Omar must know Army is not the Enemy
By M J Akbar
Self-preservation is the default mode of the self-destructive. Omar Abdullah is trapped in an existential dilemma. He cannot blame himself for the wreck he has wrought. To do so would severely damage, if not abort, a political career born in genetic entitlement and wafted into that exhilarating but oxygen-thin ozone layer of celebrity. He cannot blame Delhi either, the favoured recourse of regional parties caught in a crisis, for he is a child of Delhi in more senses than one. He owes his job to the masters of the Capital, Congress and more specifically Rahul Gandhi. He tried blaming the local opposition, particularly his bete noire Mehbooba Mufti, but that is a futile dead end. It could not take him out of the maze. Mehbooba is in control of neither the street nor the secretariat. Blaming Pakistan is too obvious to raise anything more substantial than a yawn.
He has, therefore, selected the only escape route he could think of: blame the Indian Army. After 90 deaths in 90 days, the dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become the fulcrum of his political fortunes. He did not offer to leave because of the complete collapse of governance and total absence of ideas. He threatened to resign if the Union government did not punish the Indian Army.
For which sin? Not a single death in the present crisis has resulted from an Army bullet. Those bullets came from the guns of the J&K police and CRPF. Why has everyone chosen to obscure this fact with silence and raise dust against the Army?
This question has disturbing dimensions. Why have separatists and militants never demanded that the state government disband the local police and send back the CRPF for taking such a toll? Why is the secessionist, and alas political, verbiage targeted at the Army and no one but the Army? The Indian Army came into the picture for the first time only on the evening of September 15. That was during discussions with the Fifth Corps on how to respond to the next stage of a carefully designed strategy — sit-ins before Army camps, meant to sustain the focus on the Army and weaken its presence in the valley. The Army has not been deployed in the demonstrations, and is concentrating only on its counter-insurgency role.
Why is the Indian Army the one-point target of those who want to break India? The answer is uncomplicated. The police, whether state or central, cannot defend the territorial integrity of India. The Indian Army can. It is therefore in the interest of secessionists and their mentors in Islamabad to create discord between the Indian Army and the Indian state.
Why is the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir lending his voice to this cacophony? Which gallery is a desperate Omar Abdullah playing to?
This crisis did not begin 90 days ago or a hundred days ago. It began in the minds of people who had an agenda and whose intricate planning was propelled onto the street by the Kashmir Jamaat e-Islami and its leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The Kashmir Jamaat has never made any secret of its objective, which is to merge the valley with Pakistan. It has financial and ideological links with Pakistan. It has deliberately disassociated itself from the Jamaat e-Islami in the rest of India. This slings-and-stones model was crafted to elicit world sympathy, and create a David versus Goliath confrontation. (David is a prophet of Islam as well, and lauded as a supreme instance of a jihadi in the holy Quran.)
The timing was certainly influenced by President Barack Obama’s scheduled November visit to India. Both Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton have said, at some point in their campaigns, that Palestine and Kashmir required resolution. Pakistan wants Kashmir on Obama’s must-do list as part of its pay-off for helping in Afghanistan, and protest builds pressure.
Intelligence officers should have picked up what any well-informed journalist in Srinagar knew. Prevention is the true cure in governance. The administration compounded intelligence failure by behaving like a bumbling, stumbling Goliath once demonstrations began.
Delhi was so indifferent that it did not even bumble. It took 90 days to hold an all-party meeting that suffused the airwaves with inanities. Why was Delhi silent until the volcano burst and lava spread beyond the valley? Manmohan Singh promised this week to talk to “anyone” who abjured violence. Kashmiris have the right to ask: why did you not talk when there was peace? This government inherited a Kashmir in improving health. It has frittered away a legacy.
Rahul Gandhi, who can be PM any day he chooses, says, disingenuously that he is unfamiliar with the complexities of AFSPA. The Prime Minister knows what it means: to weaken the Indian Army in Kashmir is to weaken India.