Will Indian army’s charm offensive work in Kashmir?

February 24, 2011

File photo of a senior Indian army officer giving instructions to Kashmiri youths during a recruitment drive in Rangreth on the outskirts of Srinagar May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesWhen thousands gathered in an Indian army camp in Kashmir recently, people started asking questions: Is this another protest against New Delhi’s rule?

The answer came as a surprise to many and as a shock to some.

Nearly 10,000 youth had gathered to try their luck in a recruitment drive by the Indian army in the disputed region and not to protest against alleged excesses by security forces.

A BBC report said that by taking part in the Indian army’s recruitment rally, Kashmiri youth have disregarded the region’s “struggle for independence which has been ongoing for the last 20 years.”

Tens of thousands have died since 1989 in Kashmir, which is claimed both by India and Pakistan.

“The week-long rally is being held barely a few months after last year’s widespread public unrest during which more than 100 people were killed,” the BBC report said.

Last year, the death of a teenage boy by a police teargas shell triggered massive protests, the biggest since a separatist revolt against Indian rule broke out.

More than 110 people were killed, most of them by bullets fired by government forces during months of unrest.

But a few months after the massive demonstrations against Indian rule thousands of unemployed Kashmiris, braving militant threats, are queuing in hopes of impressing officers running an army recruitment drive, and bagging a job with the military.

The rebel groups, which in the past have warned Kashmiris against joining Indian forces, describe local recruitment as an Indian ploy to make the people of the region fight each other.

But the Indian army says its recruitment drive is to improve the lives of unemployed Kashmiris and create a niche for itself in a region where Indian forces are accused of grave human rights violations.

“The huge turnout implies that the army has created a niche for itself in the hearts and minds of Kashmiris,” the Indian army’s Colonel Sanjiv Sirohi  said.

Overwhelmed by the response of Kashmiris to its week-long recruitment rally, the Indian army has assured many more similar recruitment rallies across the region.

By wooing youth from the troubled region to join the army, is New Delhi trying to end separatism and militancy in Kashmir? Will the Indian army’s charm offensive work?


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The first priority is jobs and economic improvement in Kashmir. Please do not deter those who are trying to find a means to live. Indians are not monsters. I’d like to see Kashmiris joining Indian educational institutions, finding jobs everywhere in India. Isolation has led to the current situation. Spread out and mix in. You will find that co-existence is the best way to live in today’s world. Carving separate nations is not a solution. If you look at the case of Pakistan, creating a nation for ideology has not made life better for its people. Pakistan is on the brink. Small nations can be arm twisted and manipulated easily by the world powers. Let us work towards a future where we all can travel freely without restrictions, get jobs anywhere we like and set up businesses where there are opportunities. Driving others away does not lead to any solution. In the long run, once everyone is driven out, the reality of having to manage resources and livelihoods comes in. It is always easy to protest against an establishment, but very difficult to run one. Look at Pakistan as a case. Reconcile with others. Everything will diffuse away. Join the progress bandwagon.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

We the children of the fatherland called Jammu Kashmir must in every field of the life even in using of the wapons because one day when we are very independent and peaceful nation of our own to safegaurd the peace we do need the disciplined trained guys.In accordance to the achievement of the peaceful independent fatherland called Jammu Kashmir for the coming generations, we must learn to live in the diversity of many ethnic groups of our nation but yet not forgetting the blood of those brothers who fought for us against our occupiers of the different kinds

Posted by JammuKashmir | Report as abusive

Shahidkhan123 said:

> It is plain for everyone to see, these are two different peoples and two different nations.

I don’t see the US splitting into black, white, Asian and Hispanic nations anytime soon. Purists will never understand the strength of diversity in a nation.

And by the way, doesn’t your statement contradict the Ummah theory? Arabs don’t look like Africans or Central Asians.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Join the progress bandwagon, Indeed. India is at the cusp of greatest growth story in its history.And this growth will run for decades powered by its own people. Every Indian wishes Kashmiris fight for their legitimate rights and griviences under the large tolerant structure of Indian Constitution. But under the Indian Constitution they should, which will give them more space and voice in the Indian Political order and its more than open Media. When secession becomes the war cry for the perceived wrongs that were perpetrated on them, when religious symbolism drowns all other essential greviences related to bread-and-butter issues, the state simply treats them as law and order issue. The isreali-palestian conflict is a case in point. As long as the conflict remains secular for demanding a Nation it remains legitimate and when it take a regligious tinge, the world will ignore the conflict as every state has religious minorities and every state fears any moral or material support given to such cause will hit them back in their own countries. If the Kashmir youth were only for secession they would not have parcipated in state elections in large numbers, they would not have attended the recruitment drives. So, I always believed this Azadi as a smokescreen for the kashmir youth to fight against misgovernance as lumpen elements will never let ksahmiris raise genuine demands directly under Indian Constitution.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

“The answer came as a surprise to many and as a shock to some.”
Only to folks who are unaware of the drastically improved security scenario in the valley. The youth are not afraid of reprisal terror attacks on their families anymore. The army is a very natural career choice for the youth from border regions anywhere in the world.

The racism of the average Pakistani is not surprising. There can’t possibly be a more fascist name for a country than “Land of the pure”.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

Let me refer everyone to a book by MJ Akbar, a great Indian journalist, titled, “India, the Siege within.” This book was written at the time when Khalistan, Kashmir and other separatist movements were at their peak.

Akbar covers a lot in detail about the Tamils in the Southern part of India. The Tamils wanted to form a Dravidian country covering most of the Southern Peninsula. They had an atheist leader who ran the campaign to oust “North Indians,” Sanskrit, Brahmin dominance etc. Most of their activities stayed in the Tamil majority region. At the time of independence, they contacted Jinnah for his support since he had a major clout with the colonial British. When India got its independence, the Dravidian party in the South observed a day of mourning.

They continued further with their demand for self determination. They used every means possible to achieve their goal – linguistic chauvinism, anti-Hindu agitations, desecration of Hindu temples, riots and so on. Seeing the gravity of the situation, the Nehru government agreed to divide states along linguistic lines. Then in the 1960s, they found a golden opportunity to strike. They launched an anti-Hindi agitation, that helped propel them to power in 1967.

Until then life was easy staging protests, riots, strikes etc. However, now that they were in power, they did not know what to do with it. Most of their leaders were movie script writers, actors, lyricists, newspaper editors etc.. Stagnation set in. Prior to their coming to power, that state was run by the Congress party that had set up rapid industrialization and infrastructure. The Dravidian parties had labor unions on their hand. The state dived into backwardness and corruption soon. In order to divert attention, they still demanded state autonomy, separate flags and anthems.

At some point, they got tired of themselves and split into two and more. The people began to use their power of voting to choose who they wanted to run the government. The parties which campaigned for separation are happy being in power and they have dropped all the claims for autonomy, independence etc. They still launch riots protesting against water sharing with neighboring states, when they sense their popularity is declining.

When the Srilanka-Tamil rebellion started, these parties tried to gain mileage out of it as well. There was a worry that it might spread into mainland India. My cousin was a part of the IPKF mission in Sri Lanka.

Anyway, secessionism sounds very rosy. But people have to think in the long run. Jinnah did not think much and he was hell bent on creating a nation for his own benefit. He badly wanted to be a head of state. He knew that his chances were nil in a Congress dominated India. So he aligned with the imperial British, who wanted to create a region specific to their goals of containing the expanding Russians. So the two goals fell in place and Pakistan was born. But look at where it has headed.

Isolation and seclusion born out of emotions will lead to utter disaster. Kashmir is in a very dangerous zone, surrounded on either side by China and Pakistan. India is the only democratic and secular nation on the other side. India has its issues, but it is a lot better than the other two. Kashmir will never be allowed to be free and independent unfortunately. If it is not in India, it will be in Pakistan or China. And they take no responsibility or accountability of their actions. Look at how Pakistan dealt with Bengalis and how China dealt with the Uighurs and Tianenmen square protesters. They are a lot more brutal than the Indian jawans who get beaten up most of the time.

Violence will not lead to amity. Let us look in the long run and see the best course to be taken.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive


I understand your point very well – i.e., the Indian officer and the prospective recruits look very different and are of distinct racial stock, therefore Kashmir cannot be legitimately claimed by India.

What would you say of India itself, then? A Punjabi resembles the peoples to the North-West of India. Many Bengalis resemble people from East Asia. South Indians are shorter and darker than North Indians and resemble Sri Lankans in features, with possibly an East African connection. So what is your point? That this cannot possibly be a nation?

One could take the opposite view and say that the world’s major racial groups come together naturally through geography in this one country (not through long-distance immigration as in the West). The Kashmiris represent yet another blurred transitional racial group between India and Central Asia.

As to which country the Kashmiris belong to, that’s the point of this article, isn’t it? Instead of throwing stones at the army they’re supposed to be hating, Kashmiri youths are voting with their feet and vying to join up. And this is not a small group, but about 10,000 strong. That says it all.

Enough with the racial theories. The idea of the nation-state is alive and well, and trumps race or religion. The Indian nation-state is not only in good health, but is also demonstrating an appeal that its neighbours cannot match.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

shahidkhan123 said:

> yes i get the whole multicultural angle. You know.. India had Muslim for ceremonial presidency, now a woman, than an untouchable etc. Great point.

You dismiss Indian multiculturalism as tokenism, but I suspect you only see what you want to see. I notice you don’t mention the popularity of Shah Rukh Khan and Azharuddin (before he self-destructed), who were ordinary middle-class Muslims who rose to eminence through their own talent and the opportunities that Indian society gave them. Or Mayawati, a Dalit woman who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (a state that at 190 million people, is even bigger than Pakistan). Hers was not a ceremonial appointment that you can dismiss as tokenism but grassroots popularity.

I think your contempt for India prevents you from seeing that it is largely a genuinely inclusive society where everyone gets a chance. (Of course, there have been egregious examples of intolerance and bigotry as well, which some people tend to be fixated on.) The keyword is “inclusive”. We celebrate all our Nobel laureates, the native ones (CV Raman, Rabindranath Tagore), the Indian-born who took up foreign citizenship (Hargobind Khurana, S Chandrasekhar) and the foreign-born who became Indian citizens (Mother Teresa). We proudly claim them all! In contrast, Pakistan ignores and denies the only Nobel laureate the country has ever had – Abdus Salaam – because he was Ahmadi/Qadiani.

Would the Kashmiris ever feel included in a country that is so obsessed with difference, I wonder? They would probably receive fairer treatment at the hands of your “differently complexioned” army officer in that photo.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

@ Ganesh Prasad

Fair and Lovely “skin lightening” cream from India is a popular import amongst Pakistanis who want to lighten their skins.

See here:

http://www.amankiasha.com/detail_news.as p?id=37

By Samia Saleem
KARACHI: As customers flock at the shop of Amjad Mansoor asking for the latest Indian goods ranging from fairness creams to confectioneries ..

Mansoor told The News “Although the Bio Amla Hair Oil…..Daburs, people still decline the local oil in favour of the Indian one,he said. Similarly, even if Fair & Lovely introduced the same formula of Ayurvedic cream followed in India, customers would still prefer the Indian product”.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

this is not a new thing in Kashmir, security forces have been holding recruitment rallies in past and people in thousands attend them how does it make a difference. I think new delhi should seriously think of addressing politically kashmir besides giving employement to the people of kashmir.

Posted by gul11 | Report as abusive

BBC’c is wrong by saying …”In doing so, they have disregarded the struggle for independence which has been ongoing for the last 20 years.”

Posted by gul11 | Report as abusive

THIS week, at a recruitment camp in Ganderbal and other troubled spots in the Kashmir Valley, more than 30,000 young men braved the sleet for hours to queue for a physical endurance test, in hopes of passing it. The test is the first hurdle to clear for a career in the Indian army.

Elsewhere in the picturesque Vale of Kashmir, some 110 families ignored the express command of separatist leaders and quietly accepted government compensation for the loss of loved ones in last year’s unrest.

The twin developments underscore the travails of thousands of ordinary Kashmiris: They are caught between the need to try and lead normal lives, yet heed the warnings of hardline elements battling security forces in their quest for a separate nation or for the region to join Pakistan.

The punishment for ignoring the warnings not to enlist in the security forces can be severe.

Yet at a recent public meeting in Jammu and Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, a senior figure in the moderate wing of the separatist movement candidly said it was time they acknowledged that two leaders ‘had been killed by our own people’ as hardliners sought to dominate.

‘There is a terrible misconception that insurgent movements somehow represent an inchoate democratic impulse,’ said Dr Ajai Sahni, executive director of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management, which runs the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Posted by nabi123 | Report as abusive

This nation is unpredictable.Kashmir over writes almost everything that is written about it. You never know in stright fourth summer this year thousands of them will come in the streets and protest against Indian rule and many of them will get kjilled also as happened in past three years. so i dont thionk this is a yard stick for kashmir’s normalicy and let us keep our fingers crossed.

Posted by nabi123 | Report as abusive

well a nice step by India but its quite understandable new Delhi has a realization that it hasn’t been able to do things for the people of Kashmir: it seems they are trying to engage youngsters in one or the other kind of job so that they can have peace on streets : but they must not forget in 2008, 2009 and 2010 not only unemployed youth took to streets but those who were well settled joined the Bigger Cause :So scoops are not going to work to have a peaceful Kashmir: A full Fledged solution is required so as to avoid any uncontrollable situation.

Posted by littlemiss | Report as abusive

It was not enough to oppress Kashmir with half million Indian troops, now India will use Kashmiris against Kashmiris.

Posted by Matrixx | Report as abusive

India now have a Kashmiri Muslim as a General in the Indian Army. His name is Major General Mohd. Amin Naik. As much as it is a matter of pride for the Kashmiris, it is also a reaffirmation that if one works hard he/she can have a hope of rising in India.

Secualrism, not discriminating based on any other divisive identity are highly cherished values in Indian army. Hope more Kashmiri youth will be recruited into Indian army.

About casteism, startification of society: Agreed. this is an evil that is haunting South Asia.

Here is a progressive pakistani criticizing this malady:

http://www.razarumi.com/2009/02/16/caste ism-alive-and-well-in-pakistan/

QUOTE” In Lahore, one finds hundreds of cars with the owner’s caste or tribe displayed as a marker of pride and distinctiveness. As an urbanite, I always found it difficult to comprehend the relevance of zaat-paat (casteism) until I experienced living in the peri-urban and sometimes rural areas of the Punjab as a public servant……

….. Who said casteism was extinct in Pakistan? My friends have not been allowed to marry outside their caste or sect, Christian servants in Pakistani households are not permitted to touch kitchen utensils,”

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

You have trouble distinguishing between Tribalism and Casteism. Any place where extended family is strong, it takes the form of Tribal pride. Then there is economic stratification. Rich socializing with rich and marrying into rich families. The question is whether there is social mobility between various groups? I will contend that there is social mobility in Pakistan and it becomes less in economic down turns.
In Caste system there is no social mobility. By the way, Raza Rumi is self styled liberal, who can’t see any positive in Pakistan.

Posted by Matrixx | Report as abusive


That’s right, keep your eyes tightly shut to all the changes happening in India. Don’t learn anything about India other than the stereotypes you were taught. Don’t read anything on the Internet that contradicts what you want to be told. That’s the way to be blindsided and left wondering, “What happened?” when your country is left far behind, both economically and socially.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Matrix said:

> It was not enough to oppress Kashmir with half million Indian troops, now India will use Kashmiris against Kashmiris.

Yep, unlike in Azad Kashmir where Kashmiris have full rights to do as they please: http://bbc.in/dKo7xL

Does Azadi in Urdu mean something different from the original Persian?

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

There is room for improvement definitely. First, Kashmiris have to demonstrate outside asking Pakistan to lay off. Any support for Pakistan will push India towards tightening the grip. Capture all militants that are coming in from Pakistan and hand them over to Indian authorities. If the two happen, it can help change the mindset of Indian authorities and the military. The reason why India is tightly holding Kashmir is because of the Pakistan factor. Pakistan has messed the whole thing up by driving insurgency close to 15 years. It is not easy to forget that. The last thing India wants is Kashmir going with Pakistan. From Indian standpoint, Kashmir is an extremely geo-strategic location from today’s perspective. We have China on one side and Pakistan on the other to balance out. And Kashmir is being thrust as a battle field to cause imbalance. India will never allow that. So they are trying to play the people of Kashmir to tip the balance. Kashmiris should understand this and stop tilting towards to Pakistan. Indians know the sympathy for Pakistan in Kashmir quite well. The whole thing has nothing to do with Kashmiris being majority Muslims. Until 1989, no one was oppressing Kashmiris. The whole thing started after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan planned the whole thing and launched Jihad in Kashmir and India responded to it. The goal was to inject venom into the hearts of Kashmiris and alienate them from India. They have succeeded in that effort. India cannot allow for that. So it is doing its part to assuage hurt sentiments. But so long as Pakistan and China are involved in the equation, India will not be inclined to give independence to Kashmir. The world powers understand India’s situation. India is in the same position as Turkey is in regards to Kurdish separatism.

The first effort should be to diffuse out the alienation. Kashmiris need to be given opportunities for employment and livelihood. Then over time, things will return to normal. If Pakistan tries to stir things up, Kashmiris should openly reject it. If that happens, goodwill will come from India. It has to be tried.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Casteism is a Hindu issue, This is on the decease in India or becoming irrelevant, With reservations, people from “lower casts” are in high positions and people from “high casts” under them, practicing old ways is not possible.
This is not to say casteism does not exist.

With people converting, this high/low casts is not gone and is reflected what is mentioned here by some “Christian servants in Pakistani households are not permitted to touch kitchen utensils,” This is true and now the liability of Pakistan in this case (of course India in Indian cases).

@Skin Color: White superiority over darker color is both Indian and Pakistani problem.

Imran Khan, cricketer and politician who himself is a handsome guy with “fair complexion” has a track record of a racist.

http://khawerkhan.wordpress.com/2010/01/ 28/imran-khans-racism/

got into problem by attacking the person, who had darker complexion, he was having a debate withgot into this problem.

difference is hard officers

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive


“I sense you are bit sensitive about complexion. It was just one of the many differences in the photography.”

You alone possess the miraculous skills of being able to discern the culture, religion, practices, language of people in undies and uniforms, simply by looking at their photograph. Us mere mortals are unable to comprehend this, and therefore deride your comments as racist. But we salute your unique 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th senses, nevertheless.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

Racism prevails across the whole South Asia. Pakistan alone is not full of it. I don’t know if anyone remembers the episode with Aussie cricketer Symonds during the one day series in India. I have seen Africans treated with utter contempt in India. East Pakistan problem was partly due to racial superiority complex where some of the West Pakistanis could not stomach being ruled by inferior Bengalis. And some who campaigned for Pakistan’s creation also had the motive stem from the same racist complex. During the rule of the Sultans in India, Afghans were prime runners of all canons. They never gave the local converts any chance to even come near them. When Mughals arrived and started pushing them down the order, Afghans rebelled. This is a human weakness. These kinds of prejudice is one of the primary reason for the division of humans. If we all need to co-exist and share the world’s resources, we need to eliminate racism and other forms of prejudice.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

“Casteism is a Hindu issue.”

Casteism is a societal issue.
http://www.dalitchristians.com/Html/arul appa.htm

Casteism amongst Muslims is described here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_syste m_among_South_Asian_Muslims

This is in addition to the discrimination against non-Arab Muslims, practiced by Arab Muslims which has been extensively documented. Some have even come up with “theological” reasons to come up with perceived superiority of Arab Muslims.

We don’t even have to go into guaranteed 3rd class citizenship and ill-treatment meted out to non-Muslims in Pakistan and many other Muslim countries.

What are the odds of a Christian or a Hindu becoming a Prime Minister of Pakistan in the year 2010? They live in the fringe of the fringes in fear. Yet, Pakistan just passed a constitutional amendment requiring the Prime Minister should be a Muslim. This is in addition to already existing stipulations that only a Muslim can be the President, etc.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

“You have trouble distinguishing between Tribalism and Casteism”Posted by Matrixx
No. You are having difficulties in your efforts  to project a fake image of Pakistan  in this forum :-)

I am sure you know the extent of prevalence of castesim in Pakistan.  I’m posting this for the benefit of non-Pakistanis.

Ms. Shahbano Aliani works with the Thardeep Rural Development Programme and is based in Karachi, Pakistan.  This is what she has to say on the topic. 

http://reddiarypk.wordpress.com/2009/08/ 25/caste-in-pakistan/ 

EXCERPT:“Syeds (also known as Shahs in Sindh) claim to be the descendants of the prophet Muhammad (SAW) and are the highest caste in most places. In Punjab, the Ranas (Rajpoots), Chaudhurys and Maliks are considered higher caste, whereas the Kammis (workers), Chuhras (“untouchable” sweepers who are mostly Christian), Mussali (Muslim shaikh – menial workers) and Miraasi (musicians) are considered lower caste. In the NWFP, “lower castes” are referred to as Neech Zaat (low caste) and Badnasal (of bad lineage). In Balochistan the “lower castes” include Ghulams (slaves), Lohris (musicians), and Lachhis (Dalits). In Sindh, “high-caste” Muslims, in addition to Shahs and Syeds, include the Akhunds, Effendis, Soomros, Talpurs, and Pirs. Hajjams (barbers), Dhobis (washers), Kumbhars (potters), Maachis/ Mallahs (fisherfolk) and Bhajeer (Dalit converts to Islam) are considered “low caste”. In places like Swat, the Quom system is comparative to the Hindu caste system. Here, groups are divided rigidly according to occupation. Quoms do not intermarry or live together.

 The fact that caste is an important social identity for Pakistani Muslims is reinforced in matchmaking/ marriage services, where caste is one of the key attributes mentioned by prospective brides and grooms.”

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive