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Kashmir continues to burn
Former Indian home minister and finance minister P Chidambaram is forthcoming. He recently said in an article written in the Indian Express that there was an undeclared internal war going in occupied Kashmir. Chidambaram said, “The king will never raise the sword against his own people. With great sorrow, it must be admitted that there is an undeclared internal war in the Kashmir Valley.”
The senior congress leader also admitted that New Delhi was adopting muscular, militaristic approach to quell dissent which has pushed the Valley to the brink of disaster. “Violence and death are on the rise. The PDP-BJP coalition government lacks even a shred of legitimacy, yet the Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, will not end the farce that is becoming a tragedy,” he said. “As every day passes, I despair more. All that India, as a nation, has stood for — unity, integrity, pluralism, religious tolerance, a government accountable to the people, dialogue to resolve differences etc — are on test in J&K. India, as a nation, is failing the test,” Chidambaram further added.
Meanwhile, according to a retired Indian official, “Kashmir has become a mess.” The official, who worked on Delhi’s Kashmir policy, told an Indian columnist that “We have squandered the chance at peace.” The columnist added that while many Indian leaders and officials like to place all blame for the violence in Jammu and Kashmir on Pakistan… “they have ignored activists, academics, and numerous commissions by various governments over the years that have repeatedly drawn attention to the lack of justice for serious human rights violations by the Indian government. This has built up rage in recent years. Kashmiris have been coming out onto the streets in protest and throwing stones at the security forces, who frequently respond with shotgun pellets and bullets. It is young Kashmiris who are leading the militancy now and they have the support of vast sections of the population.” The write-up brought the issue vividly to the surface: “Tens of thousands have been killed in Kashmir in nearly three decades of insurgency. Yet, impunity is the norm. The army has opposed calls to repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, used to deploy the military in internal conflict. The law requires the defense ministry’s permission to prosecute soldiers accused of even grave abuses. In May 2017, Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi was commended rather than criminally investigated for unlawfully using a bystander as a human shield. Other military officers accused of egregious abuses, including the killing of civilians and falsely claiming them to be militants, have not been properly prosecuted. Though protests in Kashmir can be violent at times, the response of the security forces should always be proportionate. Lethal force should be the last resort, used only when lives are threatened. Promptly investigating allegations of abuses and prosecuting those responsible is key to resolving this mess.”
More than 200 militants were killed by Indian security forces in anti-terror operations in 2017, the highest since 2010. In 2016, the number was 165, with a high personnel-to-militant ratio. The figure is already rising in the first five months of this year. Another write-up in Indian media earlier frankly admitted: “The political and civil administration in Kashmir has failed to use the opening provided by security forces in engaging the youth and offering a counter-narrative to the one peddled by Pakistan and its operatives within Kashmir. The governments at the Centre and state appear clueless about the nature of the problem, leave alone providing a solution. There is no common ground between the various administrative arms — central, state and local — on whether the problem in Kashmir is social, political or religious. Caught between the twin stools of BJP and PDP’s divergent political compulsions, Kashmir is rapidly sliding down the radicalisation slope.” While condemning the morally deplorable actions of Indian security forces in held Kashmir, it seems that the system is eventually imploding in a stew of corruption, killings, injustice, and dissent. There has never been a coherent political discourse to crush the iconic popular uprising in held Valley. Immersed in prevailing war babble, India is today ever more fragmented and illusive.