Unfortunately the military advice takes precedence over political judgment in shaping India’s policy on Kashmir

The Heartless General


Following  BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Modi’s suggestion to have a debate on Article 370 in Jammu’s Lallkar rally, many articles have appeared in the Indian print media- some in praise & few in denouncement. A common feature in these articles, however is the betrayal of collective amnesia by writers about the history of word “Temporary” appearing  before the article. While piloting the article in the Indian constituent assembly, the said word was stated to be necessary  pending holding of a plebiscite as promised to the people of State & the whole world but with the passage of time a canard is being spread  that it was provisioned to facilitate  full integration of State with the Union of India. Well, public memories cannot be as short as these writers & think-tanks would like us to believe. They need to access the records of Constituent assembly proceedings, if they harbor any doubt.

Be that as it may, two  articles, commenting on Modi’s rant  have been subject of immense debate & comments. One written by Shekar Gupta, Editor in chief of Indian Express titled “Disarming Kashmir-National interest” and reproduced by Greater Kashmir on 10th December and another in response thereto written by Retired Lt. General Ata Hasnain published in the Indian Express of 11th December 2013. 

While  Gupta  broadly opines that Military objective in the State stands achieved, time is ripe for a political solution of Kashmir issue, for which it is necessary  that  the military  takes  a back seat. In response, the former Lt. General, Ata Hasnain contests Gupta’s claim of victory and has suggested continuance of military measures & draconian laws like AFPSA to crush the armed struggle, Which both refer to as terrorism. 

It is said that a problem well understood is half solved. When an analyst or a commentator ignores the fundamentals of a problem, his diagnosis & prognosis  is bound to be flawed. At the basic level both Gupta & Hasnain have erred  in not  acknowledging a fundamental truth-that  Kashmir issue is  an internationally  recognized dispute which has to be solved by India & Pakistan in accordance with the wishes of the people of J&K. It is ignorance of  this truth that is inflicting huge damage on the body politic of India and eating into its vitals. 

Having said that,  the two write-ups  have  yet again turned the spotlight on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). While Gupta favors its abrogation , Hasnain insists  its continuation  for launching effective counter-insurgency operations. While  the ongoing debate is largely  confined to a restatement of known positions, but it is important to realize  a simple truth  that military advice takes a precedence over political judgment in shaping India’s  policy on Kashmir. 

The obnoxious act empowers security personnel including army & paramilitary forces, all of whom are siblings in terror, to  commit any sort of crime they like on the defenseless people of Kashmir. They have indulged in custodial deaths, fake encounter killings, rapes & involuntary disappearances without any accountability, whatsoever because of the shield of impunity provided by this Act. A report published by APDP titled “Alleged perpetrators” has identified 500 security personnel for heinous crimes. Though the report itself  is a proverbial tip of the iceberg, yet no notice has been taken of it by generals & colonels wearing countless medals on their uniforms. A record number of 235 army men stand identified in this report for various spine-chilling crimes but a serving general has the audacity to say that less than 3% of the complaints against army personnel have been found true. Even where CBI has clearly indicted the forces of cold blooded murder (Pathribal fake encounter case), the State has not accorded sanction to prosecute the guilty. 

One of the major rape cases in the history of Kashmir is the Kunan- Poshpora mass rape incident that happened in 1991. Even after lapse of 23 years, the army and State is using every conceivable tactic to obfuscate the truth & put impediments in the flow of Justice. There are instances of rape cases against numerous army personnel which have been buried under the rubric of AFPSA. Even where cases of daughters having been raped in front of their mothers, have been reported, the  depraved & heartless Generals have turned their face to other side as if they are borne out of stones. 

(The  author is a practicing chartered Accountant)