Stone-pelting mobs and Pellet-firing jawans
by Naveen Kaul on 05 Aug 2016 5 Comments
As violence continues in the Kashmir valley, the security forces are having a tough time to bring the situation under control. On the ground, they are braving against violent mobs throwing stones and aiming to kill and off-the ground they are graciously defending a barrage of criticism from bleeding-heart liberals, a corrupt political class, and NGOs with vested interests. The Army is being unduly criticized for disproportionate use of force.


The one-sided media coverage has added fuel to the fire and portrayed security forces as villains. There is a widespread clamour for restraint and use of non-lethal weapons by the security forces. This forced Home Minister Rajnath Singh to issue a statement in Parliament that pellet guns would be discarded and alternatives sought. 


The malicious campaign even forced CRPF DG K Durga Prasad to publicly apologize for the injuries. The security forces are under tremendous pressure and never before have they been made to feel so helpless.


From time to time, we can see one or other group of people advocating amendment of laws and expecting highest standards of behavior from security personnel posted in the Valley.  


However, very few in this country know that the Army has consistently tried to redefine itself in the Valley. Every action is aimed at winning hearts and minds in the Valley. Alas, all such efforts have not been able to change the hearts of people whose only aim is to balkanize this nation as they consider India as an enemy state and have no value for Army Jawans. Such people write on their walls, “Indian dogs go back” and take glee in posting pictures of drowning Army persons on social media. Ironically, the drowning Jawans were there to save the Kashmiris from floods that hit the valley in 2014.


It is necessary to put things in perspective. Usually the Army defends borders, provides aid to victims of calamities, and helps in counter-insurgency operations. But in Kashmir it has extended its mandate to indulge in development activities and assist Kashmiris in realizing their professional dreams. The Army has been running schools and orphanages, constructing roads and bridges, installing hand pumps and electrifying villages. Free medical camps, excursions, and educational tours are also organized on a regular basis.


The Army today runs 46 Army Goodwill Schools in J&K and renders assistance on regular basis to state government-run schools in remote areas through renovation, construction of additional class rooms, libraries, toilets, sports facilities, etc.


Kashmir Super-30 program launched by the Indian Army along with the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility is an 11-month free residential coaching for students belonging to the underprivileged section of society, wherein they are given free food, accommodation and mentored by experienced faculties for IIT and other premier engineering institutes. Many students have successfully cracked the IIT exam with the said assistance. Many children from the State are studying in institutions outside the State through scholarship programs facilitated by the Army.


The Army recently launched Kashmir Premier League on the lines of Indian Premier League to help Kashmiri Muslims hone their cricketing skills. These are just some of the social initiatives launched by the Army in the Valley.


In contrast to the good work done by the Army, what has Pakistan or its agents done for Kashmiri Muslims except push their children into Jihad while sparing their own children? Why do educated, English-speaking, affluent Muslims occupying high posts in the state government refuse to serve in far-flung areas of J&K? Army Jawans serve there with no questions asked. Such is the sense of duty among people who wear uniform.


Is love for Kashmiris restricted to throwing stones and organizing protests, and giving calls for election boycott? Every right thinking individual should ask why there are two sets of mourning in Kashmir today. Whenever a militant is killed in an encounter, people come out on the streets and hold violent protests. They beat their chests and show their grief. But when terrorists kill someone among them, there is no protest against the militants and there is no mass mourning.


So we can see that Army has evolved in Kashmir. Those opposed to the Army too have evolved. In the early years, they lured men to throw stones. Now, teenagers are mixed with adults to throw stones. This puts the Army in a fix. If they fire below the knees (which they are supposed to do), it will injure teenagers, and if they fire above the knees it will injure fully grown adults. So the dilemma is where to fire the pellet bullets.


Increasingly, women are being used to form human chains to thwart arrests of suspected militants. A friend serving in Army was once bitten in the arm by women when he tried to arrest a suspected militant. It is easy to say that the Army should show restraint, but the result of the tussle helped the terrorist to escape.


Political class and intellectuals


Now let us examine the response of the Indian political class to the present crisis. The Panthers Party, a small party based in Jammu, is busy these days taking out protests in Jammu against the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to protect Amarnath yatris (Hindu pilgrims visiting the holy cave). They claim to be supporters of Jammu region.


But it is time to remind them that this is not the first time Amarnath yatris have been attacked. It has been going on for several years. It happened consistently when the Congress and National Conference were in power. If they are so concerned about the people of Jammu, why don’t they attack the PDP, NC, and Congress who have always discriminated against the people of Jammu?


This is not to suggest that BJP should be immune to criticism, but to highlight the fact that the Panthers Party actually wants to wrestle political space from the BJP in Jammu and is not concerned about the welfare of Hindus. Other political parties in the country behave in the same manner. The case has been cited to highlight the behavior of Hindus. Imagine what would be the response of political parties in India if Muslims are stopped from performing the annual Haj pilgrimage.


Just a few months back, there was a hue and cry when Hindu nationalists said that people have to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. Intellectuals argued that no one should be forced to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. The same intellectuals maintain silence when Hindu pilgrims are beaten up in the Valley and forced to chant Pakistan Zindabad. The plain observation is that Hindus will fight among themselves, but not raise a finger against wrong-doing of Muslims.


Indian government


The response of the Indian Government, irrespective of the party in power, is equally disturbing. For the past several years, the Indian government has been pushing funds into the Valley to buy temporary peace. As the epicenter of protests is mainly concentrated in cities and towns, it shows that it is the elite class that is mainly responsible for organizing protests. The dwellers of these cities receive most of the funds and grants and yet are dissatisfied. This is not to suggest that there is no anti-India sentiment in villages, but villages lack the wherewithal to mobilize international opinion. It is separatists who have all the time and facilities to write letters and shoot emails to envoys to intervene in Kashmir affairs.


Trying to placate adversaries with monetary assistance is counter-productive and sends wrong signals to the masses. Muslims in Jammu region too are increasingly looking towards Kashmiri Muslims for inspiration. The common talk among Muslim youth of Jammu is that Kashmiri Muslims are bold. They don’t fear army or police. It is good that they pelt stones on forces. It is because of such actions that Government solves their issues and gives priority to them. Though Kashmiri Muslims receive most of the benefits, it is because of them that Muslims of Doda, Poonch, Rajouri etc. also receive some benefits. It is time to emulate Kashmiri Muslims to get benefits. One cannot simply ignore these remarks; they could be considered as the beginning of the disease that may one day engulf not only whole of J&K, but entire India.


Muslims of Jammu may not be as rich as Kashmiri Muslims, but they too are financially sound and definitely far better than Hindus at least in Doda, Bhaderwah, Poonch, Rajouri and these regions of Jammu too are infested with militancy.


So the crisis in Kashmir does not emanate from poverty and unemployment as is being made out by many. The problem lies elsewhere. It is beyond comprehension why our politicians fail to see an open display of communalism in J&K when most of them claim that secularism is an article of faith for them. 

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