On September 13, a picture of a youth (Irshad) went viral. In the picture Irshad’s glimmering eyes and radiant face is visible. His eyes are open and as fresh as a man who walks in a desert for days and then sees an oasis. His mother kneels over him, affectionately kissing his face as if they are going to part for sometime. If there had been no caption most would have taken the picture as a mother’s affection for her son. It was not to be. Irshad was dead and his mother bade a final goodbye to her son. It becomes a hypnotic picture after that. The calmness and courage on the mother’s face pricks you: how has she got so much courage? Why isn’t she crying? Her 22-year-old son is slain and she calmly bade him goodbye!
Irshad was a rebel slain in a brief encounter with Indian forces. His funeral brought tens of thousands of people. Although he was killed in the early hours of September 12, but his funeral was delayed. Next day, his funeral prayers were held twice since the rush of the people, to pay homage to him. How do these funeral prayers, where thousands turn up, impact the psyche of troopers? What does stone pelting on troopers on the way to funeral prayers mean for troopers? Does it also affect informers? What do thousands turning up for the funeral prayers mean in a war? How do troopers react to such funerals and stone pelting?
When troopers kill any rebel in Kashmir they feel that they are getting closer to wiping out the insurgency. When the rebel happens to be a citizen of Pak administered Kashmir or from Pakistan or from any other Muslim country, troopers think he would be buried unmourned. That is not the case. Instead the local people of the area attend the funeral of these guest militants. Take the case of two Pak militants killed in an encounter with troops on October 05, 2015. Two local villages fought first with the police to get the bodies and then with each other to decide their burial place. Moreover, while taking bodies to the burial ground they pelt stones on troops and on their camps, showing clearly to which side they belong. These things jolt Indian troopers.
The same trooper when he returns to India begins to view his Muslim neighbours as enemies and supporters of Pakistan. He then switches on the TV and watches the same thing being repeated by top opinionated personalities of India. He goes to cinema halls where his thoughts of Muslims being the enemy and supporters of Pakistan is solidified. When the same trooper, sitting in his family, is asked how he found Kashmir, he retorts: all of them are rebels and pro-Pakistan. Their kids, their women, their adults, their old men, their crippled men, all of them are “traitors”. His hatred is complete.
The Kashmiri men who join police and paramilitary services are also caught in a conundrum. When Kashmiri men working for Indian forces see the funeral of insurgents thronged by thousands they harbour the same desire of being mourned like them. But their family and a few relatives apart, nobody mourns their deaths the same way. No matter what services these policemen render for the state in Kashmir people will not mourn them. Take the case of sub inspector Altaf Ahmad Dar, a top counter insurgent specialist, his death was not mourned in his village. There were no absentia prayers held for him. For people of his area he was an ordinary policeman and had nothing to do with counter insurgency. Now, after his death, his family and the rest of the ordinary policemen would be viewed with suspicion.
For the official machinery grid, trying to win the “hearts and minds of the people”, requires cooperation of their foot soldiers and those who can defend them. The latter must come from the local population. So the state invigorates its collaborator class, glamorises them, makes them appear larger than life. These people are put in significant positions. Some of them are put into election politics; they are given space and slogans through which they try to occupy the spaces and create chaos and confusion. These they create while ostensibly siding with the people. Then the state brings in another class; their cheerleaders. These cheerleaders sprout in the form of mediamen, intellectuals, academics, bureaucrats, businessmen, sports persons, women’s activists, religious preachers and etcetera. They start talking of giving peace a chance. Later they start bracketing people into categories. Then they preach morality and religion when they have nothing of the two except photo ops. They categorise the killing of people and exert pressure on the pro-freedom leadership. These cheerleaders organise seminars, workshops, camps where they provoke people: why can’t other “issues” be discussed? Is Kashmir only about killings? Why are “we” waiting for azaadi? why can’t we solve these “burning issues” before azaadi? They also term murders in the hands of occupiers as human rights violation. They parrot it throughout their existence. These cheerleaders also include many words in the lexicon, prime among them is “Centre”, “national channels” or “national seminar”; “country”. Since they know that asking people to accept status quo would expose them, they churn out peace theories. Peace is another alibi of status quo here. For sometime it looks like that counter insurgency operation of “winning the hearts and minds of the people” is successful. What the ‘grid’ forgets is that the people whom it has to win over are not elites, intellectuals, media persons, academics, et al.
Meanwhile, collaborators and cheerleaders of troops use paeans of enquiry (that never convicts any trooper or if convicted never gets punished) to combat the anger of people. The official grid of counter insurgency knows it can’t act against their own men. If they act it would create rebellion among their troops. The success of every army official depends on his foot soldiers as they do the “dirty job” for their officers. Already their troopers are living under intense pressure as they walk in a land which is intensely hostile to them. This hostility creates frustration when they see the benevolence of natives, like in the September 2014 floods where dozens of troopers were rescued by the local people and were provided with food and other rations. This generosity leaves them nonplussed. Meanwhile the counter insurgency grid realises, grudgingly though, that they cannot win a war in which whole population is hostile to them in which the moral of the local population is on a high pedestal.
This is not what the counter insurgency forces want. They want native people to love their lives dearly for which they create hedonistic existence of drinks, drugs and parties. While a chunk of population gets swooned an antithesis is running in which the locals look down at these people but at the same time develop a mechanism where the help of religion is sought to bring these natives out from drugs and drinks. The funeral of insurgents is a grim reminder to the counter insurgency grid. The passive passion which people harbour for freedom gets a valve at that time. There they don’t care for their lives. And this not fearing for their lives is the failure of the counter insurgency grid.