Brutalizing Kashmir

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Since the botched polling of April 9 in Srinagar parliamentary constituency, which witnessed unprecedented violence—8 civilian deaths and dozens wounded with a mere 7% turnout—disturbing videos of security forces atrocities have been making rounds in Kashmir. Three videos of army and paramilitary personnel beating up youth and forcing them to shout anti-Pakistan slogans and another video showing a Kashmir youth tied with the bonnet of an army vehicle to shield soldiers from the stone-pelters, is outrageous, despicable and inhuman by every standard. Using humans as shield in whatsoever situation is against the accepted international law. The worst of it is that the violators of this law justified their action saying that this helped save human lives as they, otherwise, would have to fire at their imaginary attackers which could have caused deaths. The man strapped to the jeep in the video was Farooq Ahmad Dar, a resident of Beerwah, and that the clip was shot at Gundipora in Budgam, around 10 kilometers away. Some other vehicles of the army including a bus ferrying force personnel were following the vehicle to which Farooq was tied to. While the tied youth was being paraded through the villages some of the force personnel was heard shouting that those "who would indulge in the stone pelting" would meet the same fate. Army claimed that the man tied to the bonnet of the jeep was a stone-pelter forcing people not to cast their votes. However, independent investigations have revealed that the man had himself cast his vote and was not even remotely connected with any sort of mischief. In another video, four army personnel are seen catching hold of student from Pulwama Degree College, pinning him to the ground and thrashing him with stick and boots. In yet another shocking video, three youth, who seem to be under army custody in a vehicle, are forced by a soldier to abuse Pakistan and shout slogans like "Pakistan murdabad". "Azaadi chahiyay tum ko (do you want freedom)?" the soldier is seen asking the youth before slapping them and hitting them with a stick. Blood is seen oozing from the forehead of one of the youths in the army vehicle. Earlier, a video showing some local youth thrashing some CRPF men in some Budgam village had caused uproar all across India. The video dominated TV news channels with day-long debates on the issue. The police immediately went into action and arrested five persons allegedly involved in thrashing of CRPF men. However, no action has been taken against the soldiers involved in beating and using civilians as human shield. Beyond some customary notes like “we are examining the veracity of the video. CM sought report on the video”, no substantial action has been taken so far. It appears that the soldiers and others forces personnel have been given free hand to deal with the dissenters in Kashmir. Though it is not something new as the central forces covered under AFSPA have been operating in Kashmir with complete impunity but the incumbent Modi government has seemingly went a step further in brutalizing Kashmir. The valley has been on boil since July last year after the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani. Around 115 persons have been killed and more than 15000 wounded, hundreds jailed since then. But this has little helped in controlling the anger in the streets. It rather helped grow anger.
As the things stand, the anger in Kashmir grows in proportion to the force used by the government. It is very disturbing as the situation in Kashmir is assuming dangerous proportions. The Modi government must take note of the fact that the harsher he goes, the situation would become more complicated. It is time shun the belligerence and acknowledge the ground reality and try a different approach of reconciliation.

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