Is armed insurgency a viable option for Kashmiri youth?

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander. Dated: 10/4/2018 5:44:24 PM

The armed insurgency is once again becoming a vibrant option as youth of Kashmir valley, in good numbers, are choosing it. The 1990s generation too had opted for it. Its consequences and ramifications are still being witnessed around us. It would not be wrong to conclude and acknowledge that 1990s insurgency failed to achieve its desired goals. Now when the insurgency is once again in the news and hundreds of youth are picking up the guns in what is termed as "Post Militancy phase", the questions about ideology, introspection and consequences should be debated seriously before indulging and supporting the insurgency like 1990s. If these pertinent questions about the goals, ideology, methodology and strategy of insurgency are not clear in its formative phase then confusion, reckless violence and anarchy will accompany the same. It can result in internecine battles like 1990s when thousands of youth got liquidated while fighting with each other without understanding the causes of real tussle. The same anarchy and internecine clashes are lurking in this post militancy phase too. But most of the stakeholders and conscious sections of society are observing a criminal silence for variegated reasons.
The political stakeholders condone violence and insurgency because that is keeping the pot of conflict boiling. Also they feel threatened for their lives that if they condemn insurgency, next they will be in the line of fire. The other conscious sections of society are observing silence because they are afraid of the unknown killers who silence every voice of dissent.
But few pertinent questions need to be asked? Is insurgency a viable mode of resistance? If yes how potent? Armed insurgency needs a constant supply of arms, training centers and cadres of caliber who will take it forward. In case of Kashmir the cadres of youth were available since 1990s in huge numbers, the training, arms and ammunition were administered by neighboring Pakistan. At the height of insurgency there were armed twelve thousands insurgents active in valley at a particular time. With time their numbers started dwindling and Indian state was able to curb the insurgency to tolerable levels that posed no severe threat to the state government or its institutions.
There was also this illusion that like India intervened in East Pakistan and helped liberate Bangladesh through training Mukhti Bahini. In a similar manner Pakistan will intervene in Kashmir once insurgency was in full bloom. But Pakistan never took that drastic step; so insurgency did not prove a success in liberating Kashmir from the clutches of India. Further Pakistan did not trust Kashmiri insurgents with anti-aircraft guns, heavy artillery or stringer missiles that could have changed and escalated the insurgency to new heights. It is for these reasons that India did not opt for carpet bombing or aerial attacks in Kashmir. With Kalashnikovs, AK 47s, grenades and rocket launchers insurgency always remained a low key affair and low intensity conflict that posed little threat to the state. It was a good choice for Pakistan too because if India is hurt beyond its tolerable levels it would have gone for an all out war with Pakistan that it could ill afford.
Also the topography of Kashmir even if adoptable and hospitable for guerrilla or proxy war is not viable to sustain insurgency on a large scale and sustain it till victory because harsh climate, non-availability of food, ammunition and difficult terrain makes it impossible for insurgents to set up base camps and supply lines in Kashmir. Thus, the insurgents were first left with no option but to initiate an urban guerilla warfare and later on spread to countryside where they regularly had to interact with people for daily needs and exist among them. It is for these very reasons that most encounters between insurgents and armed forces take place in civilian areas as hideouts are located there.
So with the killing of insurgents the properties of common civilians are damaged too. It results in growing alienation among masses that are caught between the devil and deep sea. The refusal to host militants is no option for them and if the encounter takes place, they are rendered homeless and shelterless. The armed forces in order to minimize their losses blast the homes where the insurgents are holed up. To add insult to injury a counter First Information Report (FIR) is filed against them for hosting militants. In many cases the host is killed and the family receives no compensation and is rendered penniless.
The insurgency unlike 1990s is more lethal but ideologically impoverished and materially pauperized. Pakistan has stopped training and aiding the militants as it used to do in 1990s. Being pauperized in arms and ammunition even monetarily, militants have started snatching guns from police and army and even resorting to looting banks. South Kashmir of the valley has been turned into a war zone. The iron fist policy of the state has failed to curb the insurgency in this area since the killing of Burhan wani in 2016. This failure is either because the state and its institutions do not want to end the insurgency as economic interests are associated with it. They earn millions by killing insurgents depending on the category and distinction he belongs to, or they are too incapable to defeat them because ideologically they have not been able to curtail them. South Kashmir may sustain militancy for three to five years more, ultimately it will burn out and shift to other centers like North or Central Kashmir, that are becoming active. Hence complete annihilation of insurgency at this juncture seems to be ill founded.
Also with no active support of Pakistan and shift in ideology from pro Pakistan to Pan Islamism things are changing on ground. Pakistan is losing ground and now is no Mecca for Kashmiri Muslims. The cable TV, literature and greater access to contours of its politics have exposed them before Kashmiri masses. The veil of idealism around Pakistan has been torn long back and most Kashmiris do not consider Pakistan an option for accession. They have failed even diplomatically to corner or isolate India even from the Muslim countries. The Kashmiri nationalism is still non existent and alien concept for most Kashmiris, so that forms little basis for the resistance in Kashmir. Hence Pan Islamism is fast becoming a viable ideological option for the Kashmiri youth. In this Pan Islamist project, Pakistan is not an option and is considered as evil as India. This fact can be discerned from the statements of Zakir Musa who allegedly is head of Al Qaeda in Kashmir regarding Hurriyat conference and Pakistan. In this project Shahadat (martyrdom) is the ultimate aim, not any viable victory over the enemy.
Another big reason for the insurgency becoming a fashionable and romantic option is the failure of non-violent and civil resistance options in Kashmir. The failure is because state did not allow these options a viable space but curtailed them with same brutal iron fist policy. No one could emerge as a role model of non-violence. When role models are not available or marginalized, they cannot inspire the youth. On the other hand, we have numerous role models who have now assumed the status of heroes for armed insurgency. Thus youth are driven towards it at the cost of their lives.
Unless and until there is a shift in the iron fist policy of the state that seeks to curb resistance, as well as an ideological overhaul and pragmatic approach towards politics and tools of resistance, the violence and bloodshed will not stop.
M.H.A. Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at



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