Kishtwar riots ISI bid at ethnic cleansing: Expert

'Pak agency tried to get rid of village defence committees'

The August 9 riots at Kishtwar in Jammu, dubbed as “communal”, were actually another bid by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence at orchestrating ethnic cleansing in the north Indian state, according to a senior defence expert.

“Our estimate is that the ISI used the riots to get rid of the village defence committees to clear the way for ethnic cleansing,” said Major General (retd) G D Bakshi.

“It is the first phase of a diabolical move by the ISI to further carry out its agenda of ethnic cleansing in Jammu & Kashmir,” added Bakshi, author of the book ‘Kishtwar Cauldron: The Struggle Against ISI’s Ethnic Cleansing’.

Three people died On August 9 after a group of people, raising anti-national slogans, was attacked by another section of people in Kuleed area of Kishtwar.

The army was later called out to help the district administration and an indefinite curfew remained clamped for 13 days. According to Bakshi, after ISI-inspired militants drove out the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, the Pakistani agency has next set its sights on the Dogra population in the mountainous districts of Doda and Kishtwar.

Terror operations

The ethnic cleansing being sponsored by the ISI is one aspect of the terror operations being carried out that has escaped public notice completely, said Bakshi.

“In February and March 1990, (the now defunct) Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front started a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign to kill, terrorise and drive out the entire 400,000-strong community of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley,” added Bakshi.

“Over 20,000 houses of Kashmiri Pandits were burnt, some 105 of the Pandit educational institutions were destroyed and 103 temples razed to the ground. Over 1,100 Kashmiri were tortured and killed.”

According to Bakshi, around 16,000 Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley between February and March 1990. This was followed by high profile killings of senior Kashmiri Pandit officials, intellectuals and prominent citizens that resulted in the total exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit population.

According to Bakshi, the pogrom against the Dogra community by ISI-sponsored militants started in 1993 when 14 Dogras were massacred in a bus near a place called Hasti on August 16 that year. The next year, 800 Dogra families fled to Himachal Pradesh and in August that year, the Sector 9 Rashtriya Rifles was raised in Kishtwar.

Situation stabilised

In 1995, the Indian government set up village defence committees and armed them with World War I-vintage Lee Enfield rifles. That stabilised the situation in the area and six Border Security Force battalions were withdrawn.

In 1996, a total of 39 Dogras were killed in various incidents. This persecution against Dogras continued till 2001 claiming scores of lives, said Bakshi, who commanded the Sector 9 Rashtriya Rifles from 2000-end to 2002.

In 2001, Bakshi led a massive manhunt to track down and kill a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who had targeted several innocent Dogras.

That had a salutory impact and there were no major incidents against the Dogra community after September 2001 Bakshi’s book comes just over a month after the latest violence in Kishtwar.

The book provides details of the intense operations in a very sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir and also gives the doctrinal overview of such operations.

The withdrawal of the US-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 will cast a shadow over the whole of the south Asian region, he added.

Temporary truce

“For this, it (Pakistan) needs a temporary truce on its eastern front with India in 2014-15 so that it can deal undisturbed with Afghanistan and then turn around and send in thousands of out-of-job Taliban cadres into J&K and even the rest of India for a final phase of the Gazhuwa — the civilisational conflict to dismember India,” he said.

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