Secret war of the agencies in Kashmir

Long before former intelligence chief A S Dulat penned down his memoirs with an explicit, though unverified, narration on intelligence agencies meddling in the political waters of Jammu and Kashmir and calling the shots, people across the state were already used to the vocabulary of ‘agent’, ‘agency-man’ and ‘paid agents’. The terminology referred to both people suspected of having been co-opted by Indian or Pakistani agencies, sometimes both when the common term used is ‘double agent’. The words were only loosely used in coffee table discussions, barring exceptions like Farooq Abdullah, who in 1980s proudly proclaimed that ‘I am an agent of India’. Dulat has only put an official stamp and seal on the speculations of culture of ‘agents’ and their ‘agencies’. Specifics mentioned in his book are either a matter of detail or half truths and perceptions.

Former militant, Firdous Syed, who admitted some years ago in an article to having made the mistake of allowing himself to be cultivated and co-opted by agencies for the sake of peaceful resolution of Kashmir, once again deflates the balloon of Dulat’s hyped up claim of the friendly intervention of intelligence agencies in Kashmir yielding dividends. "What is friendly about disruption," Firdous aptly questions, maintaining that every process of "Kashmiri engagement with Delhi has turned out to be a graveyard of reputations" and has failed to usher in sustainable peace. Accusing Dulat of resorting to convenient half-truths to suit his national interest, he opines that if Kashmiris have opted for engagement, it is not necessarily a reflection of their corrupt mentality but also their yearning for peace, besides, their understanding of various realities like vacillating Pakistan factor, poor leadership, infighting, ideological fragmentation and destructive nature of gun. What Firdous leaves unsaid but understood is that the inability of such an engagement process to metamorphose into something meaningful is what has fuelled fresh spurt in anger in Kashmir in recent years. 

The intervention, instead of being a political one to offer concessions and build framework of a workable, dignified and endurable peace, has been a clandestine back channel intrusion, mostly effected through a network of spies and agents, to co-opt, corrupt, deceive and weaken local leaders. The direct implication of such a situation is the exacerbation of disillusionment, alienation, frustration, anger and a complete lack of faith in the Indian system and its ‘democratic’ functioning as far as Kashmir is concerned. Needless to point out that the level of trust between Kashmiri masses and the Indian state was always too fragile and post-insurgency plummeted even further. Apart from hampering the collective trust and faith (which needed to be nurtured not destroyed and decimated), such a culture of clandestine interventions plays havoc with lives of individuals and imposes undeserving leaders on the public, depending on how the network of agencies decides to play its patronizing pattern. The people including the local leaders become mere pawns in the game – a game played between not only the various competing Indian agencies but also those from across the border. Nobody needs rocket science to figure out that what goes on in the Kashmir under Pakistani control is not very dissimilar, perhaps even worse. 

There is no dearth of instances where lives of individuals and of the many connected to them, have been impacted by the interventions of spying and intelligence networks. Cultivated and co-opted surrendered militants were encouraged to perpetuate violence in the name of peace and create their own reigns of terror in their respective areas in the name of national interest. When they refused to tow the line, they were subject to torture or liquidated or at best shunned and ignored for not believing in the peacefulness of such clandestine interventions. Afzal Guru’s story reveals a trail of torture by intelligence and security agencies before he became involved in the parliament attack. He wanted to lead a peaceful life after he gave up the gun and was completely disillusioned by it. But the ‘peaceful interventions’ of agencies have no place in Kashmir for such lives deemed normal and peaceful by the people. Whether Guru was doing the bidding for Indian agencies, as is claimed by him in a statement that was never included by the court, or of the Pakistani agencies, may never be known. But he was a pawn, indeed, like many others, with no control over his own lives. The amnesty policy, which continues to be a matter of controversy by some sections opposing it, for youth willing to come back from across the Line of Control, is yet another booty for the agencies on the two sides of the dividing line to cultivate their own set of spies, forbidding the promised benevolent aspects of the policy from percolating down into the lives of the people impacted by this policy. 

Since the mid-nineties, some surrendered militants with leadership qualities were groomed and imposed on the people through the more overt expressions of engagement or via backdoor in the state legislature. Those engaged weren’t just cultivated surrendered and former militants. They were also separatist leaders and also mainstream leaders who reposed faith in Indian democracy; not strange then that even men who were sole leaders in their own one man parties always made it to the cabinet of whichever coalition government was sworn-in. A policy that was worked around with surrendered militants a decade ago continues to be pursued in the present day with the stone pelters. It was in practice much before insurgency, especially in border areas where marginalized border communities found themselves far more vulnerable and helpless. 

The undemocratic authority and powers at the disposal of the agencies reflect the flawed and often perverse percolation of Indian democratic functioning beyond Lakhanpur, more so beyond the Banihal. Dulat with his partly true revelations can, at least, be thanked for admitting and revealing in detail that there is nothing democratic about the Indian state’s functioning in Jammu and Kashmir, where intelligence agency men masquerade around like patron saints of the local leaders – mainstream or separatist, professionals and activists and where all decisions right from the choice of chief minister come from New Delhi. How such a policy destroys individuals and collective society, injecting heavy doses of deception and corruption in their lives is not the concern of those who become the official wheels of the policy. The secret wars of New Delhi and Islamabad, effectively implemented by their respective agencies on ground on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, are undemocratic and outrageously brutal by any modern civilised standards. The irony of this deception lies in their ability to then pedal the policy as ‘peaceful’ interventions and legitimize them in the name of ‘national interest’. Is this really peace or is this a model of peace far more venomous than violence?