I start with apologies to the Hollywood classic whose name I have quietly appropriated here. No title was more appropriate for this article. I stand guilty, as charged.
This article is about how Kashmir is nourished by conspiracy theories. It is also about my personal experiences in dealing with Pakistanis who follow me on Twitter and Facebook. They are understandably upset. I must admit that I do say things, which would be considered extreme even by their country’s very violent standards.
Pakistanis, who correspond with me frequently, come in all shapes and sizes. Most are downright hostile and abusive. That’s okay. I must be doing something right. Then there are those who look down upon me (and us), and say things like “You black Indians don’t even have toilets. Why did you send a mission to Mars?”
Then there is the minuscule minority; polished, humble and exceptionally well spoken. They hate me but they express themselves so well that I often look forward to their beautifully articulated candyfloss.
A couple of them are 24-carat “Aman ki Asha” types. They are forever happy and positive. The heavens may fall but they are cheerful, without exception. Lata Mangeshkar, RD Burman, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are their icons; they are being kind and this is all said in the spirit of brotherhood.
All of them wonder aloud why I say things that I say. Why I write what I write. Who in his right mind openly calls for targeted assassination of Pakistani Army officers? Have I completely lost my marbles?
Here are a few sample questions from across the border, and my responses.
Q: Are you on RAW payroll? Does RAW pay you to spew venom against us?
A: I wish they paid me. You should speak to RAW about this. They take everything coming from Pakistan seriously.
Q: Does the Indian Army pay you to write against Pakistan?
A: I wish they paid me. But don’t speak to them about this. They take nothing coming out of Pakistan seriously.
Q: You claim to be from the so-called great Indian Army but you never respond to certain uncomfortable questions. Are you running away from the truth?
A: You are welcome to make fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook and troll me but will you please stop saying your name is Gurpreet Singh Subramaniam? It doesn’t work that way.
Q: Aren’t you scared that we will find you and kill you?
A: I live in NOIDA. I am already scared.
Q: The “brave” Indian Army wouldn’t be the same without Sikhs, right?
A: Right. But then East Pakistan wouldn’t have been Bangladesh without the Sikhs either.
This comedy goes on and on. It’s a never-ending spectacle.
I very rarely troll Pakistanis. It is a “rarest of the rare” cases in which I respond to them. My target is their army…why involve myself with individuals?
Trolling Pakistan is an acquired taste. It has nothing to do with hate. The kind of material you get from there would gift a stable career to a rampaging herd of stand-up comics. They don’t do it deliberately. The construct of their nationhood is built upon false imagery and stories of some testosterone fuelled young warlord who invaded Sindh but was called back by his Sultan, suitably packed and stitched in Ox hide; something to do with two women and their chastity. I am not making this up. Half of Pakistan believes that their nation was “invented” by Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 AD. Invented, mind you. Not discovered, created or even formed. Invented. Just like Edison and the bulb.
Anyway, I digress. We were talking about India and Pakistan.
This blind hatred for the other is built on lies and coated in fiction. The people of Pakistan, at least the vast clueless majority, have no idea where the brakes of their roller coaster ride are. Truth is that there are no brakes. It’s a nation in free-fall.
I don’t hate the common Pakistani because it is difficult to hate someone who has lost his compass bearings. The real crooks are the Pakistan Army, a vast criminal enterprise that rules the unfortunate 200 million luckless souls under a nuclear overhang and some Mickey Mouse story about Kashmir.
Pakistan was created as a safe haven for India’s Muslims. It was a place where they would find true meaning of a moderate and considerate version of Islam. It would be a garden of peace. Between 2006 and 2016, over 25,300 people were killed in Karachi. Over 99.7% who were killed were Muslims. Other Muslims killed them. In this “garden of peace”, human life is cheaper than free.
Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar are merely the symptoms. The disease is the Pakistan Army, and its shadowy stepson, the ISI. You can keep killing terrorists in Kashmir and it will never end terrorism. Terror in Kashmir does not emanate from Srinagar. Its roots are in Rawalpindi.
Again, I digress.
Trolling Pakistan is like fine single malt. You sip it and gently roll it around your tongue. Lagavulin 25 years, distiller’s edition. Truth be told, I find it a little pungent. I did tell you it’s an acquired taste.
Pakistanis on social media find it impossible to counter logic with data. They are far better at tracing the antecedents of their rival’s female relatives, in chaste Punjabi.
They also spend a considerable amount of time spinning yarns that Indians find so difficult to believe that they don’t counter them, simply because it’s just not worth the effort. Take the example of the Pakistani refrain that there are 700,000 Indian troops in Kashmir to subjugate the local population. Kashmiri separatists have picked it up and are busy quoting this number. Not one Pakistani or Kashmiri separatist stopped to check. Facts are not their strong suite. You may ask where they got this figure of 700,00 troops from. Actually, nowhere.
You may cry hoarse that the troops deployed in J&K are actually less than half that number and are deployed to guard the 760 kms long Line of Control, the border with China in Ladakh and also the Siachen Glacier, but your arguments will fall on deaf years. You may tell them that any number above 270,000 troops defies all logic and simply cannot be supported, but who is listening? Indian Army stands at 1.2 million strong. Would any army put over 60% of its manpower to “control” Kashmir, and leave all other borders unguarded?
Kunan Poshpora has achieved mythical proportions on social media. Many Pakistanis will tell you, suitably fire-supported by some Kashmiris, that Indian Army soldiers raped all the women of this village. The truth is that Kunan Poshpora never happened. It was a product of the ISI’s psy ops desk. Independent Human Rights groups have concluded that Kunan Poshpora is fiction.
Yes, there have been rapes and human rights violations in Kashmir. The Indian Army has court-martialed many officers and soldiers and put them in prison. But it is also true that anywhere in the world, false human rights cases are the first defence of sections of the population that is poisoned by outsiders against the army. It is very easy to cry “disappeared” but a close look at the facts will shock you.
A decade back, a local Kashmiri newspaper published the names of 55 persons who they said had been “disappeared” by the Indian Army. On closer investigation, it was found that 3 boys had run away to stay with friends in Delhi and Mumbai because they had failed in Class XII exams, and feared their parent’s wrath. A few were married across the LoC and simply crossed over to PoK to become “wealth managers” to their in-laws. Some got into trouble with the local police and went across.
Kashmiri separatists will say that thousands of people have been made to “disappear” by the Indian Army. Ask for names and specifics and you will deal with much hemming and hawing. They like to throw big numbers. And NONE of the so-called numbers are backed up by facts. It is all invention of a highly fertile mind. Pakistanis conjure up these numbers out of thin air. And they know that local Kashmiris will never question these numbers. As long as these numbers feed into this fake sense of contrived victimhood, they are accepted as true.
For example, if a Pakistani says that 100,000 innocent Kashmiris have been killed, just ask him the names and addresses of just 1000 (one thousand). You will meet a blank wall. Then reduce it further to 500. Then look out for his reaction. Want to have some fun? Okay…250. Keep pressing for hard facts. Zilch is what you will get.
You enter a house during cordon & search, looking for a local Lashkar commander and in a few hours, you have an FIR filed against a soldier for molestation.
Anyone can file an FIR. Some enterprising young man will take a copy of the FIR and circulate it on social media. Pakistani trolls will join in. Suddenly, a fake case will become the truth. If two terrorists have been killed in an encounter, the easiest thing to do is take an image from the Syrian war and Photoshop it. Suddenly you have “mass graves” being discovered in Kashmir. All that needs to be done is to circulate that image in downtown Srinagar with the caption “mass graves found in the forests of Kupwara”. That’s all. A fabricated image becomes the truth, and part of the urban legend that Kashmir will thrive on for the next week, till the next Photoshop image goes viral.
Conspiracy theories are the staple diet in Kashmir. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has been easily explained on social media. One day, Jagmohan, the then Governor of Jammu & Kashmir sent a secret message to all Kashmiri Pandits that they should leave the Valley so that killing all the Kashmiri Muslims would become easier. Overnight, all KPs left Kashmir. Just like that. Any relation to CIA and Mossad asking all Jews not to report for work on the morning of 9/11 is purely coincidental. Kashmir is sustained by weird conspiracy theories.
Sometimes the conspiracies are so crazy that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Lt. Umar Fayaz was killed by Indian Army to discredit the Kashmiris. RAW has poisoned the water so that all the males become infertile and the men, impotent. Indian intelligence agencies started braid chopping to terrorize Kashmiris. Its like you are down the rabbit hole…Alice in Wonderland.
The problem is that a vast majority of Kashmiris believe this nonsense. They have grown up on it. For them its like milk and cookies.
Pakistan knows this. They know the Kashmiri proclivity for fantasy and conspiracy theories. The ISI has a BPO center staffed with writers, social media experts, content developers, hackers and a small army of e-soldiers that do nothing but create fake content out of thin air, for Kashmir. Most of the stuff they produce is low quality, but sometimes they come up with gems. Last time they came up with an exceptional product was when they showed Indian celebrities with deformed faces, marked with pellet gunshots. It was a great marketing campaign. That it was based on half-truth escaped everyone’s attention.
Pellet guns are far less lethal than real bullets. But such brouhaha has been created over their use that now the CRPF will soon be using rubber bullets in Kashmir. Many Kashmiri separatists used to ask, “Why don’t you use pellet guns in Haryana or other parts of India?” Well, it seems the government has used worse. Over 34 people were killed in the Dera Sacha Sauda inspired violence in Panchkula. There were no rubber bullets used.
I want Kashmiris to ask real world questions that Pakistan has special hatred for. For example, when a people are systematically butchered, tortured and subjected to genocide, an exodus is triggered. In 8BC, the Jews were subjected to terrible persecution and this started the Galut, or exile. They left the Land of Israel, only to roam the earth for over two thousand years without a home. Fourteen hundred years ago in 622 AD, when the tribe of Quresh conspired to murder Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) during Islam’s earliest years in Mecca, the Prophet led the migration of Muslims to Medina. It was at Medina that the first mosque was built. Closer to the present day, we see Syrians and Rohingya Muslims mass migrating to other countries. This proves that when people are faced with torture, oppression and genocide, they flee to save their lives.
East Pakistanis (Bengalis) did it in the years leading to the 1971 war. They streamed into India in millions, triggering a conflict. Kashmiri Pandits fled the Kashmir Valley because they were being raped and butchered.
Why is there no migration of Kashmiri Muslims from the Valley? And Farooq Abdullah spending six months in London every year does not count.
I have very simple advise for young Indians on social media. Don’t get into arguments with Pakistani trolls. Most of them have fake IDs with Kashmiri names. They are paid to troll. You can’t convince them with logic, because if they are convinced, their payment stops. Ignore them. That’s what I do. Just treat them like they don’t exist. And keep hammering Pakistan.
It is a very rare Pakistani that has visited Kashmir legally. He gets his daily “Kashmir dose” from YouTube, WhatsApp and the odd Pakistani rag masquerading as a national daily. That’s why it’s impossible to fight him with logic. He has no clue what that animal is.
It is important to consistently and constantly put out our narrative on social media and keep exposing the lies that Pakistan’s social media machinery churns out.
It is not just the army’s job to fight. Its high-time all of us started to do our bit.
We are the guardians of India’s e-frontiers.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#IndianArmy #adgpi #ConspiracyTheory #MajorGauravArya