Kashmir unrest: Government of India must support its soldiers, taking them for granted will prove disastrous

Perhaps it is the repetitive nature of the impasse between the Indian Army and the civilians of Kashmir that has caused it to lose its power to attract the media, viewers and readers. Amidst the general indifference of the public and the wild rhetoric of TV debates, a frightening seed of fear is sprouting sight unseen by the BJP and its leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

This attitude of taking for granted the men and women in uniform could herald a major future clash. Captain Kapil Kundu was killed on Sunday after Pakistani troops violated a ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC) and opened fire. Our government condemned the killing of four of our men, including the young captain. The others were Riflemen Ramavatar, 27, from Baraka village, Gwalior, Subham Singh, 23, from Kathua and Havildar Roshan Lal, 43, from Samba in Jammu and Kashmir.

And that's all the government did. Nothing more than condemn the incident and express outrage. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said India will give a fitting reply. But even another surgical strike is no solution. With over 240 violations across the Line of Control (LoC) this year alone, it's safe to say that the situation isn't going to improve through the tit for tat that India usually employs in reaction to Pakistani firing.

The government needs to accept that no amount of samjhauta buses or trains are going to change the enemy’s mindset and this tendril of hope that Indian governments hold out for — a sudden change of heart from Islamabad — needs to be swiftly blown off the table. Pakistan has made it abundantly clear that unless the Kashmir issue is resolved, there can be no peace. This was reiterated 24 hours ago on a so-called Kashmir Solidarity Day by President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Meanwhile, in Kashmir, several Indian families watch in horror as a major and his men are confined to quarters and facing charges for defending themselves against a 200-strong mob armed with huge stones. Major Aditya and his men were cornered when their convoy was attacked. Only when they were in mortal danger did they open fire, killing three and wounding one assailant. And now these men from the 10th Garhwal Rifles are being charged with murder and attempt to murder. The stone throwers, however, remain free.

When an army goes in to keep the peace in its own territory, it goes under the fiat of the Centre. It is not accountable to local police unless it launches an unprovoked attack on civilians. Even then, soldiers and officers stay under the command and protection of the hierarchy in their barracks. If the police are allowed ascendancy, the risk of tearing apart the very fabric of the armed forces is high.

It has to be accepted that there is a pattern here, a concerted effort to undermine the authority of our forces by the Kashmir government's unilateral actions and its eagerness to indict soldiers, although all evidence points to their innocence. The ultimate aim is to lower morale and make the patrols nervous and uncertain over the repercussions of their actions. It is a sad day when soldiers have to apologise for defending themselves against a bloodthirsty mob.

New Delhi must now get over this mental roadblock of constant appeasement of the Kashmir government as much as the BJP must rise beyond its desire to please to maintain the governing coalition with the Peoples Democratic Party. This government just dropped cases against 9,730 stone throwers. So what's the message being sent to all the fathers, sons, brothers and husbands donning the uniform? Risk your life so we can stay in power.

If we do not promulgate a fresh ordinance that calls for blanket protection of armed forces when they are dispatched to hostile terrain, we might reap a disastrous harvest sooner than we think. The Government of India sent them there. They were not drunken sailors in a pub brawl. They put their lives on the line on the home front. And for it, were seen as the enemy.

By leaving them in the lurch, we will make them feel like they have been deserted. Worse, forgotten: Like former captain Ravindra Bali, a homeless soldier living in a makeshift tent who was, on Sunday, murdered in cold blood in Pune. And no one there to remember him and praise him. Three officers in different circumstances, two dead and one in custody… all for doing their duty.

Updated Date: Feb 06, 2018 15:46 PM

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