December 6, 2010

The Deepest Plot: India’s “Kashmiri Taliban”

As India and Pakistan’s medias dual for perceptions over Jammu and Kashmir, observers are bombarded with an overwhelming level of disinformation relative to information. But the following conspiracy is too deep to ignore - even a little truth would be too much. According to the sources of Zahid Malik, editor-in-chief of the Pakistani Observer, India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is up to its latest diabolical spy-game.

“The conspiracy,” writes Malik, “for which preparatory work has been completed in all respects, is the formation of a fake group of militants in the name of ‘Kashmiri Taliban’ that will be launched under the guidance of Indian National Security Adviser's Office.”

This preparatory work supposedly involves collecting Russian arms and ammunition from Afghanistan to supply a false-flag unit - Islamic Army of Kashmiri Taliban (IAKT) - who would then claim allegiance to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Malik’s sources allege that several trial attacks inside India would establish its credibility, followed by attacks inside Jammu and Kashmir and even Pakistan. Apparently the plan is designed to draw other militants to the region to further justify the group (if the TTP doesn’t reject it), at which point the Indian military would crash down upon them.

And crush Muslim-Kashmiris’ legitimate movement for self-determination in one blow.

On the surface this plot seems to be nothing more than typical Pakistani propaganda. Having raised the threat of RAW before, notably in Balochistan, its news organizations are desperate to push back an assault from the east. India’s media has rendered its full services to New Delhi, broadcasting the narrative of a Kashmiri movement out of steam, of a people fed up with separatist leaders Mirwaz Umar Farooq and Syed Geelani. Indian officials disseminate the same message in the Kashmiri streets.

“I want to know what kind of Kashmir Geelani wants," asked National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah, before answering, “Kashmir of graveyards!”

Yet this very delegitimization has generated ripples at the surface. While Malik’s conclusion to warn the authorities may be over-dramatic, his story needn't be entirely true to cause alarm. Indian officials and pundits have constantly worked to link the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) with militant seperatist groups, particularly the ISI-funded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). While connections inevitably exist between various militants and civil seperatists, New Delhi is attempting to scapegoat all of the APHC’s actions on Islamabad as a means of excusing its own inadequate policy in Kashmir.

India is well-practiced in this hustle.

But LeT by itself doesn’t draw suspicions; last month Indian officials started another fire by alleging links between LeT and Maoists in central India. True or not, their meetings don’t imply a connection between the Maoists and APHC. But that’s exactly what Farooq’s younger brother, Omar, claimed in vivid detail.

"We have no experience with Maoist insurgency even though of late we find efforts being made to build bridges between the Maoists and Naxalites of the rest of India with militants of Kashmir and also some Left-thinking academicians and students in Jammu region as well," said the NC chairman. "There are visible links on public platforms. There are also invisible links that are sought to be built with universities and also the active militants on the ground.”

The Mirwaiz quickly denounced India for slandering Muslim-Kashmiris and their movement, and the story faded away for the time being. Its job was done, having kicked off New Delhi’s latest campaign to reconnect the APHC with the militant insurgency.

India’s pattern is one of escalating delegitimization. Kashmiri separatists reportedly chafe at being forced aside by civilian authorities, and their current operations indicate an attempt to regain control. But this strategy is disadvantageous for Pakistan, suggesting that LeT is currently acting against Islamabad’s wishes. Although LeT attacks and infiltration continue, the APHC has successfully decoupled itself from the insurgency through civil disobedience and media presence.

And India is trying every option to put them back together.

This objective is secondary to the “IAKT’s” ultimate purpose. By accusing Islamabad of funding the group, says Malik’s theory, Pakistan will be totally isolated and prepared for a U.S. crackdown, which India demands before any movement in Kashmir. Through the combination of events, India would relieve the pressure of negotiating Kashmir’s status and allow it to preserve the status quo.

Although “IAKT” is unlikely to ever surface, the thought behind it accurately reveals India’s current state of mind and may foretell future events. Already under house arrest for months, Geelani is being made out into a criminal before a potential legal trial. Non-lethal weapons are limiting casualties while still effectively dispersing protests. And the APHC’s movement is solely blamed on outside actors rather than attributed to Muslim-Kashmiris exhausted of Indian rule.

New Delhi clearly hopes to smother the embers from last summer so that they don’t re-ignite next time. There’s no telling what means it will employ to do so, and that means watching out for everything.

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