelling fear among them, dismissing the need to prosecute the guilty and ensure justice to the Muslims of Mumbai and Coimbatore.
On April 18 the Uttar Pradesh police claimed to have killed three Jash-i-Mohammad militants in an ‘encounter’. The banality of the story apart these three were reportedly picked up from Allahabad on April 17, brought to Lucknow and then killed in an ‘encounter’. The anti-Muslim carnage in Kanpur last March was presented as a riot brought about by the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The Director General of the Uttar Pradesh police admitted that they have no proof of this but insists there is a link between SIMI and ISI but he offers no evidence in support of this. But he kept silent about the role of the Bajrang Dal and the Provincial Armed Constabulary in the anti-Muslim carnage in Kanpur, as revealed by the fact-finding reports. He also kept shut about the report that the death of additional district magistrate (finance) C P Pathak was caused by a 9 mm bullet used by the UP police. By playing up one, without proof, and maintain silence over the other, when evidence exists of wrong-doing, is to condone persecution, in this case of the Muslims.
As in 1999-2000 the annual reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2000-01 too describe the Naxalites as a ‘menace’ without even the hypocritical concern for the inequitous agrarian relations; they neither mention landlord armies such as the Ranvir Sena or the Green Brigade nor refer to the struggle for land and for agricultural wages. The third ‘greatest challenge to peace and security’, namely ‘left-wing extremism’ is covered in just 20 lines of a 92 page report! All of it focuses on ‘fighting the menace’ by providing ‘bullet proofing of vehicles, procurement of semi-automatic and automatic weapons’ and compensating the states for ‘expenditure incurred...in making necessary provisions for Central Para Military Force / Army deployment....and special training provided to State Police for anti-extremist operations’. The use of unsubstantiated accusations to demonise opponents is shown from the Union Home Secretary’s reference at an emergency meeting of the coordination centre for anti-naxal operations, in which he alleged that the Ministry of Home Affairs has ‘definite indication’ that the ISI ‘seemed’ to be extending all kinds of support to the naxalite groups active in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh (The Statesman, March 7, 2000). On such vagueness are founded ‘more effective action’, an euphemism for a carte-blanche to kill. One such given by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to the police resulted in a massacre of 16 dalit landless labourers, including two boys, on March 9 at Bhawanipur village in Mirzapur district. The landless agricultural labourers eke out a living through seasonal employment for less than 100 days per year on farms for no more than Rs 15-20 a day or 3 kg of wheat or 5 kg of paddy. The demands around which they fought under the leadership of Naxalites were access to land to which they have legal right, minimum wages and work. (See People’s Union for Democratic Rights report ‘Dead. Hence Guilty: Encounter and its Aftermath’; April 2001). It needs reiteration that while it is an inalienable right of anyone to be a Naxalite, the government does not have the license to kill anyone because s/he is a Naxalite. All the 16 had come from neighbouring villages, were separated from the dalit families of Bhawanipur after the police ordered everyone to evacuate the dalit hamlet, and then shot dead. The DIG (Mirzapur) told the People’s Union for Democratic Rights / Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights members that ‘it is justified if they die or get killed. They are criminals’. Let alone their conviction by a court, there were no charges against the 16. Their ‘crime’ was that as dalit agricultural workers they dared to organise themselves and fought for their rights. The 20 odd lines exhibit no understanding of the social reality. Even less because killings are the swiftest route to upward mobility in the police departments across the country. Uttar Pradesh has the dubious distinction of accounting for 60 per cent of the 71,685 cases of complaints received by the National Human Rights Commission during 2000-01. The National Human Rights Commission also says that in the same period out of more than 1800 cases of illegal detentions more than 1400 were against the UP police. It is hazardous to trust the stories spun by police. The propensity of Indian police to kill is also clear from the shooting to death of 6 un-armed adivasis (tribals) on April 2 in Mehendikheda village of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh. A fact-finding by Jan Sangharsh Morcha points out that adivasis organised under the banner of Adivasi Morcha Sanghatana have been opposing mass scale cutting of trees, looting of forest wealth, liquor trade, illegal exactions etc by forest officials in connivance with other commercial interests. Weeks before the killing illegal arrests including of women, destruction of adivasis houses and of standing crops had begun. The charge that ‘naxalite outsiders’ were instigating the adivasis and destroying forests was circulated. The disrespect for the right to life of people and all too frequent use of brute force against an unarmed movement, therefore, provides source credibility for people to arm themselves for their self-defence. Admittedly a movement that takes up weapons has a responsibility not to use it against the non-combatants or assault and inconvenience the people. But the waywardness of the armed groups does not turn a movement’s demands illegitimate or criminal. Nor does it become irrelevant to demand that the government engage in dialogue with them rather then in armed hostilities. It is an inalienable right to fight oppression and exploitation, in contrast to stoking atavistic fears, hatred, and violence against an ethnic group/community to create a fear psychosis. Therefore, it is significant, that while legitimate political activity around the issue of exploitation and oppression are increasingly being read as a form of ‘organised crime’, evident from the titles of the state acts, the government goes to great lengths to condone the criminal activities of the communal-fascists and the police. The Ministy of Home Affairs 2000-01 devotes nine lines in all to describing communal harmony without a word about the role of the sangh parivar or the Shiv Sena in mounting aggression against the minorities. The record of successive governments in not bringing to book the guilty of the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984, of anti-Muslim carnages throughout the 1980’s including in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and 1993 further corroborates that successive governments have sheltered those guilty of crimes against the people. And therefore, it pays to demonise opponents and help inflate security risks posed by them, which can be used to justify diversion of resources for the augmentation of the security forces. Out of the Rs 9800 crores provided to the ‘police’ under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Rs 8200 crore goes to augment the paramilitary forces and Rs 500 crore for non-recurring purchase of ‘vehicles, wireless equipment, computers, and other sophisticated equipment’ for the state armed constabularies. This goes hand-in-hand with their empowerment through the Terrorist and Disruptionist Activities Act – type draconian laws in one state after the other, ostensibly to fight ‘organised crime’, as a condition for central assistance. Lest one forgets, in a democracy it is the citizens who have rights and the police the authority to maintain, and responsibility to uphold, the rule of law. By conferring extra-ordinary powers including virtual immunity from prosecution the citizens are dis-enfranchised. The prevailing climate of moral equivalence blurs the distinction between the victim and the aggressor, cause and effect, and just and unjust; it discourages dialogue. It then becomes easy to make outrageous allegations against movements and project them as a security risk. This makes possible the valorisation of armed constabularies and the diminishing of the importance of civil policing. Verily improving civil policing, and proper compensation and promotion package for them, is foreign to the home ministry and the suppression of popular aspirations is now the norm. In a climate where the armed police is prioritised, where reward and promotion for killing is common in areas not declared as ‘disturbed’ one can imagine the horror faced by people where the government empowers them to kill, search, raid, destroy, on mere suspicion.
Table 2: A Tentative Cost in Crores of Internal Wars (2001-02)
|1. Wages and allowances of
five corps (3 in Jammu and Kashmir and 2 in the North East) including
2. Wages and allowances of the central paramilitary forces
3. Security Related Expenses met by the Union Government
4. Arms and ammunition
5. Food and transportation
6. Cost of state armed police
7. Other costs
|* Note: Items 4 and 5 are my own calculation. The police budget for all the states in 2000-01 was Rs 15,000 crore assuming a 10% increase it would be Rs 16,5000 crore in 2001-02. Of this, I believe, 40% i.e. Rs 6600 crore goes to the armed police. As for item 7 the cost of environmental degradation including loss of life, livestock and agriculture cannot be less than Rs 2000 crore.|
War Against the Kashmiris
The ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir is a necessary step but not a sufficient condition for setting into motion a peace process essential for reaching a democratic solution to the Kashmir problem in its entirety. The ground work for dialogue is not prepared simply by proclaiming a partial ceasefire after eleven years of relentless military crackdown on a movement. In this sense the ceasefire means scaling down the offensive against the movement. It does not mean that violence has ended or that it cannot be scaled up since the 475,000 troops continue to be present in Jammu and Kashmir; there is talk of ‘pruning’ the army while increasing the paramilitary deployment. However, the ceasefire’s main achievement has been that for the first time in sixteen years heavy guns have fallen silent all along the Line of Control. In this sense, as is evident, it is a ceasefire achieved between two of the three parties namely India and Pakistan.
In contrast the security forces and the militants continue to operate against each other. The Director General of the Border Security Force, which comes under the authority of the Union Home Ministry, claimed in an interview recently that ‘the word ceasefire has not been used by the Prime Minister. It was only suspension of combat operations....So we have not become totally inactive’. It was made amply clear by the Director General of Police, who later retracted this statement, that the police is not covered by ceasefire and ‘operations against militants as criminals would continue’. The Chief Minister removed whatever confusion that existed by asking the police force not to bother arresting militants but to eliminate them. In the existing scheme of things it is impossible for any Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to act independently or against the wishes of the centre. The autonomy of manoeuvre is possible only if there is a division in the centre between the Prime Minister’s Office, home and defence ministries which between themselves control the entire security apparatus. So obviously it is from within the central government that wilful defiance is taking place which threatens to derail a peace process.
Be that as it may. Oppressors are not invincible and the mightiest military can instill terror, control territory, but they cannot win the hearts and minds of people. Staggering death toll, incarceration of thousands, torture, intimidation, harassment, use of rape as a weapon, have only strengthened the resolve of the people to opt out. The new chief of army staff General S Padmanabhan, on his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir in early October, asserted that there is no military solution to the Kashmir problem and stressed that ‘in the history of mankind, there is no insurgency solved militarily’. In other words the situation has rapidly worsened because 893 security personnel out of an official toll of 1750 personnel killed have died in the past three years: 305 up to October 15, 2000, 356 in 1999, and 232 in 1998. Between 1994-1995 to 2000-01 there has been a three-fold increase in the number of army battalions deployed in Jammu and Kashmir from 40 to 117. Despite this overwhelming presence, a ratio of one jawan for every fourteen persons, repeated cordon and search, mandatory identity cards for Kashmiris, extra-ordinary powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act....the security of headquarters of XV Corps, at Badamibagh, Srinagar could be breached by five militants. The Commander of the XV Corps is the ex-officio security advisor to the state government and heads the Unified Command which supervises counter-insurgency. This attack became a precursor for many more since then and symbolises the tenuous Indian military hold. Another discernible change is the fact that militants are fewer in number but are better trained and experienced. In Beerwah the army had to deploy a helicopter in order to flush out two militants inside a Rashtriya Rifles camp! In Batpora, district Budgam security forces fought their longest ever operations for five days (November 1-5). The entire village was reduced to debris by the security forces. It joins Chrar-e-Sharief, Sopore, Pattan, Ahgam, Handwara, Sangrama, Anantnag, and Noor Bazar which were damaged in recent years.
The twelve year long military operations have made the security forces vulnerable and they are showing signs of panic and fatigue. There is also not much the security forces can do to stop the fedayeen attacks. The Inspector General of the Central Reserve Police Force in Jammu and Kashmir in a recent interview said that ‘let me be frank. There is absolutely no answer to a suicide attack...They come prepared to die and how can you prevent them?’ He went on to add ‘how long will you ask your men to remain alert?...Waiting for an anonymous enemy, who can come in any attire, use any tactic and choose any time is a very difficult task’. At least a section of the army is clear that fedayeen attacks will persist with or without ceasefire and there can be no military solution. The declining number of militants and increase in the deployment of troops over the past eleven years testifies to this. The stress killings by soldiers of their own colleagues and officers tell their own stories. In January itself there have been at least two incidents of this, one amongst the Central Reserve Police Force and the other amongst the Border Security Force which resulted in the killing of five security personnel in internecine conflict. In Beerwah angry men from the 34 Rashtriya Rifles and the 122 battalion of Central Reserve Police Force attacked a police station and held an identification parade of the police personnel. In Pahalgam 22 of the 32 civilians died when Central Reserve Police Force personnel fired in panic when attacked by two militants! In Pathribal five local men were killed in cold blood to please the political masters who wanted results. And in Barakpora a force that holds life of people in contempt fired upon a peaceful demonstration, killing eight and injuring scores. The All Party Hurriyet Conference claims that 250 civilians have been killed, 24 in custody by Security Force, 30 houses blasted and 10 women molested.
There is also uncertainty surrounding the political objective behind the ceasefire. The controversy over issuing of passports or travel documents to the All Party Hurriyet Conference to enable them to travel to Pakistan testifies to that. If the All Party Hurriyet Conference does not represent Kashmiri aspirations this entire controversy becomes redundant. The message being driven across is that the Indian government is determined to impose its own preference and agenda. This robs the ceasefire initiative of whatever gloss that it enjoyed and negates whatever advantage that had accrued to the Indian government where it really matters, namely with the Kashmiris.
It is true that the ceasefire has brought into sharp relief the attacks by the ‘jehadi’ forces who have powerful patrons and supporters inside the Pakistani regime who are using them to push their anachronistic agenda. This made the Pakistani military regimes response to the ceasefire – reduction of shell-fire exchange and infiltration while letting militants to operate – appears half-hearted. A caveat must be entered here. There are two kinds of militant groups; the indigenous organisations such as Hizbul Mujahideen and the foreign militants who form the bulk of the ‘jehadists’. All of the them have refused to cease their armed actions. However, Hizbul Mujahideen has linked the cessation of hostilities to the Indian government’s commitment to hold unconditional tripartite talks. The ‘jehadists’, on the other hand, are bent upon achieving their goal of imposing an authoritarian theocratic state with the help of arms. In this sense the ‘jehadists’ are not the freedom fighters of the Kashmiri movement, but flag-bearers of an authoritarian ideology.
But when everything is said and done it is worth reiterating that militancy began in Indian held Kashmir. It was the result of a process that began long before people took up arms. And only when every avenue of democratic articulation was denied, dissent crushed, demands dismissed in the name of ‘national interest or security’. Therefore, the burden of responsibility weighs heavily on the Indian government. The natural propensity of governments is to deny, obfuscate issues, and act surreptitiously. The Indian government is no exception. It persists with every trick up its sleeve to delay, prolong, tire out, split the movement. Lest it is forgotten atrocities are built into the militaristic policy because the policy carries within it extra-ordinary powers for the forces accompanied by unaccountability, under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act. In August last year the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Pramod Mahajan had said that the government will not take action against the perpetrators of extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate firing because this would demoralise the troops. The Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, wrapped a flag around it when he told the Lok Sabha that a judicial probe into the Pahalgam shootout will help Pakistan because this would be taken to mean that ‘we also doubt our own security forces’. Neither considered the possibility that letting killers go scot free would further demoralise the population or that the lack of a probe amounts to treating the civilian population as of no consequence.
Granted that the peace process will be long and fraught with risks. But even a step-by-step approach pre-supposes a clear understanding of the problem and a sincere desire to resolve it through dialogue. In Jammu and Kashmir it is not disaffection which can be set right with good governance and development but the alienation of the people which is the central issue. The process of alienation was located in the political economy of ‘parasitic capitalism’ with its over-dependence on the state, limited prospects of progress, lack of investments, and frustration fuelled by unemployment, rampant corruption....went through a cataclysmic change in the last eleven years of relentless violence where opting out of India became a rallying cry. This coincided with a period in the recent history of India when communal-fascism was gaining ground. The riotous campaign for Babri Masjid, its demolition, and the series of anti-Muslim pogroms, followed by the non-prosecution of the criminals undermined faith in Indian democracy.
The anger against the government forces is widespread. The figure of those killed put out by the Government of India is not believed even by the state government. While the Ministry of Home Affairs claims ‘more than 20,000’ deaths the state government has given out the death toll to be 70,000 in the eleven year old ‘internal war’. There is an independent corroboration for an higher death count and culpability of the government forces in this. A study prepared by Bashir Ahmad Dabla of the University of Kashmir for ‘Save the Children Fund’ shows that until 1999, 60,000 people had died in Kashmir and there were 20,000 orphans and 16,000 widows. Now most governments tend to downplay civilian casualties by their own forces and blame the militants. The same study shows that 80 per cent of the deaths were due to cross-fire killings by security forces, in custody, or by the renegades. Records of the Government Mental Hospital, Srinagar show that in 60 out of the 70 case histories, patients were victims of or were witness to atrocities committed by the security forces on someone close to them. In any case in eleven years no Kashmiri household has been spared and every family has a story to narrate. A whole generation is growing up not knowing what ‘normalcy’ means and is afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Public protests at times result in the government ordering an inquiry but nothing comes of it.
Writs of habeas corpus do not work in Jammu and Kashmir. Judicial orders are ignored with impunity by the security forces. A former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Syed Rizvi, is on record that he issued 2000 orders to the security forces and the state administration on habeas corpus petitions which elicited no response. It is an unaccountable force working under the immunity provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Meanwhile, the welfare activities of the government are virtually at a standstill. The fortunate ones among the widows, orphans, the aged who are registered and ostensibly receive assistance end up getting a fraction of the amount after various middle-men take their cuts. Health and education are in disarray. Primary health centres are in large parts dysfunctional, bereft of doctors, midwives, and medicines. There is a severe shortage of female medical functionaries in the countryside due to the sexual harassment by the security forces. And even for child-birth people have to travel to Srinagar. The lack of teachers, closure of schools, due to the ‘financial crunch’ have made education largely non-functional. Meanwhile the population of Srinagar and other towns has increased due to the dislocation of life where lack of opportunities reigns supreme. It is worse for young people. If they remain behind to complete their education they have not only to contend with the security forces that are particularly suspicious of young people but in the few educational institutions which are functioning ‘normally’ graduation can take up to five years. When they move out to Indian cities it is difficult to get admission because Kashmiri Muslims are looked upon with suspicion and it is difficult to get accomodation because the Ministry of Home Affairs expects the police to monitor their movements, and the police in their usual ham-handed style threaten landlords from renting out their premises. The lived reality of Kashmiris is vitiated by the absence of citizens groups or political parties in India who champion their cause and express solidarity with them. This cements the conviction that India may not be its enemy but for sure it is no friend of the Kashmiris.
One has only to look at how renegades, whom Kashmiris detest the most, have been glorified in Indian films, fiction, biography and seminal journals! In contrast those who chose the path of non-violent struggle were ridiculed, reviled, and repressed. The popular leader Shabir Shah spent 23 years of his life in jail for demanding the right of self-determination. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front which declared a unilateral ceasefire in 1994 found itself not only ignored but 600 of its members have been killed by the security forces since they laid down their weapons! The experience of the legendary militant leader Azam Inquilabi was no different. The humiliation and persecution of his associates by the security forces did not arouse any comment. These were held out as signs of military victory over the movement. Now that the Government of India has changed tack it is considered impolite to raise such issues compared to propounding the thesis that the movement has lost its libertarian moorings or that sufi Islam is being usurped by ‘jehadi’ Islam. In the business of saving Kashmir for India denying people their right to fight oppression and to live in dignity and freedom inevitably follows. The assumption is that the people play no role, exercise no control, and cannot influence anything that happens.
Freedom acquires an acute meaning for those who live under oppression, whose very existence is determined by their identity card, privacy violated at will, person searched and frisked in a bazar, stopped while travelling, detained at will, denied the right to protest, and censored from voicing their opposition. For such a people freedom is intrinsic to their physical and cultural survival and the only way in which to regain their humanity. The best illustration of this public mood is provided by the Hizb-ul Mujahideen. As the largest militant group which is entirely indigenous they cannot afford to ignore what people think. Militant action cannot be sustained in the face of people’s disapproval. It is this that compelled them to demarcate their position from the ‘jehadists’ reflected in the unilateral three-month long ceasefire offer by the Hizb-ul Mujahideen who dismissed criticism levelled against them by the United Jehad Council and Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islam as ‘outside interference’. They could do so because Hizb-ul Mujahideen is an indigenous and the largest militant group in Jammu and Kashmir which could not remain indifferent to popular concerns that the ‘foreign militants’ with their authoritarian projects were bringing discredit to the freedom movement. This is reflected in the three conditions set down by them: (1) ending human rights violations (2) allowing free expression for people belonging to different political persuasion (3) and denying the government and the militant the authority to interfere with people’s right to decide. Even the ameer of Jamaat-i-Islami, Ghulam Mohammed Bhat has asserted that the Kashmiris were engaged in a ‘political struggle’. Equally important the movement has consistently distanced itself from any move to disrupt the Amarnath pilgrimage and their volunteers have provided medical help to the pilgrims to drive the message home that in their understanding of freedom there is respect for diversity. Surely this is not the language or behaviour of ‘jehadists’ whose authoritarian vision regards democratic expression or dissent an anathema. If nothing else this enjoins caution rather than jumping to conclusions.
Look at the question of representation. All those who regard Jammu and Kashmir as an ‘integral part of India’ are represented by the Government of India just as Pakistan represents those who believe that Jammu and Kashmir ‘belongs’ to Pakistan. The decisive emergence of the ‘movement for freedom’ has catapulted it to the negotiating table as the legitimate third party. If the Government of India wants to talk to all and sundry, by all means they should do so, primarily to get their act together. An idea does not cease to exist because a government prohibits it. A movement does not become a non-movement because Government of India and articulate Indians recoil at the idea. In this sense, the search for the possible makes sense only when there is a genuine desire to address the real and shun manufactured issues and agenda. If there was no movement there would be no militancy. Without a movement there would be no need for talks. The unstated hope is that the ceasefire will create a peace constituency meaning that people will get so used to ‘peace’ that they will turn against the militants and enable the government to restore its authority. It speaks volumes for the lack of confidence in the government apparatus that not a single Kashmiri has filed a complaint with the State Women’s Commission against the security forces. Surely fear of militants could not have come in the way of filing complaints against the Indian security forces! Especially when protests against extra-judicial killings and power cuts have continued. For instance the indigenous groups are considered an integral part of the movement unlike the ‘jehadists’. Nobody expects the participation of ‘jehadists’ in talks since they as an alien force desire to impose their authoritarian project. But the movement is not going to turn against the ‘jehadists’ just because the Government of India so insists. For all their illegitimate (killing of non-combatants) acts and their authoritarian ideology they are perceived as a countervailing force vis a vis the hated security forces. The past also carries a message. The Indian government has demonstrated, time and again, that it listens only when people take up arms, valorises armed groups and has contempt for non-violent movements. It is not for nothing that the unilateral ceasefire of the JKLF in 1994 did not result in a dialogue but in the killing of more then 600 of their members. Similarly, whereas the All Party Hurriyet Conference has adopted non-violent struggle it has been denied the right to campaign peacefully or hold protests and demonstrations. In sharp contrast renegades are used to attack the movement, and hate groups like the ‘sangh parivar,’ Shiv Sena, and Panun Kashmir allowed a free run. Therefore, to expect the militants to disarm as a pre-condition for talks is futile. Indeed even guns will not fall silent unless there is a sincerity of purpose. In this sense without unconditional talks with the All Party Hurriyet Conference and Pakistan the peace process itself becomes superfluous.
Besides, the issue of reversing the division of Jammu and Kashmir is on the agenda. Hitherto this was understood to mean India and Pakistan’s claim on the territory of Jammu and Kashmir held by each other. Those who spoke for uniting the divided people were considered peripheral. This is now a central part of the demand for right of self-determination. The movement and militants in particular have received moral and material support from Pakistan held Kashmir for all of the 11 years. Many who joined the movement took up arms. Of course the Pakistani regime is implicated in propping up the ‘jehadists’. But it will not do to pretend that this is about all that matters when a people have risen in revolt and the demand for ‘azadi’ (freedom) has thrown up a new co-relation of forces.
The furore over autonomy makes this even more clear. The Union Home Minister in one sweep undermined usefulness of dialogue by insisting that the discussions be ‘within the framework of the Constitution and excluding the pre-1953 position’. This proposition was endorsed by the entire political spectrum : the BJP took the hardline equating autonomy with secessionism; the Congress re-discovered the virtue of the1975 Beg-Parthasarthy agreement which spoke of the constitutional provisions extended to Jammu and Kashmir as being ‘unalterable’ but obliged the centre to ‘consider sympathetically’ a request by the state to rescind laws passed between 1953-74; while the rest tried to pendulate between 1953-75. It was expected that ‘sangh parivar’ and its cohorts would play on fear and prejudice to whip up passions. But surprisingly no one has spelled out how they intend to convince the Kashmiris to settle for anything less than ‘azadi’ (freedom) by favouring autonomy.
Besides, if we accept the government of India claim and the legality of Instrument of Accession then the first Constitutional (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1950 dated January 26, 1950 provides the basis for the ‘special status’ promised to Jammu and Kashmir. This was endorsed by the Delhi Agreement of 1952 and approved by the Parliament on August 7, 1952. The erosion of internal autonomy began under Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed in 1953 whose appointment is open to question. The State Autonomy Committee (SAC) report, therefore, makes a case for the restoration of the pre-1953 status. The 42 presidential orders whose sanctity the union cabinet was most concerned about violate the Delhi agreement of 1952. Indeed some of the Orders that the Union Cabinet is so keen to uphold reflect poorly on their collective wisdom. The SAC report points out that ‘Parliament had to amend the Constitution four times by the 59th, 64th, 67th and 68th Constitutional Amendment to extend President’s Rule imposed in Punjab on May 11, 1987. For the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the same result was accomplished by executive orders under Article 370.’ The report shows how beginning in 1953 ‘Article 370 has acquired a dangerously ambiguous aspect. Designed to protect the State’s autonomy, it has been used systematically to destroy it.’ A glaring instance is cited in the report. On July 30, 1986 when the state was under central rule with Jagmohan as the governor ‘the President made an Order under Article 370 extending to the State Article 249 of the Constitution in order to empower the Parliament to legislate even on a matter in the State List on the strength of a Rajya Sabha resolution’. The SAC report is also aware that ‘not all these Orders can be objected to’. In matters of finance (Article 264-300A) the report recommends ‘that the matter be discussed in depth between the State representatives and the Union government’. There is also nowhere any mention of rescinding its jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. While restricting the jurisdiction of the Election Commission could be questioned the same cannot be said for the extension of all India services (Article 308-323). The report claims that it has ‘dwarfed local talent’ – it makes a valid point. It goes on to add that an ‘imperial model of civil services’ cannot be ‘a substitute for what the local youth could be expected to have i.e. local patriotic feeling and passionate attachment for the service of those among whom they live’. In short if the government of India believed in its own claims then the SAC made a case for restoring the internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is true that the SAC report had aroused protests in parts of Jammu and Leh. Those such as the People’s Initiative for Peace and Unity (PIPU) and the ‘sangh parivar’ spearheaded the movement against ‘Kashmiri domination’ at a time when the Kashmiris are denied their right to life and liberties. Indeed they are the votaries of a ruthless military suppression of the movement. A democratic solution is alien to their ideological orientation. Paradoxically it is the ‘sangh parivar’ and PIPU who advocate a three and four way partition, respectively, of Jammu and Kashmir. The suggestion for the demographic transformation of Kashmir has been revived by the ‘sangh parivar’ under a pretext of trifurcating Jammu and Kashmir with statehood for Jammu, union territory status for Ladakh, and turning Kashmir into a security zone where large number of ‘nationalists’ would be settled with a ‘free hand’ given to the military. PIPU in its turn wanted the valley to be partitioned and the Government of India to ‘help us in establishing ourselves’ to the north and east of the Jhelum river.
It is true that the Kashmiris are fed up with the corruption and misgovernance of the National Conference. But it is equally true that in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East cooption of persons through corruption was a standard policy of the central government. So long as it helped to consolidate the Government of India’s authority everybody winked at it. To now bemoan of the National Conference the corruption and misgovernance when the central government was party to corrupting it earlier is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Even otherwise the Government of India cannot claim to occupy an higher moral ground when it was never keen to allow Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East to become financially strong and viable economies lest this fuel separatism. Therefore, the centre’s policy was geared towards increasing the financial dependence of the state on itself. Keeping a tight control on the purse strings reached a point where the state was unable to pay salaries to its employees who were expected to run the administration. Want of funds not only means that all those in need of help (women, children, and aged) have to compete for scarce resources but essential services suffer and shortage creates conditions for delay and bribery. That this situation is allowed to operate in Jammu and Kashmir which is considered ‘integral part’ of India and where the Government of India claims that Pakistan is waging a ‘proxy war’ tells its own story.
War Against the Naga Peoples
A former emissary of the Prime Minister for talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland [NSCN(IM)], on resigning in July 1999, pointedly wrote that in ‘a negotiation with an underground group...what is most important is the credibility of your word given’. He warned that ‘the traditional school of thought in a government is to wear out the underground leadership, or divide their ranks.’ There is a history embedded in this caution. The Naga movement took up arms only after their civil disobedience movement demanding implementation of the nine point agreement of June 1947 was met with military suppression. Instead of dialogue the Indian government took recourse to ‘tiresome quibbling’ and then faced with the result of a ‘plebiscite’ in March 1952 and a complete rejection of the 1952 elections by all the Nagas, the government ordered the arrests of Naga leaders and embarked upon a and senseless display of force. Able bodied Nagas were requisitioned as porters, indiscriminate arrests were made, rape used as a weapon of war, villages were destroyed, people were herded in ‘special’ camps, aerial bombing resorted to, and a measure invented by the British Raj to crush the ‘Quit India’ movement, called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, enacted to fight the Naga ‘hostiles’. Every time in the past when it was possible to arrive at a peaceful solution it was aborted by the Indian government using the opportunity to entice a section to strike a deal. But deals came un-stuck because the government backtracked from their commitments as the experience of the Shillong accord shows whose key element was the merger of Naga areas divided between different Indian states. Each time the war was renewed. The maxim that an entire army can lose a war in the mountains held true. This drove the higher echelons of the Indian army to support the political authority in 1995 when the search began afresh for finding a political solution.
The second cease-fire between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM) came into operation on July 7, 1997. But the current ceasefire holds without really ceasing hostilities. Today the III Corp with its three divisions is stationed in Naga areas. Along with 34 battalions of the para military force deployed in Nagaland; 37 out of the 74 battalions in Manipur’s Chandel, Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Senapati districts to fight the NSCN(IM); 6 out of the 12 battalions in Arunachal Pradesh to battle the Naga underground in the Tirap and Chamenglong districts; and at least 12 battalions out of 124 in Assam’s north Cachar hills. This combined force of more than 150,000 troops is engaged in suppressing 20 lakh Naga people or a ratio of one soldier for 13 persons! Seen another way the NSCN(IM) is said to have a maximum of 4200 members, NSCN(K) a maximum of 2500 and the two NNC (federal) groups a few hundred each i.e. 22 soldiers for each militant! The annual cost of this war currently is estimated to be Rs 2000 crores and mostly goes to pay for wages, allowances, transportation, arms and ammunitions etc. Such a heavy deployment and diversion of resources to maintain them hampers development. In most towns the highest points are under the occupation of the security forces, and at times even schools and playgrounds. The troops are present in bazars and on the highways with their check points which make movement tortuous while the pathetic conditions of the roads makes it laborious. Like everything else the responsibility for road-building in Naga areas rests with the army’s border road development board. Governance is a misnomer for a state where the ruling party ‘won’ the elections unopposed because everyone heeded the boycott appeal of 1998 issued by the civil society organisations who argued that what the Naga people wanted was substantive talks and not elections.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act together with other draconian acts remain in operation and run counter to the very essence of the cease-fire to act as a confidence building measure to strengthen the peace process. The ‘Ground Rules for Ceasefire’, reached between the two entities, had envisaged a critical role for the civil society organisations in monitoring the ceasefire. This is not possible when draconian laws remain in force which thwart free movement, flow of information and unhindered inter-action. Let alone civil society the civil administration is virtually non-existent as the law and order duties remain the prerogative of the security forces and the army also undertakes development work. Now the cease-fire had committed the two sides to halt hostilities and hold unconditional talks at the highest level. It stands to reason that the government of India cannot observe a cease-fire against the NSCN(IM) in one area and carry on war in another. That is to say the area of cease-fire evidently must apply to all of the areas where the NSCN(IM) was active. This has not happened. Similarly, if the purpose of the ceasefire was to enable the two entities to begin a dialogue at the highest level then the lack of substantive talks amounts to scoring a self-goal. Barring a single meeting on September 19, 1998 the Indian Prime Minister has not met the NSCN(IM) leadership and since July 1999 no substantive talks have taken place between the emissary of the Indian Prime Minister with the NSCN(IM) leadership. Instead a recently retired Union Home secretary was brought in as the new emissary and has been holding talks with the NSCN(IM) accompanied by the Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing officials. Predictably for three and half years talks have centred round discussing the ground rules of the ceasefire.
Moreover, the NSCN(IM) continues to be regarded as ‘unlawful’ and arrest warrants issued against their leaders have not been withdrawn. In fact, government forces have carried on with arrest, detention, torture, and killing of their members. Between August 1, 1997 and March 15, 2001 there have been 366 instances of violations of the ceasefire; 322 in the state of Nagaland. More than a hundred of their members have been arrested, some charged under the National Security Act, and 32 of them killed. The security forces have also violated the ground rules by raiding the NSCN(IM) camps, undertaking house-to-house searches, detaining members of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group. If the Commanding Officers in Naga areas are acting contrary to the orders of the army high command and the political authority then from all appearance no one seems to care. Statements by the Union Home Ministry and his officials expressing doubts about the usefulness of talks along with their refrain of inviting all and sundry to the dialogue suggests that the ground is being readied for wriggling out of commitments and weakening the peace process. If bringing everyone aboard was a concern it cannot be served by backtracking from commitments and by forcing the NSCN(IM) out. This also disregards the fact that the Naga groups, notwithstanding their differences, remain committed to freedom from India. The Naga civil society organisations insist that question of unity is their own internal concern which they are addressing. These efforts resulted in putting to a halt to internecine conflicts since the winter of 1999. The ceasefire announced with the NSCN (Khaplang), confined to the state of Nagaland alters the ground reality to the extent that there is even less cause for the Indian government to keep the troops outside the barracks empowered to intrude into the private and the public domain of the people’s lives. The expectation that this could help start parallel talks with the two NSCN, using one against the other, to the advantage of India, can go awry because the government tends to have an exaggerated sense of its own manipulative power and loses sight of the fact that it must be acceptable to the people.
While talks remain stalled with NSCN(IM) the Indian government has moved to upgrade relations with the military junta of Myanmar and has encouraged a military crackdown on the NSCN (Khaplang). It was the Union Home Ministry who told the press on November 17 that ‘five camps belonging to the Khaplang faction of the Naga insurgents were destroyed by Myanmar army this year’ and added that there are ‘some more camps and they will pursue them’. While the immediate target is the Naga underground which have base camps in Myanmar the government of India is supplying weapons to the military regime to enable them to crack down on the democratic and national movements, in Myanmar under the mistaken assumption that it pays to build ties with the military junta as a counter to the growing Chinese clout on them. The launching by the Chinese government of the ‘great western development’ of its six poorest regions including Tibet, Xinjiang, and especially Yunan (which borders on Myanmar) have raised fears among Indian policy makers that the Chinese government would be desirous of moving towards securing a land route through Myanmar to the Bay of Bengal. It is this fear that informs their assessment of the upgradation of the road linking Lashio in Myanmar with Kunming in China and development of shipping in the Mekong and Irrawady rivers. However justified such an assessment, the point is to find the best way to address such concerns. It can neither be to build close ties with a military junta nor to re-impose the Indian government’s authority by military suppression of the movements in the North-East so as to bolster the defence against China. This is a short-sighted policy. It is one thing to maintain normal diplomatic relations with the military junta and quite another to translate it into support for the military campaigns of the junta. A wiser course is to work for a negotiated solution in the North East beginning with the Naga movement. The head of ULFA’s armed wing Paresh Barua in an interview given to a daily newspaper Asamiya Pratidin (January 3) had said ‘let the government of India first prove its sincerity in finding a satisfactory solution to the Naga issue. Once that is achieved, we will definitely fall in line’. Stopping wars in the region and stopping diversion of resources for them will help free resources for development and release the energies of the people for economic and political cooperation. This provides a credible answer to any real or imaginary threat posed by China. Unlike the ruinous militaristic approach, the advantage of this is the establishment of a sound foundation for the peaceful co-existence of people and countries.
Saving Resources and Protecting Freedoms
The solution is to disengage from the military suppression of popular aspirations, to insist on dialogue and thereby ensure reduction of the military. A beginning can be made through an analysis and costing of the internal wars. It is possible to reduce the size of the Armed Forces of the Union from its current strength of more than two million by at least ten per cent annually and up to 3/4th of a million in a span of five years. This will free at least Rs 75,000 crore over next the five years which can be deployed for education, health, and shelter for all. Arguably, one is demanding something impossible from the Indian government when the world in which we live is inequitous and pregnant with uncertainties. But what does one do when the Indian government itself is the primary cause of the multiplication of threats. Therefore, either the Indian government is committed to the peace process or it is not. The policy towards the Naga people is not dissimilar from that towards Jammu and Kashmir with the accent on short-term gain.
The Indian government believes that it is in a position to dictate terms to the ‘tehrik-i-azadi’, that the All Party Hurriyet Conference will split, a Shabir Shah can be weaned away, and a solution forced on the people. The appointment of K.C. Pant as the pointsman for the Kashmiri ‘talks’ with all and sundry, is meant to signal this. The gung-ho attitude is also predicated on the belief that the international community, particularly the US, no longer countenances territorial division. The UN secretary general ostensibly lent weight to it by saying that a resolution such as the Security Council’s on Kashmir under chapter VI is non-enforceable. And, therefore, the presumption arises that it is possible to bring Pakistan to hold bilateral talks on Jammu and Kashmir to arrive at a deal. The right of self-determination is not a orphan that awaits adoption nor is it derived from a legal doctrine. It is a political concept that acquires legitimacy when a people driven by oppression or exploitation and denied democratic accomodation articulate a desire to be free. As a result nothing can substitute for dialogue with the main party -the alienated people who demand freedom from India. The clarification sought by Shabir Shah from K.C. Pant, with his insistence that for talks to be purposeful require that those who question the accession must be a party to the dialogue and that it should involve Pakistan and be trilateral, shows that it is not dissimilar to the stance of the All Party Hurriyet Conference except that it puts the ball back in the Indian government’s court. A deal with Pakistan even if it is accompanied by a sweetener in the shape of the Indo-Iranian overland pipeline, which would earn Pakistan $6-700 million annually and provide the military regime room to out-manoeuvre the ‘jehadists’, is difficult to bring about because it pre-supposes an internal settlement, banking on the US to pressure Pakistan to contain the ‘jehadists’. Why would the US do this and to what extent is it willing to put the ‘jehadist’ genie, it released, back in the bottle remains an unknown quantity, because suspicion remains of the US wanting to use them against China in Xinkiang. What would be the price extracted by the US for its role and what strategic hold will it derive from this? What is it that is on offer for an ‘internal settlement’ if the right of self-determination is unacceptable to the Indian government? Is it a communal vivisection that is envisaged or a reversal to the pre-1953 status? Who will be persuaded to settle for a moth-eaten autonomy? It is perfectly possible for the military regime in Pakistan to contain the ‘jehadists’ but what would induce them to do so if it involves turning the Line of Control into a border? They may prefer a communal partition, but what makes anyone think that the movement would accept this? It might be good propaganda to allege that the movement is Pakistan sponsored, but pathetic politics to ignore that a movement survives because of the people. The ‘jehadists’ may be reined in by the Musharraf regime but what will the government troops do if people come out on the streets as in the early 1990’s or if a civil disobedience campaign begins? Then it was possible to use crackdowns to deter the people but after 12 years of war and much heightened world awareness of the goings on in Jammu and Kashmir this has run its course. Once again people are coming out in large numbers on the roads to protest. And unlike the early 1990’s a much wider public opinion exists in India which questions the wisdom in persisting with suppression and manipulation. Also a slip up by the Indian troops will find a depletion in the ranks of those countries lined up behind them. So an offer that falls short of popular aspirations will not hold, considering the depth of people’s alienation and the desire to be free. And not just here but among the Naga people too. It is just as futile to scuttle talks with the NSCN(IM) which will re-fuel hostilities, akin to handing out a license to anyone to come and fish in troubled waters. A realistic assessment shows that decades of broken pledges and use of brute force have queered the pitch for solution, which leaves little room for manoeuvring. The possibility is narrowing down to reconciling the geo-strategic interests of the country with the people’s aspirations. What shape this takes depends on the sincerity of the government, which to say the least is in short supply. This in itself makes a pressing argument for a peaceful negotiated solution with the real parties, to address the real issues and enable use of the resources to secure life and liberties of the people. Therefore, wisdom lies in engaging movements in dialogue. The strength of democracy lies in accepting the fallibility of the government and privileging dialogue with the affected party as the key to resolving disputes and problems.
This can create the momentum towards a democratic peace. It is when policymakers realise that oppression begets rebellion, that a solution requires talking to the parties concerned, that a beginning can be made. Dialogue among the parties concerned will enable a solution to emerge. It is not going to be easy or risk-free. In this endeavour all of us matter provided we stop siding with the oppressors and those who ride roughshod over people’s aspirations. History teaches that people are not mere spectators who cannot influence the course of events. When successive governments failed the citizens by dividing the people, then it would be a mistake to leave everything to the discretion of the government. It is for us to fight for a just and honourable peace. It is the inalienable right of all of us to revolt against oppression to defend our dignity and freedom. It is only then our concerns will acquire meaning and be taken seriously. To the extent people make their own histories the choice is ours.
* Siachin was a no man’s land. It had remained undemarcated precisely because the inhospitable glacier was ruled out as a battle ground. It was not covered by the Line of Actual Control the post-1971 successor to the earlier Cease Fire Line (CFL). So both sides had a perfect right to romp around. After the first war of Jammu and Kashmir a cease fire line was drawn under the Karachi Agreement of July 27, 1949 which terminated at Khor NR NJ 9842. The agreement declared that the CFL will run to Chalunka-Khor and thereafter ‘north to the glaciers’. The agreement also said that the CFL was to be drawn and verified mutually on the ground ‘so as to eliminate any no-man’s land’. This was not done. In fact even in 1972, after the Shimla Agreement, when the CFL was changed to the ‘Line of Control’ (LC) and realigned in many places and the Indian army was in a position of advantage and could have dictated the alignment of LC beyond NJ 9842 they did not do so. This area remained undelineated precisely because neither side considered this area of any strategic significance. As a result somewhere in the late 1970’s when Pakistan opened Karakoram range especially Mt K2 for international mountaineering expeditions that is when India too began sending expeditions to this area. In other words it is around early the 1980’s that Siachen suddenly acquired its status.
In 1983 the GOC-in-C of Northern Command Lt. General M.L. Chibber and Lt. General Hoon, Corps Commander of XV corps under which Siachin fell, made a case before Indira Gandhi to do something to stop Pakistan from taking Siachin. They pointed to Pakistan permitting mountaineering expeditions, although India too was sending such expeditions – including joint ones with Indian army. However the operation was militarily a botched attempt. Indian troops were asked to occupy the Saltoro Ridge to defend the glacier. This proved disastrous. It was believed that putting up a post or two on the Saltoro Ridge will solve the problem and limit the conflict. Since it was inevitable that this attempt to alter the LOC unilaterally would invite Pakistani reaction the fighting escalated. There is now deployed a brigade plus in the Saltoro-Siachen Glacier area, and a brigade to back up the troops on the Siachen-Saltoro complex. In addition, large air-cum-logistic bases have had to be established at Chandigarh, Leh and Thoise (airfield). More soldiers die due to the inclement weather and the high altitude than from exchange of fire with Pakistan troops. According to the Ministry of Defence 650 soldiers have died and 10,500 have been disabled for life.
In both the Karachi Agreement of 1949 and the Shimla Agreement of 1972 the delineation process ended at a point known as NJ 9842. India claims that a the 1949 agreement said only that beyond this point the line went ‘north to the glaciers’. This means that the glacier stands divided between the two parties and therefore recognises it as a no man’s land. However, the government of India claimed that from this point the line went to the North West whereas the Pakistan government insists that it goes to the North East. Under the 1949 Agreement the CFL runs from Manawar in the south, north to Keran and from Keran east to the glacier area. Going by this Pakistan insists that the line runs North East. It is worth recalling that way back in 1988 India and Pakistan had agreed to a draft agreement for the demilitarisation of the Siachen sector. This effort was aborted because the then Rajiv Gandhi led government faced with the Bofors scam and opposition from the military decided to shelve the matter.
# I owe this to Dr SL Shetty. Errors are mine alone.
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