Reviving Ikhwanis? Parrikar's terrorism remark sparks political row in Kashmir
Srinagar: Union Defence Minster Manohar Parrikar’s statement on eliminating militants in J&K by "targeted killings" sparked a political row with both political leaders as well as separatists hitting out at the PDP-BJP coalition government for trying to take back Kashmir to the early nineties.
Hours ahead of his visit, Parrikar said in New Delhi that "terrorists" in the state can be neutralised with the help of terrorists. "We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can't we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?" he said.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah accused the coalition government of trying to revive the brutal years of 'Ikhwan Raj', when militancy was at its peak and state-sponsored militia ruled the streets of Kashmir.
"Looks like Mufti Syed (CM) is reviving & empowering the Ikhwanis. That's the only way to carry out "terrorists killing terrorists" policy of MOD," Omar tweeted.
Reacting to the remarks made by the former chief minister, state Education Minister Naeem Akhtar said, let Omar Abdullah keep tweeting and that his government was "widening the democratic space in the state."
"Everyone in the state knows the parentage of Ikhwan and no one should have any doubt about it that it was National Conference which unleashed terror in Kashmir continuously between 1996 to 2002. They had established structure of their own. It was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who ended it all and people heaved a sigh of relief," Akhtar claimed.
When insurgency was at its peak in Kashmir in the first half of the 1990s, the state-sponsored counter insurgent groups were employed to tackle the militants, particularly in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. These counter-insurgents, known as Ikhwanis, were notorious for their disregard to human rights and torture.
While they actively helped security forces in tackling militancy, these groups were disbanded and many of them were absorbed in regular forces like the Army and Jammu and Kashmir police when the PDP-Congress coalition government came to power in 2002.
In far-flung villages of Kashmir, it was not the Army or police but the gun-wielding civilians who were feared the most and were often blamed for some of the worst cases of human rights violations. The disbanding of these private militias by then PDP-Congress coalition government had earned remarkable goodwill for the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his party.
But the Defence Minister’s statement has put Mufti-led coalition government in a fix, not for the first time though. Ever since assuming office in March this year, the coalition partners have been speaking in contradictory voices on political issues. The latest addition to the list of contradictions is the issue of providing passport to senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, where both the parties have made public their disagreement.
Moderate Hurriyat, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said the government of India wants to reintroduce the gun culture in Kashmir. "It is a warning, that if you are on their side, we can kill you and no power on earth will hold us accountable, like the thousands of killings which are so often blamed on unidentified gunmen. This shows how India has ruled Kashmir in the last 25 years," Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesperson of moderate Hurriyat told Firstpost.
Khurram Parvez, who works with the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent rights group, told Firstpost that Defence Minister Parikkar was only reminding people of how India has fought militancy in Kashmir's two decade old conflict so far. "Using government sponsored militants has been a norm since 1994. It has been going on unabated, and in recent years due to decline in violence, the government sophisticated their tactics vis-a-vis government militants," he said.
"It is an ugly truth of the dirty war tricks that have been unleashed in Kashmir for years,” he added.
Fahad Shah, the editor of Kashmirwalla.com, an online magazine, wrote on his Facebook page that the defence ministers statement can only mean two things.
“The government is going back to mid 90s and reviving counter-insurgency groups, who were lethal and instrumental to kill thousands of civilians. And they will kill anyone they like under "intelligence-backed targeted killings". This means more killings by "unidentified gunmen" who are never traced,” he wrote.
Kashmir’s controversial lawmaker and MLA Langate Engineer Rasheed told Firstpost that Parrikar’s remarks indicate that BJP has started showing its “true colours” He said the intentions of the coalition government are clear, that it wants to revive counter-insurgency renegades.
“Parrikar’s threat to sponsor terrorists speaks of his arrogance and disrespect towards human rights. India must explain the constitutional validity of counter-insurgents and Village Defence Committees. These are all extra constitutional and illegal creations meant to give cover to the massacres of Kashmiris, by labelling the killers as unknown militants.
"Mr Parrikar's statement is a confession that Indian Army and other agencies lack professional skills and have not been able to control militancy, despite all the atrocities,” he said.