Last Sunday when I logged into the Facebook, it came up with my memory of the year 2010. It was an article titled “The Stubborn Delhi” which I had written for my column, Kashmir First, in Greater Kashmir. Somehow the software in the Facebook seemed to have very good intelligence as the article was very much relevant to the present conditions! I quote some passages which seem to apply even to the present, “There is absolutely no doubt that Delhi had blindfolded itself and was groping in the dark for quite sometime. However, the recent happenings in Kashmir were projected extensively in the media which pointed out that the problem was beyond the reach of the politicians both in Srinagar and Delhi……The life has been held hostage both by the security forces trying to impose curfew and by angry youth who refuse to take diktats from any one. Over 50 young persons have been killed. Hundreds have been injured. Government properties are being torched in all parts as a matter of revenge. Leadership of all hues and shades within Kashmir and from outside has become totally irrelevant. People all over the valley are highly charged and emotional. They seem to have become totally immune to reason and logic. Such a situation occurs only when things have gone beyond the point of tolerance. It is virtually impossible to stem such a tide. When people lose total fear of death and defy the strictest ever curfews, things are beyond management and need bold political decisions to cool the tempers”. “Almost all the right thinking persons from the civil society have been pleading for immediate steps to defuse the dangerous situation. However, very strangely Delhi is showing absolute stubbornness in handling the present crisis in Kashmir. Instead they are only increasing the amount of brutal suppression with every passing day”.
It seems as if the passage had been written for the present situation even though it is much worse. Delhi continues to be as stubborn as ever and has now become blood thirsty! It is more than a month that the entire valley has been under curfew. More than 60 persons have been killed. Thousands have been injured. Hundreds, including young children, have been blinded by pellets. People are caught between the shutdown calls and the continuous curfew.
It is a total siege. Everything is shut. Even the Central Government offices, Banks, Post Offices, Schools, and Colleges are all shut. There appears to be total absence of any administrative machinery. The situation has been compounded by total break in communications. Internet has been shut, so have been the mobile phones and for some days even the local newspapers. One can only imagine the inconvenience caused to patients especially those requiring continuous chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments. Most pathetic is the suffering of the specially challenged children who used to be daily looked after in various facilities. Hospitals are overloaded and the staff highly over worked while treating the casualties of extreme brutality.
As the Panthers Party Chief Bhim Singh observed in the Supreme Court of India, Kashmiris are being shot like pigeons. To sprinkle salt on the wounds of Kashmiris, the Solicitor General of India informed the court that the situation is fast returning to normal. There can not be anything more misleading or hypocritical than this. There have been reports that Sopore has been handed over to Army and the Chief Minster has been meeting Army Commanders for assistance. Reportedly, Army is being given a bigger role in administering the State! However, in the Commanders’ meeting with the Chief Minister, they had said they cannot come on their own and the State Government will have to ask for their assistance. The State Government headed by Mehbooba Mufti reportedly has already done it!
A bigger role for the Army in the administration? There cannot be a bigger joke than that in the context of the earlier role of the Army since the inception of militancy in nineties! The extensive counter insurgency operations conducted in the civilian areas since the onset of the armed uprising had given many blots on the role of the Army. The Kunnan Poshpora, the Pathribal, the Chitisinghpora, the Machel encounter, the disappearances, the mass graves and a host of other actions had projected the Army as a colonial force keeping Kashmiris within India by brute force. In fact, the international media including BBC have projected Kashmir as the most militarized area in the world with over seven hundred thousand troops deployed all over including the borders.
The dark side of the Army role has been vividly described in the book, “The Blood on My Hands”, outlining confessions of some army officers, written by Kishalay Bhattacharjee. Army has been trying its best to improve relationship with civilians through “Sadbhavana” programs. Bringing them back to face people would totally nullify that!
Incidentally, the present ruler started her political career by demanding the lessening of the role of the Army! She began with the slogan of the “Healing Touch”, which was meant to lessen the role of the Army. She had demanded sending back of the troops to the barracks, removal of bunkers in civilian areas, disbanding of the J & K Police Task Force and the withdrawal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) which gave total immunity to the security forces.
There were many allegations regarding the misuse of this immunity. Nothing can be more ironic than this reversal ofthe earlier widely touted popular demand of lessening the role of the Army and that toosimply to save one’s chair! One can only hope and pray that the siege ends on a positive note provided Delhi gives up its stubbornness!
Mohammad Ashraf, IAS (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir