The Evolution of Counter-Insurgency Tactics In Occupied Kashmir

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There was a time when the atrocities committed by state forces were going unnoticed due to the restrictions on modes of mass communication by the same authorities violating the human rights. However, the emergence of social media has enabled every smartphone bearer to speak out to the world. The freedom of media which was once suppressed in the Indian occupied Kashmir by the Indian state is now unworkable in the era of technological advancement. The world is witnessing the plight of Kashmiris on their Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds. Each and every method Indian armed forces are using to overpower the freedom struggle in Kashmir is being witnessed by the world.

There is entire range of methods – each more brutal than the other – which are being used by the Indian state to suppress the pro-freedom sentiments among the people of occupied Kashmir. India armed forces have evolved their counter-insurgency strategies in Kashmir from excessive use of physical force to the tactics which have more psychological implications on the people of Kashmir.

In the 1990s, it was a standard procedure for India state forces to set ablaze a complete market and burn down the whole residential towns on mere suspicion of armed fighters. Moreover, incidents of massive rapes of Kashmiri women, irrespective of their ages, by Indian soldiers were also common in the valley. Kunanposhpora incident is the one example of this inhumane counter-insurgency tactic of India Army. The list of brute methods cannot be completed without the mentioning the enforced disappearances of civilians and fighters and burials of their dead bodies inside the deep jungles of Kashmir Valley. The exploration of such mass graves in recent times substantiate the stories of these unfortunate souls.

When all these methods of countering insurgency miserably failed to crush the Kashmiri rebels, Indian army resorted to a deceitful measure by establishing their very own rebel group, named ‘Ikhwani’. These Ikhwanis were mostly comprised of the fighters who had earlier surrendered to the Indian army. These well-paid mercenaries were infamous for their human rights violations against Kashmiri people. These renegades/mercenaries were used by their Indian handlers to eliminate the file and ranks of local resistance forces. This strategy of Indian army proved productive, to some extent, in tackling the armed insurgency in the valley.

India, being a close ally of Israel, has learned the vicious methods of counter-insurgency from the latter. This includes assassination program of killing the pro-freedom political figures and Hurriyet leaders in occupied region of Kashmir. Even for this purpose, Ikhwanis were used by the Indian Army.

Although the methods of tackling the insurgency have evolved but not completely shifted. There are still frequent incidents of disappearances and fake encounters happening in the valley. The armed forces conveniently abduct any Kashmiri youth, label them as terrorists, and murder them in daylight. Such encounters may easily earn medals, promotions, and bonuses for the soldiers and officers involved.

Even these vicious approaches to counter-insurgency have not resulted in fruits for Indian state as the pro-freedom feelings have snowballed among the youth of occupied Kashmir. Burhan Wani’s martyrdom fueled the massive anti-India protests across the Kashmir Valley. The aftermath of martyrdom proved the fragility of state of Jammu and Kashmir in containing the pro-freedom protests. As a knee-jerk reaction the Indian state-imposed curfew on the Kashmir valley which lasted for almost 100 days. In addition, the cell phone services and Jammu-Srinagar National Highway were blocked which caused a grave crisis in the valley.

Even the curfew did not restrain the youth of Kashmir in coming out of their houses and joining the anti-India protests. As the protests raged, state forces initially responded with bullets which resulted in heavy casualties. The ineffectiveness of live bullets moved the operational measures to riot control tactics – which proved to be lethal as well. These riot control measures revolved around metal pellets, fired from 12-gauge pump-action shotguns.

Scores of Kashmiris, including children, were killed as hundreds of pellets were pumped into them at close quarters, puncturing vital organs. Hundreds of others were maimed for life or blinded. In the last two years, since 2016 uprising, Indian security forces have been frequently using pellet guns in controlling the anti-India protests. However, pellet guns have been seriously condemned by the international community and international human rights organizations. As a result, Indian authorities showed aspiration to move towards PAVA shells and rubber bullets but there is a possibility of lethality in these options as well.

The use of pellet-guns has left the serious psychological implications on the victims, which are mostly in their early ages. According to reports, the pellet-gun victims suffer from post stress traumatic disorder (PSTD) even after their physical wounds are healed. Even though there is a greater number of victims who have sustained life-long injuries such as blindness and loss of limbs.

In an effort to subjugate the sentiments of Kashmiri youth regarding freedom, the Indian army has opted for such behavior which cannot be expected from any disciplined army, anywhere in the world. The most shameful example of this counter-insurgency tactic is using the youth of Kashmir as a human shield. A Kashmir man was bound to an army jeep and used as a human shield amid election protests in April 2017. The Indian army later commended the officer involved in this disrespectful and shameful operational measure. This action of Indian Army sparked outrage from the victim and human rights activists worldwide.

Moreover, the videos of Indian Army personnel beating and abusing Kashmir students in an army jeep and lining them up with the wall, while forcefully making them chant pro-India and anti-Pakistan slogans, have been widely circulated across the internet. All these campaigns depict the frustration of security forces in Kashmir and their audacity to resort to any measure to wipe out freedom sentiments from the hearts of the youth of Kashmir.

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is a research associate at PKKH. He focuses on issues related to National Security. Salman can be reached at [email protected]

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