Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kashmir's Faultlines: Is the Army Demonised?

Kashmir’s faultlines September 29th, 2010
By S.K. Sinha , DC Correspondent
The Kashmir Valley has been burning for three months. Over 100 stone-pelting youth have got killed. Thanks to a governance deficit, both in Srinagar and Delhi, the situation appears out of control.

Zia-ul-Haq Islamised Pakistan and this spread to Kashmir. In 1990 there was ethnic cleansing of over three lakh Kashmiri Pandits and several dozen Hindu temples were destroyed, but the plight of Kashmiri Pandits was glossed over and there was a virtual blackout of information about the vandalising of dozens of temples. In 2007, to appease the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the government took the bizarre decision of providing money for the families of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces. This does not happen elsewhere in India or anywhere else in the world.

To appease the National Conference (NC), the government is now considering its demand for autonomy — the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General would not have any jurisdiction in Kashmir, there would be an elected governor from the state and no Central services, like IAS and IPS. The PDP, under the garb of self-rule, wants dual currency and a joint state legislature with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in Kashmir. Perhaps then the “misguided” young boys in terrorist camps in PoK would also be allowed to return. All this will severely undermine India’s sovereignty in Kashmir...

The Army is being constantly demonised for human rights violations when its record is far superior to that of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Pakistan Army in Baluchistan and Waziristan. Unlike them, we have never used airstrikes or artillery against militants in Kashmir. The Army has been prompt in action against human rights violators. Over the years, 1,514 cases against the Army were reported of which 1,470 were found to be false. Action was taken against 70 individuals, dismissing them from service and awarding imprisonment from two to 14 years. India has also been humane in dealing with secessionist leaders. Mr Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran secessionist leader, suffering from cancer, was refused a visa by the US for medical treatment because of his terrorist connections. He went to Mumbai where Dr Sameer Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit, operated on him, treating him with competence. On return to Srinagar, Mr Geelani said India is in illegal occupation of Kashmir and the international community should impose economic sanctions against her.

Gen. Musharraf ordered airstrikes in Baluchistan on the hideout of the veteran leader Akbar Bugti, who was killed. In Kashmir, instead of tough action, periodic troop withdrawals have taken place. Now there is talk of amending or scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. This brings to mind what Winston Churchill said: “An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile, hoping that it will eat him last.”

The writ of the state must run in the Valley forthwith and further communalisation checked. Without curbing the freedom of the press, we should ensure that the media does not act as the mouthpiece of the secessionists. The law on sedition must be enforced. Among Kashmiri Muslims, not all are secessionists, but those who are need to be politically isolated from the rest. A political solution acceptable to all should be evolved through dialogue but this must be strictly within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

- The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.
Extracted: Kashmir's Faullines: Deccan Chronicle

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