Kashmiris need to be heard

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Central government’s power-driven Kashmir policy is only but deteriorating the situation further. The anger and alienation of the people is increasing in proportion to the force the security forces are using against the local population. Is it paucity of ideas or the mindset problem that government looks only at uniformed people to save situation for them in Kashmir. More and more forces are pushed in to control the situation. Over the past three months, the government has set up dozens of security formations in the far and wide of the valley to deal with the restive situation. The setting of up new military camps in rural areas is adding to the garrisoned image of Kashmir. In Shopian district alone, almost six new army formations have been set up in the past two months. As if it was not enough, only recently army set up a huge base at Chillipora village in the district. Shopian, in terms of area and population, is the smallest district of the valley. It consists of just two assembly segments—Shopian and Wachi. Around a dozen security camps already existed there in the district. Setting up many more military camps has turned the district into a complete military garrison. New security formations have been set up in other parts of the valley as well. This gives the sense that the government has not learned anything from its past experience. Fanning out army and men of other security agencies is not new in Kashmir. Since 1990 when militancy erupted, almost seven lakh soldiers of regular army and paramilitary forces have been deployed in Kashmir to counter the insurgency. Though the militancy was curtailed to certain extent but it could not be curbed completely. Many army commanders (former) are on record to have said that “army can only contain militancy but it cannot end it up. There is a need for serious political outreach to make Kashmir peaceful”. Only recently the incumbent army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat was also heard raising similar voice. This is the most plausible thing one can expect from reasonable minds. Kashmir, in essence, is a political problem. It cannot be wished away. If left unresolved it will keep returning as a crisis with increased intensity. Militancy and military approach are the outcome of delay in resolving the issue politically. Government of India should have learnt from the past experience where military action not only failed to restore peace but worked as igniting force to add to the trouble. The tension in Kashmir rose to new heights after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. For the soldiers, it was a routine operation and killing of a militant commander a common thing. But how it proved counter-productive could be understood from the fact that even chief minister Mahbooba Mufti lamented his killing and said that Burhan Wani could have been captured alive. Burhan was not the first militant leader to have been killed. But his death was indeed first to provoke such a public convulsion. What makes things worse is the arbitrary use of power by the men in uniform while dealing with common people. Unfortunately armed forces have public approval from the government to use any method to deal with common people. The indiscriminate use of pellets and bullets, which left more than a hundred dead and thousands wounded and blinded, is the outcome of government’s ‘free-hand’ policy in Kashmir. The savage killing of three civilians by army at Ganowpora in Shopian is the outcome of the impunity armed forces get while operating in Kashmir. Entire security and political establishment rose in support of the erring Major under whose command the Gaowpora killings took place. Similarly another army officer Major Gagoi was protected and rewarded when he violated all norms of humanity and civility by tying a hapless Kashmir youth to his jeep in Budgam in April last year. As the things stand now, BJP, as party, could be a gainer but it is ultimately India that loses out on Modi’s extremist positioning. It is a violent experiment that is destined not only to fail but complicate the matters further.

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