OPINION
KASHMIR CONFLICT
India's Vietnam syndrome
- JUSTICE MARKANDEY KATJU
India's Vietnam syndrome



A time comes to speak the truth, and I suppose that time has come and it is I who will have to bell the cat. So here it is:

Kashmir will soon become what Vietnam was for the French and the Americans, Afghanistan for the Russians, and Spain for Napoleon.

Those who are today gloating over their 'great victory' by abolition of Article 370, will soon wake up to a nightmare when body bags start coming back in large numbers from Kashmir, as it happened in the Vietnam war.

Internet and mobiles are today a necessity, not a luxury. Depriving a person of these for even one day can make one miserable, so one can imagine the plight of people going without them for almost two months. Added to this are the curfews and other restrictions.

Remove the restrictions, and popular protests will engulf the whole valley. Continue them, and the pot will boil until it explodes. As is said in Hindi, the situation is such that 'na nigalte bane, na ugalte bane' (one can neither swallow it, nor vomit it).

The truth is that due to the ill conceived and short sighted policies of the Central Governments towards Kashmir for decades, and particularly after abrogation of Article 370 on 5th August, almost the entire population of Kashmir is today totally alienated and bitterly hostile to India. Consequently, a full blown insurgency, like that in Vietnam, is bound to emerge soon, and then body bags will start coming back.

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When a non militant sees his innocent relative or friend killed in a cross fire, he becomes incensed, and joins the militants.
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An army can fight another army, it cannot fight the masses. A tiger can kill an antelope, it cannot kill a swarm of mosquitoes. Napoleon realised this in Russia (read Tolstoy's War and Peace), and Gen Westmoreland in Vietnam.
 
No doubt we have half a million military and para military forces in Kashmir, but how do they fight an enemy which cannot be seen, which moves in the shadows, which is nowhere and everywhere? We have created a situation where large scale guerilla war is bound to emerge, and the guerilla has the advantage of surprise, using hit and run tactics, and deciding the place, time and duration of the attack and also swift withdrawal.

Guerilla war is a cruel war, in which none of the rules of conventional war are observed. As it develops, as is bound to happen in Kashmir, more and more non militants will become militants, for when a non militant sees his innocent relative or friend killed in a cross fire, he becomes incensed, and joins the militants. So the number of militants, which presently are said to be only a few hundred, are bound to rapidly increase.

Where all this will end no one can say. But one thing can be said for sure: we are in for the long haul in Kashmir.

 
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.
 
 

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