Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency

While Maoists no longer make news, non-marxist insurgencies, particularly in Kashmir and NE quite often hit the headlines. In the bloody encounter on September 12 in the Anantanag district, four security forces personnel, including the commanding officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, a Major, a DSP of J&K police and an Army soldier were killed in the gun battle. It is after 20 years of tranquillity that the Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi areas of Jammu were again trembled by gun-fire. Ten soldiers, including five Special Forces, were recently killed in the Rajouri and Poonch districts in two separate ambushes. And insurgency begets more violent counter-insurgency all the time. And this cycle of violence seems unending when it is the question of Kashmir. But real sufferers are ordinary people who have nothing to do with terrorism or counter-terrorism.

After the 12 September incident the Army has launched high-tech operations against Kashmiri militants in the dense Garole forest of south Kashmir’s Kohernag that stretched to 120 hours, at the time of writing. The hunt for the ‘terrorists’ is continuing in full swing only to compound the miseries of ordinary people. Schools have been shut. Daily life has been disrupted severely .The security forces are said to be using drones to bomb the insurgents. Topography favours militants as they are taking shelter in natural caves instead of man-made bunkers. They call it jungle warfare. True, it’s not a typically guerrilla warfare. In more ways than one it’s a kind of positional warfare in which ‘terrorists’ are getting better, notwithstanding the superior fire power of the security forces. The Pakistan military is reportedly running 18 camps in PoK [Pakistan occupied Kashmir] and pressing drones to assist militants; after all it is their proxy war. Pakistani ruling elites, more precisely the military bureaucracy, won’t call it a day so long as the Kashmiri youth would like to remain cannon fodders of the Pakistan army.

No insurgency can survive without mass support and rear. What was true for Vietnamese guerrillas in the 1970s is equally true for the Kashmiri militants today. A weak force can defeat a powerful professional army if combatants are ideologically motivated.

Without mass support internally no insurgency can make substantial inroad in any battle, positional or otherwise. That Kashmiri militants despite their belief in religious fanaticism have people’s sympathy is a fact of life. So long as they get support from masses that live in a perennial state of fear-psychosis because of the huge presence of army, the security establishment is likely to suffer more casualties as it happened recently in Rajouri. Increased counter-insurgency actions have just alienated the security forces further from ordinary people. This isolation is the main weapon of Pakistan, not the advanced drone they are using at the moment.

High-tech or low-tech operation, it always affects the man on the street. The parliamentary parties of Kashmir are essentially non-committal to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, lest they lose votes. They never mobilise masses against violence. Their tokenism in condemning the army atrocities makes little difference in the real world of governance. Their sole aim is how to loot the exchequer through the ballot. The disappeared in Kashmir almost represent a Latin American scenario but they never took the issue seriously, allowing the religious fundamentalists to influence the wounded psyche which in turn helped the militants to spread their gun culture.

Having failed to curb militancy by force, Indian authorities are now pinning much hope on the on-going turmoil in Pakistan to regain lost ground in Jammu& Kashmir. Mass protests, somewhat spontaneous; against punishing electricity prices and the sky-rocketing cost of food, petrol, and other essential commodities have rocked Pakistan’s major urban centres for over a month. Pakistan’s per capita energy consumption is the lowest in the world outside of Africa and yet they boast of nuclear weapons. The people need electricity, not nukes. The IMF-dictated austerity measures have hit the people of PoK very badly, triggering virtual mass upheavals against Islamabad. Many voices have been raised in favour of joining mainland Kashmir and cessation from Pakistan as they think they are Indian citizens by default. And this aspect of anti-Islamabad agitation, particularly in PoK, is being highlighted by the major Indian electronic media, hoping that one day PoK will merge with the valley without bloodshed!


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Vol 56, No. 14, Oct 1 - 7, 2023