Game Of Veils

It is not yet known whether former RAW chief AS Dulat has left any juicy bits for readers of his book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, or whether he has revealed most of the salacious stuff in the pre-release, attention-grabbing drive. Usually, former spies or people in the know write books due to the simple desire to, well, make a splash or to posit gaps and successes of the administration, or to take pot-shots at enemies or former colleagues, or a combination of all the three. And given the interest the book has generated in Kashmir, Mr Dulat can certainly be satisfied about sales. But what does the book (at least going by what one can glean from the multitude of reports) really say about Kashmir and New Delhi’s handling of this ‘problem’?

Revealing, or it being found, that actors on one or both sides of a long-running conflict have behaved contrary to public perception, or developed contacts across enemy lines, or even been turncoats isn’t all that big a surprise. Such conflicts generate their own miasmas of treachery and skullduggery, just as they remain unresolved, as long as ‘root causes’ are not addressed. And in a conflict like Kashmir, untamed despite one of the biggest, multi-layered, counter-insurgency efforts of contemporary times, it will be no surprise if Mr Dulat, as a man who is still part of the ‘establishment’, has been rather inventive with the truth. So, one could just as well posit that employing hook-or-by-crook methods is part of the attempt to contain and manage a situation, not a final solution. Indeed, sans a genuine political resolution, such attempts are doomed to failure. In Kashmir, particularly, one facet has been how the enemy has been sought to be often reclassified: first it was the militants, then some of the militants, then violent resistance per se, then some sections of the political (Hurriyat) resistance, then even kids pelting stones on the streets, and so on. But this continual hunt for new enemies also means the situation-management paradigm has proven largely ineffective.

If Mr Dulat is a good spy master – and there is no reason to believe he was or is not – he’d also have, at some point, stressed there would be no recourse except talks at some point. But the larger issue is New Delhi still pretends there is no one to talk to, or nothing to talk about. Till that approach continues, there will be room for more skullduggery, and more books. Prolonged conflict, after all, also becomes an industry.