The Tangled Web of Kashmir
by Naeem Jilani
The re-arrest of Shah Faesal certainly made headlines. But like all things Kashmir, save for Rahul Pandita, not one “experienced Kashmir hand” had the temerity to ask, the most relevant questions: Why had Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid, both of whom had been detained within 24 hours of the abrogation of article 370, been released, allowed to travel to Delhi, tweet implied calls to violence and/or travel abroad. If you understand the answers to these you understand the answers to Kashmir.
To understand the genesis of this problem we have to go back to then IB special director Dulat’s approach. He firmly believed that money could corrupt. He rather successfully used the cash reserves afforded to him to buy out terrorists leaders. This accounts for the fact that virtually every mall in Srinagar which is not owned by the Mafiaesque patronage networks of the Abdullahs and Muftis is owned by these former separatist leaders. At the time it was brilliant tactic, but like all tactics, countermeasures were devised immediately. The net effect of these countermeasures was that it was not just the IB corrupting the ideological separatists, but the money deeply corrupted the IB and Kashmir police. Much of this has to do with the enormous quantity of money dispensed out to keep confidential informants (CIs) happy and coax information out of them. Just as in the naxal belt, in Kashmir too this has been one of the main sources of income for IB and JKP. Since the sources are “confidential” there is no accounting of who this money goes to, we know from allegorical accounts that the dispensing officer keeps up to 90% dispensing only 10%. At a tactical level when given to ordinary villagers it is still very useful, after all for 10,000 a month a villager head will make calls to inform the local police where the infiltrator who arrived yesterday is hiding. The problem comes at the top level.
Realising that the JKP an IB’s pockets were inexhaustible, the purchased Kashmiri leaders started playing double games. They would in order to keep receiving money play the IB-JKP off against the ISI, taking money from both, but mostly doing Pakistan’s bidding. When one of these corrupt “leaders” would inflame a crowd, JKP & IB officers ( and make no mistake Dulat started this scam) would always in their justificatory notes explain how this was a “master strategy” that they had concocted to give legitimacy and salience to this particular leader when in fact the only thing they were looking for was a large multi crore government handout, of which they’d keep between 50 to 90% and pass on the rest to said leader to shut him up. This was a cycle the benefited both the separatist leaders & IB+JKP, the more extortionate the “leaders” demands became, the bigger the cut for the IB+JKP. the only people outside this loop were Omar & Mehbooba whose genuine mass support was effectively a feudal edifice built on local patronage extracted from the centre at a government to government level rather than informal central government payouts.
This is where the story of Shehla and Shah Faesal becomes salient. Rumors had been circulating for over 3 years now that both had somehow been coopted by the IB. There was much to be said for their sudden celebrity and columns in newspaper with editors known to have their fingers in the Kashmir Pie. Consider this: Shehla comes from a modest family, yet today despite not having a job, having spent the last few years of her life in JNU, she suddenly now lives on Gupkar Road. In Delhi terms this is the equivalent of some nobody living in a cramped low income housing in Karol Bagh moving after a JNU degree but no job, into acreage on Amrita Shergill Marg or Prithviraj road, rubbing shoulders with the ambassadors of Turkey, canada, the Netherlands, and Spain, not to mention the Punjs, Jindals, Ansals, & Tatas. Surprisingly on the IB’s express request she is also given a heavy security detail. Ask yourself why and how?
Surprised? Don’t be, we know that if anybody challenges the Abdullahs and Muftis on the ground the are usually subjected to Mafiosi tactics. So how do these two manage to set up a party, and despite zero evidence of any ground support with zero possibility of funding, manage to gain national salience as the “voice of Kashmir”? It doesn’t take much to figure out that they are IB pawns, but like all IB pawns they are also playing a dangerous double game seeking funding and support from Pakistan, both in order to diversify their funding as a redundancy measure and in hiking up their maintenance from IB. There is however evidence to suggest that there has been significant pushback from IB against the support of such liabilities. However for people such as the IB station chief in Srinagar, his fingers deep in the pie, these two are his retirement scheme. No wonder then both him and a grandee of the JKP whose wife is an “urban naxal” (to use an indian neologism), teaching at Shaheed Bhagat Singh college, with a string of publications against the abrogation of 370 had been sending hectic reports to Amit shah against the act. If you want further proof that this officer has been colluding with the far left, consider this: it was his wife, the shaheed Bhagat singh college professor who organised this weeks trip of Kavita Krishnan & Jean Dreze to the valley. How they made “arrangements for stay” & “interactions with people” & “hospital visits” despite the communications blackout is a clear giveaway. But the fact that they were accompanied by several plainclothes policemen was confirmation of the fact that they were there under extremely high level police protection/invitation
Amit Shah obviously ignored them, but they have now decided to undermine the good, through their usual games. somewhere between the JKP grandee (JKPG) and the IB station chief (IBSC), the release of these two and transport to Delhi was secured. The ostensible reason provided to Delhi was that a high profile “re-arrest” would establish Shah Faesal as the leader of the masses. The reality was that because the gravy train was ending, both the JKPG & IBSC factions wanted a new gravy train created through assets like Faesal and Rashid cannibalised from the old gravy train.
Confused? Don’t be. Another prominent member of this IB-JKP gravy train was Yasin Malik. That explains why he was never tried for killing Air Force personnel & Kashmiri Pandits. IB went on insisting he was their blue eyed boy. He irretrievably
went away from IB hands in 2013 when he visited Pakistan to meet Hafiz Saeed. Malik felt that ISI would eliminate him and hence begged for his life to Saeed and became a regular Lashkar mole in Kashmir separatism. IB took almost 5 years to figure out that he’d turned irretrievably, but still continues to engage him.
So in all the euphoria we should remember that Kashmir is not just a tangled web of deceit and horrific corruption by the so called leaders of Kashmir. What it says about the journalists covering Kashmir is another story altogether, saved for another day.
It is also a tale of how these artificially created leaders have corroded and corrupted the Institutions of the Indian state, exercise control over policy through corrupt elements in the JKP and IB and have essentially incentivised these two organizations (and the army though for a different set of reasons) in a continuation of the conflict. It is for this reason the IB has “invested” in those people in Kashmir who have not eliminated the roots of separatism but made them even stronger each passing year. it is precisely because RAW has not been corrupted by these duplicitous CI games in Kashmir, that their forceful recommendation to abrogate 370 carried the day. in fact it is learnt that Shah Faesal’s plan was to become some kind of “president of Kashmir” in exile, a plan shared with JKPG & IBSC & it was both the same members of the IB acting with RAW who were privy to his communications, who apprehended him at the airport in the nick of time. We have a historic opportunity to invest in the right people who believe in the ongoing project that is India, in the Constitution, rule of law and want to genuinely bring in a change through development and end to the nexus of terror, rioting and corruption. Yet it seems the corrupt old guard is already succeeding in undermining this from within