Time to revive a “Kuka” Parrey-type Group in Kashmir

One of the reasons, other than fatigue of the people absorbing the costs of insurgency, that the intifada-style uprising in the Srinagar Valley that had gained momentum following the 1989 state elections in Jammu & Kashmir, which New Delhi tried to manipulate and ended up botching completely, petered out, was the effectiveness of the counter-insurgency group headed by the former MLA, Mohammad Yusuf (“Kuka”) Parrey. The Parrey group — Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, was anti-Islamist and sought a more seamless integration of the state with the secular Union of India. Parrey was killed in a militant ambush in Bandipore in 2003 by when his group, after its huge successes in the war to keep militancy and militants out of Kashmir, had been all but disbanded.

True, the Kuka Parrey fighters operated on a grid mapped out by the Indian army, which also provided on an ongoing basis logistics support, accurate and realtime intelligence, communications wherewithal, and such other assistance in operations as these doughty Kashmiri fighters required. As part of the fish active in Kashmiri waters, they notched up signal successes in turning the fight around, not least because of the spirit of Indian nationalism instilled in its cadres, which due to a process of social osmosis affected the social milieu and influenced the rest of the social milieu as well. Whence the eroding of the militancy and growing participation in electoral politics evidenced in the last two state and general elections.

Whatever caused the insurgency to come back into the picture in Kashmir, it may be time to revive and incentivize a cadre of Kashmiri youth to take up the gun against the militants relying umbilically on material support, safe havens, and training on Pakistan’s deep state. If one cares to examine how Parrey originally gathered his group of motivated youngsters around him, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Among Parrey’s fighters there were many who joined him for purely mercenary reasons, which is perfectly fine. There are huge numbers of the educated unemployables available to choose from to inspire, and to train to fight the militants, and otherwise gradually to strangle their support base in the Kashmiri society.

Time is nigh to pursue this option also because the Pakistan-merger seeking Hurriyat headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani has declared open war on the state law & order apparatus by threatening to name Kashmiris serving in the state police and paramilitary organizations involved in anti-militant actions. By doing this, Hurriyat intends to virtually paint a bull’s eye on the backs of each native policeman and paramilitaryman, identifying the targets for the militants to eliminate. In all his 83 years, Geelani never before made this sort of mistake, and it is a grievous one that New Delhi should capitalize on. Geelani has handed the perfect incentive to Kashmiris responsible for maintaining law and order and desirous of protecting themselves and their extended families and circle of friends and acquaintances, to fight the militants. It is a strong motivation for them to make the fight with the Hizbul Mujahideen of Sayeed Salahuddin and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba of Hafiz Saeed, and their ISI handlers in the shadows, a personal one. Perfect opportunity and time, in other words, to again form and field a nationalist, anti-Islamist, counter-militancy force skilled in guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics.

In this respect, I recall what KPS Gill, ex-DG, Punjab Police, long ago told me, that the best recruiting poster for anti-militancy fighters are two things — fear (of losing their own lives and putting the lives of family and friends in danger) and revenge. In the Khalistani insurgency of the 1980s Gill exploited what he called the “Jat Sikh mentality” of avenging the wrong done a person and his family. Gill remembered going to villages in the Doab and elsewhere, rounding up young Sikh boys who had seen their parents or siblings killed and raped by the Khalistanis, and telling them that he would give them the license to go after these killers, hunt them down like vermin, and let them have the satisfaction of personally executing the wrong doers and, if they were unreachable (because they had found refuge in some bolt hole in Pakistan, California, Canada, or the UK), their immediate relatives. It was a horrific saga but Gill bloodily killed off that insurgency.

In Kashmir, it is the fear for one’s life and threat to family and friends that will gain for the nationalist cause adherents both within the Kashmiri police and paramils and their extended social circles, and whose guerrilla actions can then be sustained without too great an expenditure of resources by the Indian state. The Indian army, instead of being on the front lines, can then be engaged in cordoning off suspected areas (as happened in Punjab and during Kuka Parrey’s time in Kashmir) while leaving the more onerous task of dealing with the young men heeding the call of the late Burhan Wani, to the locally-raised vigilantes.

Time for NSA, Ajit Doval, to wake up and muster this option soonest, as part of the larger scheme of things that includes coming down hard on the sympathizers and (potential) recruits of the Islamic State and such others as are dreaming of another khilafat, and helping sections of the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban to achieve their aims.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Pakistan military, SAARC, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Time to revive a “Kuka” Parrey-type Group in Kashmir

  1. Manjeet Sodhi says:

    This is an excellent suggestion but though bold, it does not go far enough.
    What may be even more effective would be to train and equip such ‘Warriors’ and provide them arms and communication equipment and infiltrate them into Pak held Azad Kashmir and target them on Pak state sponsored training camps.
    Pakistan inducted paratroopers into Kashmir in 1965 in Op Gibralter. We too should reciprocate the same gift.
    The Indian Rashtrya Rifles and Kashmir Police should be adequate to deal with local misguided youth.

  2. SANKET says:

    If the insurgency in Kashmir is backed by Pakistan then don’t you think Mr Karnad that India should carry out air and military strikes on terrorist camps in POK? Why doesn’t India scrap the Indus water treaty with Pakistan as a retaliation for its terror sponsored policy?

    • Bob Debilder says:

      If you cut Pakistan’s water, China gets precedent to do the same to us. Then we’ll be in trouble. As for strikes, we couldn’t find the balls to do that after 26/11 when we had the chance, we’ll have to wait till the next big terrorist attack for an opportunity.

    • Agree with Bob (below). Cutting off Indus waters, as some people suggest, will only hand China a precedent, as I have long argued, to do the same on the Brahmaputra, of course, but the Indus originating also in Chinese-held Tibet.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Much of the catchment area for the rivers that benefit India are either within India or SAARC countries.

        There are sound reasons for all these rivers to flow towards India:
        The gradient falls of sharper towards India. Gradient falls off much much much slower towards China. That would require a major pumping effort to reach consumption centres. Then all this water must cut across several major the faultlines, while the tibetan catchment seems to be on the Indian side of the major faultlines. There are large number of smaller dams that Chinese have made, all through the path to consumption centers, which will have to be beefed up to handle extra water. And in a crunch situation all this infrastructure will end up becoming targets for India. No point.

        In fact much of the water that exits China actually benefits Pakistan or Bangla Desh. For Brahmaputra especially the benefit to India is much less than the contribution by Indian catchment area and geology is such that this cannot be mitigated easily.

        The rivers that are fed by the high Tibetan aquifers and sources are benefiting the South East Asia more than it benefits India.

        And even if the Chinese divert the waters that would be roughly in proportion to the lengths of these rivers in China. And that length is something that should have bothered Indian leadership in 1949 (Nehru) and 1998 (ABV) who actually recognized the maps as such, ending up giving much of the lengths of these rivers to China. The time for that worry is past us now and that serves only to learn better from here on.

        Even if Chinese try to divert rivers they wouldn’t know how to use that water effectively without causing damage to themselves.

        In any case Chinese have cheaper options to get water than to divert water just like everybody else.

        Though I agree water manipulation is below our standards.

        What we need to do is to change the way the establishment works. With ordinary leadership every course of action is going to be ineffective.

      • Mongrelji@ — Just one point. In a conversation when he was NSA Shivshankar Menon by way of explaining GOI’s ostensible lack of concern re: China damming the Yarlung-Tsangpo at the great bend (before it enters India as the Brahmaputra), said that some 70% of the waters were from the Indian side of the Himalayan watershed. This is there in my book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’, but the point I made to him, and in the book, was that the loss of 30%of the Brahmaputra waters can have devastating effects downstream, especially on the riverine economies of Assam, West Bengal, and Bangladesh and, in any case, some serious hydrographic surveys-cum-studies will need to be conducted before anybody on this side can authoritatively say what the medium and long term consequences will be for India, in particular.

      • andy says:

        With its frenzied dam building, Beijing refuses to enter into a water-sharing arrangement with any co-riparian nation, even though its control over the Tibetan Plateau (the starting place of major international rivers) and Xinjiang (the source of the transnational Irtysh and Ili rivers) has armed it with unparalleled hydro-hegemony. There is deep concern among its riparian neighbours that, by building extensive hydro-engineering infrastructure on upstream basins, it is seeking to turn water into a potential political weapon. China pays little heed to the interests of even friendly countries, as its heavy upstream damming of the Mekong and Salween illustrate.

        New Delhi has to brace for China moving its dam building from the upper and middle reaches to the lower, border-hugging sections of the rivers flowing to India. The Brahmaputra is particularly a magnet for China’s dam builders because this river’s cross-border annual discharge of 165.4 billion cubic metres into India is greater than the combined trans-boundary flows of the key rivers running from Chinese territory to Southeast Asia. As China gradually moves its dam building to the Brahmaputra’s water-rich Great Bend — the area where the river takes a horseshoe bend to enter India, forming the world’s longest and steepest canyon in the process — it is expected to embark on Mekong-style mega-dams.

        Only five rivers in the world carry more water than the Brahmaputra and only one — mainland China’s Yellow River — carries more silt. The Brahmaputra is the world’s highest-altitude river. It represents a unique fluvial ecosystem largely due to the heavy load of high-quality nutrient-rich silt it carries from forbidding Himalayan heights. The Brahmaputra annual flooding cycle helps re-fertilise overworked soils in the Assam plains and large parts of Bangladesh, where the river is the biggest source of water supply. The likely silt-movement blockage from China’s upstream damming constitutes a bigger threat than even diminution of cross-border flows.

        India must get its act together, both by treating water as a highly strategic resource and by shining an international spotlight on China’s unilateralist course. Just as China — through a creeping, covert war — is working to change the territorial and maritime status quo in Asia, its dam frenzy is designed to appropriate internationally shared water resources. No country faces a bigger challenge than India from China’s throttlehold over the headwaters of Asia’s major transnational rivers and its growing capacity to serve as the upstream controller by re-engineering trans-boundary flows through dams.

  3. andy says:

    An excellent course of action, if taken up by GOI, to root out the scourge of militancy in the valley.What DGP.KPS.Gill did in the Punjab was a signal achievement to finish off the Khalistan
    separatist movement ,considering that the militants belonged to a more warlike race with long memories than the Kashmiris, evidenced by the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi in Delhi and ex COAS General A.K.VAidya in Pune as also the Air India Kanishka bombing in Canada,all in retaliation for operation Blue Star.

    In the mid eighties Punjab seemed like a lost cause till Gill turned the tide with his ruthless(very much warranted)tactics.After having achieved such a resounding victory against the Khalistan separatist movement it’s really puzzling that GOI has not adopted the same tactics during the 25 odd years since 1989 in the militancy hit Kashmir valley.The reasons for not following a successful course of action by GOI are beyond comprehension.What we have instead is the spectacle of openly anti national advocates of separatism like syed Ali shah gilani exhorting the gullible youth to take up arms against the Indian state(while their own progeny are safely ensconced abroad)and holding talks in the Pakistan embassy on the ‘Kashmir Issue’. The most India does is place them under house arrest!!Talk about handling them with kid gloves,it’s really tragic to say the least.

  4. andy says:

    All this tamasha of handing over the dead bodies of slain militants to their kin should be stopped immediately as this further stokes passion among the population,instead they should be buried in unmarked graves and the location should be classified. The latest eruption following burhan wanis funeral shows how this course of action is backfiring on India.

  5. andy says:

    There’s an erratum in the article, Kuka Parrey was killed in 2003 and not 2012 as mentioned.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Just kill off all the Paki supported terrorists and propagandists in Kashmir who cannot be turned. Give them a clear line – idhar ya udhar.

    People will cry for a while then everybody would return to work.

    • Maverick says:

      If whishes were horses beggars would ride,if India was Israel things wouldn’t have deteriorated so much and the Hurriyat conference would have been ancient history by now.Who in our country will muster up the nerves to give an ultimatum like you suggest?

  7. Maverick1 says:

    Easier said than done,if we were like Israel Hurriyat conference would be ancient history by now.

  8. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Much water seems to have flowed – hein ji.

    I did not brag about Brahmaputra because I subscribe to the arguments of that koyal ka anda, currently in Carnegie. His only job was the LSA. He is taking refuge in facts for his general incompetence and the real intentions of the team he belonged to whose only job is to sit in room as an arthly when the G-2 decide the fate of Indians.

    Its just that somebody suggested playing hard ball, somebody else suggested its not possible. I concurred with the first guy.

    The Koyal Ka Anda is wrong in not confronting China on the Yarlung-Tsangpo because the dam on the Brahmaputra bend is the same un-natural act that a 9 dash line constitutes in the SCS. At least the SCS states are contesting it. China only wants to become the ration shop owner for water just as the US was for Oil and Capital. Chinese have learnt their lessons well and from the masters of this game. And just as the Americans got everybody to fight for scarce energy and capital, the Chinese imagine they will become the arbiter of the the Indian and Bangladesh water needs.

    My argument is a little different. The Americans and Chinese behaved the way they did because the strategy they have adopted represents the sum total of all their learnings. Now what has the NSA+Armed Forces+MOD+PMO+Universities, contributed in such counter learning for India. What do we base our evolutionary advantage on? The status of this question remains the same today as it was in 1947 – open question. Which is not good – somebody in the power structure should get bothered by this.


    @Maverick, Israel didn’t exactly get much by doing what they did. They have only started a blood feud and they cannot control the end-game regardless of anything that they can think of.

    If anything the Ikhwan was a better idea. People can always be “accident-ed”. What good would the new Ikhwan be if it cannot do even that much.

    • Do you mean “kavve ka anda” in the koyal’s nest?

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Nahi ji, a Crow is always faithful to his offsprings. Only a Koyal is not, always eager to leave its own eggs in the crow’s nest, at times even removing the crow’s eggs from the nest. The poor crows tend to the eggs thinking its there own, always eager to ignore the subtle differences in love of the eggs they hatch. All the time the Koyal remains aware of what it has done and even returns to feed its own fledgling while it is in the crow’s nest.

        And the competition in this world does revolve around – intellect and a sweet voice.

        The onus is on us – are we intelligent enough to notice what is happening or are we resigned to the fate of a crow.

  9. andy says:

    A report in the Indian express had this to say in 2015,

    “The surrender of the dreaded Kashmiri militant Kuka Parray was a feather in Doval’s cap in the Nineties. Such was his acumen that, armed with terrorist psycho profiles, he was able to brainwash and persuade Parray and gang to become counter-insurgents. “He met Parray sometime in the 1990s and motivated him to help the government,” confides a serving intelligence operative who had seen action in Kashmir as a young man, refusing to divulge further details. Parray and his outfit Ikhwan-e-Muslimoon, neutralised top militant commanders in the Valley with the help of the Indian Army. Turning Parray was a political victory as well; the operation enabled the Centre to subsequently hold the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1996. Parray, who became an MLA, was killed in a terrorist ambush later. The official says then “New Delhi” was not certain Doval would succeed, being aware of the complex political situation. But, the coup earned him the respect of even his staunchest critics within the agency, who were advocating a peacenik policy with Pakistan-sponsored terror outfits. A master of psychological warfare, Doval’s role in several near-mythical exploits in Kashmir expanded from being just a ruthless spymaster to a master-strategist, who brought various separatists including Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah Maulvi Farooq, and even the hawkish pro-Pak SAS Geelani to the negotiating table. ”

    See http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/Return-of-the-Superspy/2014/06/08/article2265019.ece

    Now that he is NSA Ajit Doval, he is the right person to restart Kuka Parrey type counter insurgency operations.

  10. Nilesh Salunke says:

    Mr. Karnad , can you shed some light on Ex calibur rifle and why indian army rejected it ?

  11. S.T Thergill says:

    “Kashmir, like deterrence, is a mind game © ” I am sure you will find comfort in knowing that someone learned from your mistake regarding copyrighting quotes. Kashmir is to be won, psychologically. The current approach taken by India, despite how it is portrayed in the media , is out of the scripture of Buddhism – Middle Way.

    Why does the state not polarize the situation in which the adversary loses the will to fight? Why carry a stick and a carrot? It should be more like carry “Soma” in one hand , and an “Urumi” in the other. Give infrastructure, the best facilities, and opportunities to districts that cooperate and adhere to nationalistic ideals. Punish those, *harshly* (not by shooting) for those who take up arms against India.

    Reagan leveraged the holes in Communism to bring USSR down onto its knees. Please let us leverage Islam. Make the Muslim equivalent of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (tovp.org) , and open in to the public. Give them an Akshardam to go and pray too, and show good intent. Make that the symbol and center of gravity for those who have no malice towards India.

    India should also give punishments to those who commit crimes in Kashmir, as prescribed by the *Shari’ah law. They can not claim with legitimacy that these are barbaric punishments, because it is prescribed from the Quran, and Islam is central to their identity. If they do, they can bask in the irony/hypocrisy of their choices. Those who have made up their mind to carry out the freedom struggle through the medium of militancy, would probably be apathetic toward the dates+carrots. But what should not go unacknowledged by anyone in the valley is the contrast in the destination of the 2 paths.

    Right now the state is not giving the Kashmiris an incentive to swallow the Red Pill. “Often, the best and simplest deception is the presentation of the truth but in such a form that the adversary disbelieves it.”

  12. Venkat says:

    Finally the solution is within ourselves. The J&K government has not done anything in the last decades for education and generation of jobs through industries, other than tourism. Then sticking to outmoded article 370, means no accountability at all. So we have a whole generation of youngsters growing with skewed education and lack of what appreciation what modern life is. This first needs to change. This only J&K government can do .

  13. Pradeep Ullal says:

    These are alternate means. The source of this problem across the border(s) remains. To crush it the Indian state seems to be still grappling with its ability to step-up the escalation ladder and ensure its ability to win and/or deter both the neighbors. The Indian Military “might” lacks adequate strategic depth and it will take years to achieve that, if it happens at all.

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