By Arun Joshi
Ever since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15, Kashmir is closely watching the developments unfolding in Afghanistan. The Taliban takeover of the war-torn country yet again after a gap of 20 years has creeped into the security and political discourse in the Kashmir valley where there is a tendency to link the conflict in any other place to the one with which Kashmir is faced with now for the past over 30 years.
The linkages of this sort can bring extra pressure on the security forces. The forces have neutralized many militant commanders in the recent months and developed a narrative that the “ militants are destined to die” unless they surrender, but the psychology that sees the Taliban success in Afghanistan as a morale booster for the disruptive forces.
People’s Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has become the first political leader in Kashmir to use fleeing of America from Afghanistan and the Taliban victory to warn the Centre that if it did not mend ways, it could face the similar consequences. This was a highly loaded statement that Mehbooba made in Kulgam in South Kashmir on August 21st to say that the patience of the people of Kashmir is thinning and there are dire consequences awaiting if the government failed to initiate dialogue on resolving the Kashmir issue. The purpose was to inject a feeling that the local sentiment against the Centre could bring about the consequences in Kashmir which Afghanistan has experienced.
In a clear warning to the Centre, she had stated: “ Don’t test the patience of the people of Kashmir by your oppressive policies. They are running out of patience, and you ( the Centre) is running out of time. If the things explode here, the Centre will have to wind up from here, as you have seen how a superpower ( America) had to pack bags ( from Afghanistan).”
The linkages are clear that the Taliban took over Afghanistan after defeating the United States of America, and reflected that the Talibanisation of the mindset of Kashmiris could achieve the similar outcome. It was a warning to the Centre to “ mend its ways in Kashmir” before the things get too late for it.
Mehbooba is the cheerleader for the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir that was scrapped on August 5, 2019 . She also is a staunch campaigner for incessant dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. She used the Afghan developments to warn the Centre of the consequences if it failed to read writing on the wall.
The Taliban is viewed in Kashmir as a symbol of extremist Islam and also a potent force that brought a superpower to its knees. Kashmiri militants have adapted themselves to the ideology of the Islamic State and Taliban as they believe in the spread of the puritanical Islam and justify all kinds of means to achieve the same.The violence is seen as the most favoured way of achieving the goals. That’s why the radicalization and the greater Islamic cause has replaced the initial political objectives of Kashmir insurgency of achieving “ azadi” or freedom for the nation of Kashmir.
Now, it appears that the Kashmiri nationalism was used as a cover to further the cause of the Islamic radicals, but took a long time for the observers to grasp this. Since Pakistan had triggered the militancy with its money, arms and training, it knew what was the underlined meaning of what she was doing. Though it had coined the slogan of the “ azadi” but its real intent was to get the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir to its side through the proxy war. The cementing denominator was the Muslim unity across the borders.
It had the same objective with which it had sponsored and launched tribesmen invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, claiming that the Muslim majority region belonged to Pakistan.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 has infused a new discourse among the militant ranks. This is a vicarious sense of discourse that if it can happen in Afghanistan, why not here. But this is misplaced because the things here are quite different and Kashmir militancy, by any stretch of imagination, is nowhere close to the Taliban strength, though the source of Taliban’s strength and that of Kashmiri militancy is same: Pakistan.
At the moment, there is no reckless conclusion that the Taliban would send its cadre to Kashmir – first because the Taliban itself is struggling in controlling things in their own country, and secondly, it is caught between its ideological roots and the need for gaining international legitimacy.
The political discourse that Mehbooba has started, however, can create new fault lines, especially when Pakistan and Taliban are on the same page. This critical factor is further going to get complicated if the real situation of Kashmir is not taken into account. The wait and watch approach cannot help the matters. It can prolong the crisis.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with it.