The surreptitious bid on India’s part to divide the people of multi-religious, multi-cultural J and K into Muslim K ashmir, Hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh fits well into Pakistan’s communal agenda. And the RSS view of the latest conflict in Kargil as an integral part of the 1,000–year–old face–off between ‘Muslim barbarians’ and peace–loving Hindus’ echoes the call for ‘jehad’ from across the border


Kargil has quite naturally dominated the Indian media’s attention ever since intruders from Pakistan were discovered on its glaciated peaks. Every aspect of the situation has been analysed form every possible angle by experts from every discipline. But I have yet not come across any mention of the impact of the event on the minds of the Muslims in Ladakh, in Kashmir and Jammu, on Buddhist–Muslim relations in Kargil, and Muslim–Hindu relations in the other two regions which have important implications for the future of the state.

While writing in the present context, many experts have re–examined the lessons of earlier experiences of Indo–Pak wars, from diplomatic, strategic and other angles, viz., terms of cease fire agreements, territories gained or lost. But again, no one has made any mention of the relationship between external involvement and the local mood of the people, and the impact of war on them.

The present tilt of international opinion against Pakistan is being variously explained as the achievement of able diplomacy of the BJP government, realisation on the part of America of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, which has become powerful in Pakistan, or the importance that India has acquired as a market and an investment avenue.

These explanations may be true to some extent. But the fact that is being completely ignored is that international opinion is also influenced by the merit of a case. The package is important but not more than the material it covers. Every nation watches its national interest but that concern must also include its influence and image among the rest of the nations.

That India did not get much international support against Pakistan during the decade–long insurgency in Kashmir was due to the fact that, inter alia, people of the Valley, rightly or wrongly, supported it. Kashmiri youth used to cross the LoC and get arms and training and return as militants for the cause of ‘Azadi’. The ruthless manner in which the insurgency was sought to be suppressed in the initial phase invited universal ondemnation.

In contrast, today it is essentially an operation of the Pakistan army with the support of specially recruited and specially indoctrinated Mujahids in an area where there is no freedom movement. Of course, India’s restraint in dealing with the situation has also paid diplomatic dividends. 

But why did Pakistan change its position as a champion of the rights of Kashmiris to that of an aggressor? The BJP blames the Congress Party for defeating its government, which tempted Pakistan to exploit the consequent political instability in the country. The Congress blames the naivete and gullibility of the Prime Minister who was mesmerised into complacency due to the euphoria created by his bus diplomacy.
More objective experts offer a number of strategic theories for the gamble that Pakistan played in Kargil, viz., it wanted to do a Siachen on India, or to open an alternative route of infiltration to the Kashmir valley.

In short, all debate on Kargil that dominates the national agenda is based on the presumption that the entire conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir is based on the title over real estate. This approach errs in ignoring the fact that Pakistan’s behaviour is influenced by the political mood of the people and that it has political motives also. In other words, it means a ref usal to accept the vital fact thatpeople of the state also matter. 

If the way the situation was developing or drifting within the state in the recent period was watched  carefully, any observer could not have missed the writing on its political wall regarding what has happened in Kargil.
A further confirmation would have been available if turmoil across the LoC, too, had been noticed. For understanding Kargil, an understanding of the wider ethno-cultural milieu of which it is a part is necessary. But that requires much more rigorous homework which is beyond our tribe of Kashmir experts.

Let me recount some of the evidence that gave an indication of the shape of things to come. Pakistan was under a compulsion to convert the Kashmiri movement for Azadi into a Muslim movement for Pakistan.
For, Kashmiri nationalism was a double–edged weapon. India used it against Pakistan from 1947 to 1953 and from 1975 to the mid–eighties. The ideological gap between the Kashmir movement and Pakistan could be a political threat to the latter. Thus Pakistan wriggled out of its commitment to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the pioneer of militancy in Kashmir, for Azadi. Pakistan gradually reduced and then withdrew all support to it. Instead, it sponsored pro–Pakistan and Islamic fundamentalist groups of militants. The leadership of its  verground political wing, under the banner of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, too, shifted accordingly.

Meanwhile the J and K chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, shifted his allegiance from the Left–supported United Front to the BJP and issued a certificate of patriotism to the RSS. The effective political choice for the people of Kashmir was thus confined to a pro–RSS face of India and a pro-Pakistan Jamaat–led Hurriyat Conference. But to close their options, Jammu and Ladakh needed to be communalised. Hence the Muslim pockets within them became a target of the militants.

Their task was facilitated by the communal polarisation of Jammu between the National Conference and BJP, and of Ladakh between the former and the Ladakh Buddhist Association. The voting in the parliamentary election of 1998 was a neat reflection of this polarisation. It suited the National Conference rulers if the perennial regional discontent in Jammu and Ladakh was divided along communal lines.
Thus as a reaction to some voices for separate statehood of Jammu and Union Territory status for Ladakh, the National Conference started a campaign for separation of Muslim majority parts from their respective regions. In April 1999, the state government formally proposed re–demarcation of these regions on communal basis, of course for public discussion.

By this time, fresh initiatives came from America–based think tanks for the solution of the Kashmir problem on the basis of traditional official American thinking that the problem must be resolved “accordingly to the wishes of the people, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists”. This simplistic thinking completely ignores the ethnic identities and their aspirations. 

Reflecting the same thinking, the US–based and influential Kashmir Study Group recommended that “the state be reconstituted through an internationally supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the people on either side of the Line of Control”. This portion be constituted “as a sovereign entity (but without an international personality)”. Two Indian representatives who had participated in the meeting which made
this recommendation later clarified that it meant the reconstituted state should be within Indian sovereignty. But obviously they did not object to reconstitution.

Pakistan came nearer to this position when its foreign minister proposed a district–wise plebiscite to determine the future of the state; thus limiting its claim to, besides the Kashmir Valley, to the Muslim majority districts of Rajouri, Poonch and Doda in Jammu region and the district of Kargil in Ladakh. After extending militant activity to the former area, Kargil appeared to be its natural target. It may merely have been more encouraged by internal developments and external proposals on the subject.

The Pakistan government had not properly taken into account the lack of response of the Muslims of Kargil, the formidable military challenge of the Indian armed forces and hostile international reaction to its action. But India’s decisive victory would depend on how far it can meet the political fall–out of Kargil. Can it help Kargil to feel a secure and proud part of a secular Ladakhi identity, which requires restoration of traditional friendly and cordial relations between Buddhists and Muslims? Can a part of the solidarity and sympathy that the whole nation is expressing for valiant soldiers and their families be extended to the patriotic people of Kargil and about 30,000 homeless, famished refugees?

Again, how would India meet the international pressure, which would turn on it after Kargil crisis is over, to solve the Kashmir problem with some semblance of popular satisfaction? Can India satisfy the urge for identity, democracy and good administration of the people of Kashmir and help them to have friendly relations with peoples of the other two regions of the state?

There are some lessons of Kargil for the nation as a whole, too. While it has generated sentiments of patriotism, sacrifice and fellow feeling, a few reactions exceed legitimate limits of patriotism and, in fact, undermine its moral and psychological basis. The government ban on PTV is, for instance, a reflection on the patriotism of an average citizen which is supposed to be so fragile that it cannot stand a hostile propaganda. If Pakistan can continue its confrontation with India in Kargil, and if India has fought earlier four wars without a ban on the foreign media, why should the present government presume that Indians have become less mature now.

What makes the ban silly is the fact that it is totally unimple-mentable in Kashmir and on the entire Indo–Pak border. Moreover, PTV’s non–news programmes, particularly its plays, are very popular in many parts of India. Why should even the entertainment offered by PTV be banned? Another display of misplaced patriotism is the plea by veteran cricketer Kapil Dev to snap all sports relations with Pakistan. It is true that Indo–Pak matches often arouse jingoist sentiments in both countries and, on this ground, a case could be made to suspend them till tempers cool down. But to argue a sort of sport boycott of Pakistan for its action in Kargil is a case of over–reaction. Does Kapil suspect that every sportsman and sportswoman or sports lover in Pakistan is involved in sponsoring intrusion in Kargil and is an enemy of India? In the past persons belonging to the fields of sports, culture, literature and music have in the worst of times, been messengers of peace and friendship
between the two neighbours. We have to draw a distinction between the people of Pakistan and their rulers. Among the former there has always been an India- friendly constituency which, in our own interest, we
should not let down.

There are some voices demanding of some eminent Muslims that they prove their patriotism, or advocating a ‘final solution’ to the centuries–old aggression upon India from Mohammad Bin Kasim to Mian Nawaz
(Bal Thackerey and the RSS weekly, Panchajanya, respectively. These are too absurd to be discussed; but if such views gather more support, that would pose a greater threat to the existence of a united and civil
India than the military, political, ideological and diplomatic threat ever posed by Pakistan.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 1999, Year 6  No. 51, Cover Story 1



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