New Delhi: The August 9 riots at Kishtwar in Jammu, dubbed as 'communal', were actually another bid by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at orchestrating ethnic cleansing in the northern 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 (VDCs) to clear the way for ethnic cleansing," Maj Gen (retd) GD Bakshi, whose book 'Kishtwar Cauldron: The Struggle Against ISI's Ethnic Cleansing' just hit the stands said on Sunday.
"It is the first phase of a diabolical move by the ISI to further carry out its agenda of ethnic cleansing in Jammu and Kashmir," he added.
Kishtwar riots an ISI bid at ethnic cleansing: Defence expert
On August 9, three people died when a group of people, raising anti-national slogans after the Eid prayers, was attacked by another section of people in Kuleed area of Kishtwar.
The Army was later called out to help the district administration and indefinite curfew remained clamped for 13 days.
According to Bakshi, after ISI-inspired militants drove out the Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir valley, the Pakistani agency has next set its sights on the Dogra population in the mountainous districts of Doda and Kishtwar.
The ethnic cleansing being sponsored by the ISI is one aspect of the terror operations being carried out that has escaped public notice completely, Bakshi avers.
"In February and March 1990, (the now defunct) JKLF (Jammu & 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 of Kashmir," Bakshi said.
"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, some 140,000 to 160,00 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 from the valley.
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 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.
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 (BSF) battalions were withdrawn.
Immediately thereafter, in 1996, a total of 39 Dogras were killed in separate incidents.
This persecution against Dogras continued till 2001 claiming scores of lives, according to 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 (LeT) 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 ~~amp;amp; Kashmir and also gives the doctrinal overview of such operations.
"Pakistan's recent peace overtures (to India) are quite apparently designed to get a free hand on its western front - to decisively influence the outcome in Afghanistan," Bakshi writes in the post-script of the book, adding that the withdrawal of the US-led troops from Afaghanistan in 2014 will cast a shadow over the whole of the south Asian region.
"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~~amp;amp;K and even the rest of India for a final phase of the Gazhuwa - the civilisational conflict to dismember India," he states.