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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 34 New Delhi August 11, 2018

Military and Common Public: Hope and Paradox in Kashmir

Sunday 12 August 2018

by Roohul Amin Malik

During the phase of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led collation with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir, the approach to deal with separatists like the Hurriyat, youth stone-pelters and militants had remained very much aggressive. No doubt, in their common minimum programme of alliance, it was mentioned to create an environ-ment of talks with all stakeholders in the Kashmir Valley. But, in practical terms there was something else. Many of the separatist leaders were under house-arrest and some of them were jailed too. A few of the leaders were raided by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The same was the case during the National Conference and Congress-led previous governments. The only difference, which is now marked, was the rise in the brutality of the armed forces towards the common masses. The Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) became the daily routine of the forces. The CASOs have not only made the social lives hell, but have also destroyed the economic properties as well.

Nowadays, the forces have gone to such an extent of brutality that they are used to destroy the properties of the common masses. It seems now that the forces are jealous with the economically well-off Kashmiri people. In many instances, it was reported that the forces did rapid search operations of houses and have looted jewellery, clothes, and some other important items of the common masses. Not only this, the forces have gone to such an extent as to ruthlessly damage the window panes, doors, kitchens, almirah, bathrooms, glass walls etc. of the houses. And, what is most condemnable is the killing of the common masses during the forces’ encounters with militants. The civilian killings have now become day-to-day news in the Kashmir Valley. The most disgusting thing is the BJP’s approach towards such incidents. They always praise the forces with sweet words like ‘our Jawans as military forces are doing a great job’. Even the current Home Minister of the BJP Government in India, Rajnath Singh, at times goes to such an extent by saying that ‘our Jawans have showed the courage to fight terrorism tooth and nail’. Without examining the issues as to who is a terrorist and why the educated youth of the Valley pick up the gun, they are by using the label of terrorism, doing genocide in Kashmir.

During the initial years of insurgency in Kashmir people were very afraid of the armed forces. However, the situation of fear was such that if an encounter or a crackdown by the forces happened in a village, people were leaving their houses and fleeing to nearby villages for their security. Everyone’s first priority was the security of life than other material things of property. A deep fear of the forces was in the people’s minds—that the Army will beat them up if they would get together during the crackdown. And, it is a fact that during the initial years of the insurgency, the common masses were beaten, tortured and sometimes kidnapped by the forces without any reason. However, when the level of oppression by the government forces grew, the common masses started revolting against the forces. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same happened in Kashmir: when the forces did much brutality on the masses, the masses got tired of the daily harassments and they started revolting against the forces.

In the recent scenario, when Army Chief Bipin Rawat displayed aggression some months ago, by warning the common masses not to indulge in activities falling within the domain of Army (he said that the “Army will treat those as culprits, who would interfere in their work”), his dominating attitude of the Army resulted in anger among the youth of the Valley, which is now before us. Whenever encounters, CASOs by the forces occur, the youth take the lead in helping the militants to rescue from those sites. They take part in the encounters without any fear of pellets and bullets coming from the other side. Moreover, with the rising number of civilian killings in Kashmir, the fear of the forces among the youth got diminished. It seems that the people in the Kashmir Valley are now tired of the daily harassments.

The youth have seen so much critical situation since their birth that they now hardly care for their lives. As, we have seen during the recent encounters, people get together near the encounter sites having stones in their hands and start fighting with the government forces. Thousands of people were injured with pellets as well as with bullets. Even hundreds of the people got killed during these stone-pelting incidents. Moreover, contradictions between the security forces and civilians have created many problems in the Kashmir Valley. Violence has taken such a dimension in society that people have now lost the hope of peace from the governments. While talking with the common masses as to why they support the militants the answers are quite common: the militants are their heroes and are fighting for their cause. The main problem lies here for the governments. All the governments till now have failed to win the hearts of the Kashmiri people. The governments try to dominate the Valley with the help of the forces. But, in reality it seems that the militants are gaining ground with every passing day.

The major concern that hurts everyone in Valley is the killing of the common masses. Whenever there are civilian killings in Kashmir, the situation turns from bad to worse. Due to the increasing number of civilian killings, the sentiments of the public are hurt in a very grave manner. The common masses are hurt more by the civilian killings than by the militant killings. Moreover, it’s easy to understand that militants have their own way of dealing with the military. No doubt, it also hurts the public, when the militants are being killed. However, a common consciousness emerges among the masses that does not differentiate between a militant and a civilian.

Due to the growing violence the youth, who should have been in the universities, colleges and schools, are now on the roads. As, we have seen for the last few years, the education system of the Valley has been mostly disturbed due to the curfews, hartals and bandhs. If this culture of students coming on the roads is not brought to an end, it would be very dangerous for the Valley as well as for India. There is a beautiful phrase uttered by someone that “if you want to change the society, change its youth” and that change is possible only when we create an environment where the youth can carry out their curricular and co-curri-cular activities, where it is easy to get education than to be a stone-pelter. So, the need of the hour is to create such an environment in the Valley where the education of the youth would not be disturbed. The governments either at the State or Central level can’t always blame Pakistan and separatists responsible for the lock down. The governments too are responsible for the bloodshed and increasing violence. My submission is that the forces have to stop the killings of civilians in the Kashmir Valley. Otherwise, it would not be easy to stop the youth from coming on the roads and joining the militant ranks. Genocide has no logic. Civilian killings matter!

The author is a Ph.D Research Candidate at the Centre for International Politics, School of International Studies in the Central University of Gujarat.

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