Tuesday, 6 June 2017

What army is doing in Kashmir?

Army's role is primarily to secure frontiers from external threats and police to maintain internal law & order.
    • Kashmir valley's population is over 9 million of which 96% are Muslims. 60% of the Valley’s population is below the age of 30 with shrinking job avenues. 
    • Notwithstanding other achievements of Narendra Modi, Kashmir will be the scene of his biggest failure unless a dramatic breakthrough in the near future. Such a feat will justify J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's belief that only Modi can solve the state's problems.
    • The low polling percentage of 7% in last month's Srinagar parliamentary by-poll was a sign of the erosion of popular faith in the electoral process since 2014, when the assembly polls registered 66% voting, a 10% per cent jump from 2008.
    • Everyone is feeling choked because the political system has failed to deliver. After PDP tied up with the ultra-nationalist BJP, the space has shrunk even more for the youngsters who have gravitated towards militancy.
    • Today, the Army is a part of daily life in Kashmir. New generations of Kashmiris have grown up living next door to military camps while the army too has learnt more about dealing with the Valley. The army lives in the self-belief that it has won the hearts of people in insurgency-hit areas. 
    • Kashmir remains the most militarized zone in the world.
    • Anywhere between 6.5 lakh to 7.5 lakh [security personnel] are there in Jammu and Kashmir. If you take the Army’s total strength, half of it is there. 
    • The ground reality in Kashmir is that in 2013, 31 local youths joined militancy, the number for 2015 (till Sept) jumped to 66, according to police records.
    • In Kashmir, security forces are regularly targeted by militants to intimidate people and discourage local youngsters from joining the government forces that have been fighting insurgency that broke out in 1989 and has since killed more than 40,000 people.
    • The ratio of police to people is the highest in Kashmir, than any state. 
    • It is like a prison-like reality in Kashmir and expect its people to be silent.
    • There were only 150 militants in the state last year. Do we need 7 lakh soldiers to fight 150 militants?
    • The total number of militants killed in Kashmir since 1990 is 21,000. Of them, only 3,000 were foreign militants.
    • If people were told the truth that Kashmiris don’t want to be with India, and the struggle here is sustained by them primarily, and there is very limited external support – the public opinion in India too would change. 
    • Not to allow the public opinion to change, campaign about Pakistan-sponsored proxy war are told. Indian electronic media is a part of India’s military strategy in Kashmir.
    • The State Human Rights Commission said in an ongoing case that 570 people buried in the three districts in North Kashmir as foreign militants were later identified as local Kashmiris.
    • There are at least 8,000 families which claim their members disappeared over the last 25 years. 
    • Many Indian soldiers have raped Kashmiris. In the last 25 years, there have been hundreds of women who came forward to file cases of rape. It is very difficult to persuade them to file cases for fear reprisals from the Army. There are also issues of social stigma and non-deliverance of justice. 
    • Sexualised and gendered violence cases are about 7,000. This include boys being sodomized, male rapes as well. It would be very difficult to prove a rape. You can hardly call it sex with consent by sex workers, when someone has a gun in his hand and asks a woman to have sex, and she agrees.
    • So far there have been no conviction for encounter, rape, custodial killings, disappearances or torture in Kashmir.
    • Army using a ‘human shield’ tying a militant in front of Jeep, similar to that of LTTE using children as human shields, and later army justifying and commemorating this action further widens the alienation. This is in gross violation of human rights.
    • The utterances of senior BJP leaders are having a direct impact on the ground situation here. Beef was never an issue here and is hardly consumed but after the Haryana CM told Muslims they could live in India provided they stopped eating it, anger is growing and people are fearing the rise of the BJP. Muslims don’t fear death, rather prefer dying with honour rather than living a life of shame under oppression.
    • Despite Modi's earlier admonition, the saffron lobby's continuing opposition to inter-faith affairs and the description of Mughal emperors like Babur and Akbar as "invaders", as by UP CM Yogi Adityanath recently recalling the castigation of Muslims as unpatriotic "Babur ki aulad" (children of Babur) during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement further alienates Kashmiris.
    • The problem is essentially political. Financial packages announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi are not the balm people need. You cannot throw money at the problem. If you think Modi will come here and announce a package and people will forget, that’s not going to happen.
    • The appearance of schoolgirls on the streets to join the teenage boys to throwing stones at the security forces shows that the familial and social norms are breaking down.
    • Hemmed in by bunkers, curfews and frequent internet bans, people are searching for dignity and justice. The tragedy is that like in the past over two decades, neither Srinagar nor New Delhi is wising up to the new reality and looking beyond security perspectives.
    • The ground beneath Kashmir’s feet is indeed slipping.

    My View:
    Army can be used to conduct a specific operation in civilian areas similar to that of "Operation Steeplechase" to weed out Naxalites and "Operation Bluestar" to flush out militants from Golden Temple but it is the duty of politicians and police to establish normalcy and maintain law & order. Prolonged presence of Army in large numbers in Kashmir, while weeding out militants inflicts atrocities on civilians, and will only complicate the issue and alienation would be total and irreversible. The only solution is to make Kashmiris feel that they are equal citizens of the nation and engage them politically and economically, otherwise we may very well end up losing Kashmir and for Kashmiris it would be from frying pan to fire. 

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