Over the years Kashmir problem has become synonymous with terrorism. Media is full of reports about the barbaric acts of the terrorists and role of Pakistan in abetting terrorism.
Well I am neither a student of political science, nor an expert on internal security. Being a geologist, keen observation and analyses are developed in my system by training. Having worked in Kashmir in various phases over two decades I have tried to analyze what I observed.
It was October 1963. Srinagar was swarming with olive greens, a sequel to 1962 Chinese incursion. I was there as a trainee apprentice. A schoolmate was posted there as a young second lieutenant. We spent an evening together roaming around Lal Chowk. People stared at us with awe, perhaps because of the officer's uniform!
My friend's polished and shinning shoes gave me a complex and within minutes I located a ten year old, blue eyed, chubby little shoe-shine boy at Lal Chowk. After the job was over I paid him. He deducted his charges and returned me a coin which looked exactly like a 25 Paisa coin. Normally I would have pocketed it, but just checked it on a hunch and found a sickle moon and star embossed. In sheer reflex I threw back the coin at him. He picked up the coin, looked at it and promptly kissed it and touched it to his forehead and then handed me a genuine coin and asked, 'You seem to have no respect for the coin I gave you, are you a Hindustani?'
Those were the peaceful days. Terrorism was unheard of. Kashmiris were being wooed actively by the government by offering sops like highly subsidized rice and sugar.
I was back in the valley again in 1975. We were searching fossils on a spur, on the outskirts of Srinagar; an old man with a beard trimmed and dyed appeared on the scene. He watched us intently, then asked, 'what are you searching Sir?' I showed him a fossil. His immediate reaction was 'You will carry it to your country?' followed by the same question again 'Are you a Hindustani?'
'Kashmir problem' was being solved in the corridors of power and the government was making sincere efforts to give maximum subsidies.
I was training a batch of young officers. The panoramic view of our camp at Aishmuqam from atop a spur in Anantnag district looked exquisite on 14th Aug, 1984. Preparations for the Independence Day were on. The place was being spruced up and the flagpole was being fixed. The guide accompanying me was also intently watching the scene and said, 'Tomorrow is your Independence Day, your flag would be hoisted 'qaumi tarana' would be sung and sweets would be distributed.'
When I told him 'It is not only my Independence Day, it is your Independence Day too'. 'Our Independence Day is today', he replied tersely.
That evening the entire area was brightly illuminated, even the far flung tiny hamlets dazzled like stars against a backdrop of dark mountain slopes. One could occasionally hear cracker bursts too. AK-47 was not in vogue then.
As soon as it grew dark on 15th August, the power supply to the area was surprisingly snapped. The local sub-station pleaded ignorance and helplessness. Fortunately we had a stock of candles to give a festive look to the camp.
The ten year old boy, the old man and the young guide, had one common factor. They considered themselves as Kashmiris but certainly not Indians While the Indian government was busy giving sops to Kashmiris, anti-Indian canard was being slowly spread in the minds of the local populace. So strong was the propaganda machinery that they never considered themselves to be Indian.
As a lay man in the field of internal security and propaganda machinery of the government, I was able to make out that the common man in the Valley considered people across the Pir Panjal range as Hindustanis. I am not able to understand how could the successive governments kept believing that things were normal in Kashmir!
The demon of false propaganda is still ruling Kashmir . The propaganda needs to be countered. Mere sops, false assurances or brute force may not work. A feeling of patriotism, a feeling of Indian-ness has to be instilled in the minds of the people.