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Pakistan's mind games in Kashmir need a bold reply at the ground level in the state

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has stated in Lok Sabha, "I feel that the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, who resort to stone-pelting, are being brainwashed by certain forces that are in Pakistan. I would like to appeal to them not to be swayed by Pakistan. Pakistan is trying to destabilise India in this way." He directly accused several Pakistan-based social media groups for egging Kashmiri youth, saying, "Groups on social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook are being used to instigate the youth and a crowd is brought together. These groups on social media are operated by people living in Pakistan." That Pakistan is stoking the fires in Jammu and Kashmir has been known in the past decades.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It may be recalled that the Jammu and Kashmir Police recently found at least two WhatsApp groups with Pakistani numbers as administrators, which were allegedly involved in rumour-mongering and crowd mobilisation during anti-militancy operations in South Kashmir aimed at disrupting security forces' operations through stone-pelting and providing human screens to enable terrorists escape. Many times, people did not even know that they were part of such a group which had Pakistan-based administrators. The police have launched a massive crackdown on such underground and fake news WhatsApp groups in Pulwama district. These groups have been mobilising crowds to help the militants escape from search-and-cordon operations.

Concurrent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh speaking in the Lok Sabha, the missive from Zakir Musa (so-called successor of Burhan Wani) was being aired on TV, thanking the stone-pelters and stating that “our fight is not against any individual or organisation, but for Islam.” Little did he realise that while he was talking on behest of his mentors in Pakistan, his brand of distorted Islam had killed 27 and injured over 100 with a blast outside a Shia mosque in Parachinar in Pakistan. The mixture of the power of a weapon in your hand, abundant access to women and narcotics, and getting yourself photographed in combat dress is a heady mixture for boys like Zakir Musa.

But do they realise that despite scores and scores of active Islamic terrorist organisations in the world, bulk of the numbers killed globally on account of terrorism are Muslims?

Yes, unemployment is a problem in Kashmir but the problem also exists in other parts of India. But there are no beggars in the Valley, and the Valley has tremendous potential to generate jobs if guns are shunned. No doubt, Pakistan and their franchisees in Jammu and Kashmir will not want that to happen. In his article ‘Who’s enemy number one?’ published in Dawn, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani nuclear physicist, writes that with a population growth rate of 23.11, “Short of nuclear war or a miracle, nothing can now prevent Pakistan from reaching 400 million people in 35-40 years. Little wonder then that recourse to terrorism not only gives employment but also provides Pakistan with large human export potential."

Contrary to the general belief in India that ‘war’ is conventional, the nature of conflict changed to hybrid warfare long back. To this end, those calling hybrid war “the new norm” are wrong. Information warfare plays a major role in hybrid warfare, which Pakistan has optimised, as the reference to social media by the home minister has pointed out. Where Pakistan fails to reach out on social media, our TV coverage, particularly English TV channels, make up by inviting Pakistanis and separatists to spew their venom publicly and incite people more. Unfortunately, we fail to acknowledge that in the type of ongoing ‘conflict’ in Jammu and Kashmir, with a crafty enemy like Pakistan, kinetic measures alone cannot suffice. This is not a military problem. The focus has to shift to ‘influence activity’ that includes the laborious duty of improving administration, but also establishing ground level contacts to institute focused comprehensive approaches.

If Pakistan-based groups are undertaking psychological operations on social media, what stops the Jammu and Kashmir state in mounting a counter offensive? If Pakistan’s intelligence-cum-psychological operations are affecting 4-5 districts of Jammu and Kashmir, BJP’s IT Cell too had access to some 9,000 WhatsApp groups in Uttar Pradesh that contributed significantly to the 325-seat unprecedented victory of the BJP-led alliance in the recent state elections. Contact at ground levels and dialogue is essential. The Catch 22 in Jammu and Kashmir, however, is: Who will do it? The two principal political parties appear to be comatose beyond odd statements, which may well be due to cross-border and terrorist links, fear of the gun or just nonchalance. Where dialogue is essential at ground level, the PDP says there is a need to talk to Pakistan. Post the killing of Burhan Wani, the chief minister did not even stir out till days after when the Union Home Minister visited Jammu and Kashmir, while just four days before Wani was killed, 634 stone pelters were released from jail despite clear evidence they had been indulging in stone-throwing on the behest of ISI.

The fact we fail to acknowledge is that making statements in Parliament or in the State Assembly is not reaching out at ground level. This has to be done by the state administration, to which there is no alternative. There is no need to talk to Pakistan. If the state administration continues with their laid back attitude, they need to be corrected. There is already a warning that the scorching heat expected this summer may cause excessive floods. We need to get going. Lastly, we need to seriously introspect how our media coverage, particularly TV, is assisting Pakistan’s psychological operations. Not taking corrective actions under the euphemism “freedom of press” is simply playing into the hands of the enemy.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Updated Date: Apr 02, 2017 11:44 AM

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