Force, no change

As if Kashmir is passing through mid nineties  of armed struggle, with over fifty thousand militants having established their ‘liberated zones’, clean sweeping the writ of government and forcing pro Indian political groups to nestle in outside state. And the impression created is that it is only Indian army that can salvage Kashmir.

 Listen, watch and observe the propaganda blitzkrieg launched by Indian media, in particular news channels and the  communalist BJP. Defence forces too have joined the course. Although officials in army and police have , time and again, (we have lost the count) admitted that militancy stands almost defanged and number of militants have reduced to a petty 400, yet the perverted logic played is that Pakistan ISI’s hand is behind the present mass uprising. Quite brazenly Indian people are fed on lies and are deliberately misled. Hideously every muck that Delhi has piled  up through its own hands in Kashmir is spread on the doors of Islamabad. Even when pro-Indian political groups, who always  act as Trojan horses for India in lieu of political fortunes, admit that it is spontaneous movement raised by Kashmiris and nourished by blood, any initiative taken holding army accountable is  willfully played as a ‘psychological pressure by Pakistan’ a ‘trap laid by Islamabad’, to ‘weaken the resolve of Indian state’.

 What was that `special’ chief minister of J&K was lobbying hard for in Delhi. What had PM, HM and Congress president assured him of? The “Eid Gift” that Delhi seemed to give Kashmiris centred on ‘partial withdrawal’ of army from four districts a, Srinagar, b, Budgam, c, Jammu and d, Udhampur . Some other peripheral sops related to economy and employment.

Before Cabinet Committee on Security would arrive on consensus in regard to Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), the draconian law that virtually gives impunity to troops and makes them unaccountable before courts, Congress made it clear that Congress-led UPA government was not in favor of diluting the provisions of the dreaded law. Congress spokesman Manoj Tiwari in a panel discussion on the Times Now news channel (13  September) anchored by Arnob Goswami, who sounds more like a lumpen on the screen than an anchor on the panel, emphatically negated the impression  that UPA government was in favor of any dilution in the AFSPA.
He drew a distinction between partial withdrawal of forces and dilution. He argued that ‘government cannot dilute the act (AFSPA) without Parliament approval and ‘partial withdrawal of army from a particular area can take place if that area is not disturbed and when the three hour long debate on AFSPA concluded Goswami thumped the ‘consensus’. ‘Army has to stay with full powers in face of grave provocation, no time for dilution, time for government to act together.

 The moot question is if even from militancy-free areas partial withdrawal of forces evokes such a strong reaction, does it not reflect the general perception that it is only because of  Indian Army that Kashmir is fastened in the groove of Indian union. And that defines the role of Indian Army. Fighting gun-wielding militants could have been a plea for calling army but when areas stand sanitized and roar of gun has since long been replaced by peaceful means of struggle, insistence on staying of army with unbridled powers gives the Indian Army an authority to crush. That is there to jam the nerves of dissent and force people into submission.

 Army’s role is to defend the borders. Delhi called on Army after militancy erupted and parliament passed the act declaring Kashmir and some areas in Jammu as ‘disturbed areas’. Now when the basic premise that warranted Indian government to press in services of Army has outlived its purposes,  there is absolutely no role for her to continue with its over-stretched presence in civilian areas. After all what prevents India to pull back its troops into barracks and allow people of Kashmir to  breathe in a de-militarized atmosphere.

 Demilitarization does not mean purging soil of Kashmir from Indian troops. It is just relieving Kashmiris from their domineering presence. If suppose tomorrow militancy resurfaces – of which there is no immediate threat, and in sporadic militant incidents it is police and para military force that at present takes them on – what  would impede Delhi to  call on army back? Relying heavily on Army puts India in the light of a  colonial power.

Shankar Sharma participating in panel discussion on AFSPA has rightly remarked as army in India is under the civilian control. ‘Foregrounding’ army’s position will have dangerous implications. He said implicit in insistence on AFSPA has the assumption that ‘we hold Kashmir by armed forces’. And when all the three service chiefs go on the same page and oppose any ‘dilution’ in AFSPA and advocate ‘legal protection’ to Armed forces operating in Kashmir, there is no mistaking the fact that Indian forces are becoming more assertive in ‘foregrounding’ their position more resolutely.

 Under tremendous pressure from media, BJP and army, the CCS failed to evolve on a consensus with regard to AFSPA. The UPA government did not go through its earlier decision that Omar Abdullah has been assured of. It decided to take all parties on board on such an ‘emotional’ issue. That is another way of going back on the commitment.

 Political leadership in India is groping in the dark. Manmohan Singh could not have his own CCS endorse for what he and Home Minister Chidambaram have expressed their minds on. Even Congress leaders have spoken in multiple voices. Defence Minister A K Antony favored keeping intact holy-book sanctity of the AFSPA.

 Just when I am writing these lines, the all parties meet, as was expected, scuttled the issue of AFSPA. It left it untouched as there was no consensual opinion among the parties regarding its partial withdrawal not to speak of its dilution or revocation. Dr Manmohan Singh stated that his government was under no pressure to dilute AFSPA. That reveals the mood of New Delhi.

So it is crystal clear when it is Kashmir communalists, secularists, Marxists all join together. They make a determined effort to have a ‘united nationalist approach’ in having Kashmir get ‘integrated’ with India. That explains  in the heart of their hearts they are reconciled to jackboot strategy to Kashmir, notwithstanding that such approach might dent the democratic credibility of State India.

 The knee-jerk reaction on ‘partial withdrawal’ (read again ‘partial withdrawal’) from areas, that to government’s own admission are free of militancy, is definitely going to further strengthen the constituency of what Delhi labels ‘hard-line separatists’. The youth on the streets will read it as a strong provocation from Delhi amounting to adding pepper to their raw injuries.

As public fury is on the rise, the response from state India would be as  usual brutal. Remember in three months 90 Kashmiris, mostly children, have fallen to bullets. Thousands crippled for life. And Indians have as usual remained insensitive.
 Indians are under the illusion that against wall of rigidity India raised vis a vis democratically genuine aspirations of Kashmiris, they (Kashmiris) would reach point of exhaustion. And will give up. Victim of political dyslexia, Delhi is unable to recognize writing on the wall that Kashmiris are writing with their blood.
‘Kashmir unreconciled shall be’, laments Indian journalist, ‘Achille’s heel for Indian republic; Kashmir contended can be most important show-window for Indian democracy’.
 Tail piece;
Democracy and AFSPA are incompatible. But Kashmir chapter of Indian democracy works miracles. It sheaths the two in the same scabbard. It is time monarchs and dictators take a leaf from this book of wonder. They too can strut as democrats.