Adil Ahmad Dar, the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide terrorist who killed himself along with forty Indian soldiers at Pulwama on 14 February, will be regarded as a hero and martyr by many Kashmiris of his generation, alienated, desperate and angered by the atrocities that have been rained down on them by the Indian military on the orders of successive governments (the Congress record is appalling) for many decades. Blinding young men in Kashmir with pellet guns is an Indian innovation. Had Dar acted alone, a few might even have dared call him a hero in public. Instead an oppressive silence reigns throughout Kashmir.
The Pakistan-based jihadi outfit Jaish-i-Mohammed has claimed the hit, resulting in revenge on a state-to-state level. Indian jets have strafed a supposed JiM camp near Balakot, well inside Pakistan, and there is much talk of war. Rocket-rattling by both sides should be ignored. There will not be a full-scale war. After all, the travelling Saudi statesman, MBS, on a confidence-building tour of Pakistan, China and India, is appealing for peace.
The JiM leader, Masood Azhar, a creep of the worst type, has been taken to Islamabad from Lahore and is reportedly being treated in hospital. Indian claims that JiM is a poisoned tentacle of Pakistani military intelligence, used for irregular operations, are difficult to dispute. Otherwise JiM and its members could not have got away with so many crimes.
The Pulwama attack is likely to strengthen the Modi government, with new elections not so far away, and to weaken the cause of Kashmir (if it could be further weakened) in India as whole. The governor of Meghalaya, an RSS stalwart and a BJP leader, has called for the boycott of all Kashmiri goods, which will delight all those Kashmiris who favour independence, since the governor is speaking of them as a non-Indian entity.
A chauvinist mood has gripped India and there have been attacks on Kashmiris in many cities, with only the State governments of Punjab, West Bengal and Kerala offering serious protection. Even the world of cricket has been infected, with a huge debate in India as to whether they should play their group-stage match against Pakistan in the forthcoming World Cup. This is seen by some as the real nuclear option. Every ticket has already been sold. India’s captain, Virat Kohli, is a hawk, while older heads (Gavaskar and Ganguly) advise caution. Why give Pakistan two gratis points?
The hysteria will die down till the next atrocity. In the meantime I would suggest an Indian publisher bring out an emergency edition of a very fine book by Robert Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005), which argues that the phenomenon has less to do with religious fanaticism than with resistance to occupation by a foreign power. Pape ‘compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003’. It has a much longer history than that. During the Peninsular War, a Spanish irregular deliberately blew himself up together with a French arsenal that contained crates of gunpowder.