Kashmir human shield row: Why sceptics like Sandeep Dikshit are wrong to attack General Bipin Rawat

For ages, social scientists have deliberated on the presence of X-factor in individuals, which attracts a certain kind of people towards them. General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Army Staff, appears to have an X-factor attracting a group of Left-leaning and out-of-power politicians, who unfailingly take pot-shots at him.

Harsh Mander finds General Rawat "belligerent", Partha Chatterjee found parallels between him and the much despised General Dyer. Prakash Karat found General Rawat's attitude "unbecoming" and his views, "reflecting the views of the (Narendra) Modi government, which seeks to suppress the people of Kashmir, who are voicing their political protest, through the sole reliance on the use of force."

It is statements like these which makes one wonder whether instead of following the national interest and the views of the democratically elected government, the Indian Army – like its Pakistani counterpart – should follow directives serving its personal agenda. Coming from people who openly prescribe to the Leftist ideology, such abhorrence towards democracy and its established institutions of governance is not surprising.

File image of Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat. PTI

File image of Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat. PTI

It would be useful to hear Karat's views on the Chinese methodology of countering dissent in the restive province of Xinjiang. Banning of certain names for Muslim children, banning of veils in public, restrictions on the length of beards by Muslims and prohibition on fasting during Ramadan for public servants is not exactly a sign of a 'humane' approach, is it? And, by all accounts, the trouble in Xinjiang is minuscule in comparison to the violence India faces from the Pakistani state and its proxies in Kashmir.

Idiosyncrasies of the Left on issues of nation and nationhood have been comprehensively rejected by the electorate repeatedly. And in a democracy, public perception has its manifestation through popular mandate, despite what the naysayers have to say about it.

It appears that a loss of popular mandate has made leaders like Sandeep Dikshit lose civility and decorum, despicably referring to General Rawat as a "sadak ka goonda" (street goon). Despite their political differences, the mainstream national parties – Congress and BJP – have generally, barring a few exceptions, maintained unanimity over keeping the army chief away from the political slugfest.

Deprived of power and the influence which flows from it, dynasts like Dikshit seem to have sunk to the moral abyss to remain in the limelight, in a desperate bid to retain political relevance. The subsequent apology emanating from Dikshit was forced, by the public backlash, and did not seem to be a genuine acceptance of a folly.

Toughminded general

Politics apart, the reason General Rawat has been made an object of derision and contempt by such intellectuals and politicians needs to be analysed.

A perusal of General Rawat's statement, which perhaps has earned him the "goonda" remark, indicates his tough-mindedness while dealing with Pakistani proxies instigating relentless violence in Kashmir since July 2016. While agent provocateurs may slyly suggest the supposedly innocuous nature of stone throwing, and project it as a David vs Goliath story against the pellets fired by the Indian security forces, the truth is not as simple.

General Rawat's warning to stone pelters – when he had said that "people who have picked up arms... if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of Islamic State and Pakistan, we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them," – was issued in the backdrop of the death of Major Satish Dahiya and three soldiers in an encounter in Bandipur.

The four lost their lives as a stone-pelting crowd revealed their positions while surreptitiously shielding terrorists. Anti-terror operations by the army subsequently began to confront a new menace, with crowds gathering at encounter sites – collected via WhatsApp and appeals from loudspeakers installed in mosques.

This hybrid war has been given a religious fervour, visible in the appearance of Islamic State flags and Islamic symbols. Pakistani agencies have ensured that the religious overtones, which had been evident during the ethnic cleansing in 1990, are no longer concealed. The rise of Islamist forces across the globe have given the Pakistani state an opportunity to allure the Kashmiri youth towards militancy – through the deliberate usage of Islamic symbols. Zakir Musa, who has since moved away from Hizbul Mujahideen, had openly accepted that the struggle in Kashmir was "Islamic Caliphate in Kashmir."

General Rawat, who heads a 1.3 million strong army, cannot be expected to stick to political correctness and allow his personnel to be demoralised by haplessly watching his force used for target practice by terrorist and stone pelters.

His angst was evident in his statement: "People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin, with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief?"

These and questions like what else Major Leetul Gogoi, commendation for whom has also become a stick for opponents to beat General Rawat with, could have done to save the polling party from annihilation have gone unanswered by his critics. The fact that General Rawat’s forthrightness in calling 'a spade a bloody shovel' had made sections of politicians and intellectuals – used to bureaucratic humbug of calling 'a bloody shovel a spoon' – uncomfortable. At times, it appears that General Rawat has more opponents inside the country than in countries like Pakistan and China, with whom he has expressed his conviction of preparedness of a "two-and-a-half front war".

History is witness to the fact that since the Partition in 1947, Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. In what was perhaps the first manifestation of state-sponsored terrorism, Pakistan Army had infiltrated under the garb of tribals and irregulars into the state, to seize it by force.

It was only the effective though belated intervention by the Indian Army which saved the state from a forceful accession by Pakistan. Since then, both countries have fought three more wars over Kashmir. Failing to achieve its objective through conventional means, Pakistan has resorted to a proxy war through what it conveniently refers to as 'non-state actors', and General Rawat calls "dirty war".

Politicians like Dikshit need to realise the grave situation India confronts in Kashmir. Despite the ostrich-like ignorance, fact remains that the country is facing a relentless overt war with a neighbour, who is using all means at its disposal including an equally hostile covert hybrid war. Only the naïve and the Pakistani proxies will pretend otherwise. The opponent is now not only at the external border but also targeting the country from within.

How Nehru had reacted

The disbelievers could do well to read what Jawaharlal Nehru had to say after the Pakistani invaders threatened Uri again in December 1947, after being repulsed the previous month.

C Dasgupta in his book, 'War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48', cites Nehru’s note on Kashmir dated 19 December, 1947, where he wrote incisively: "What is happening in Kashmir State is not merely a frontier raid but a regular war, on a limited scale, with the latest weapons being used on the part of the invaders. It is clear that the Pakistan government is encouraging this in every way."

Nehru then continues, "It seems to me that our outlook has been defensive and apologetic, as if we were ashamed of what we were doing and we are not quite sure of how far we should go. I see nothing to apologise for and a defensive way of meeting raiders seems to me completely wrong,"

"The first thing to be understood is that Kashmir is of the most vital consequence to us and that we are in deadly earnest about it."

Nehru then concludes, "Are we to allow Pakistan to continue to train new armies for invasion and allow its territory to be used as a base for these attacks? The obvious course is to strike at those concentrations and lines of communications in Pakistan territory. This involves a risk of war with Pakistan. We wish to avoid war, but it is merely deluding ourselves to imagine that we are avoiding war so long as the present operations are continuing on either side."

That Nehru did not go to war and instead got trapped in moving the United Nations is a different story involving British deceit and treachery and in no way diminishes the episode of violence which began in 1947.

The question which begs an answer is; if a statesman like Nehru was compelled to react with an offensive mindset against the violence perpetuated from Pakistan, why is General Rawat expected to behave defensively, when the problem has exacerbated manifold since 1947?

Will Sandeep Dikshit take the pain to reply?

The author is the writer of the book Wolf's Lair. He tweets @MayankNSingh


Published Date: Jun 14, 2017 03:58 pm | Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 03:58 pm

Also See