Pulwama encounter: Army can fight an army, not masses, says Markandey Katju on 7 civilian deaths after clashes with security forces

The deaths of seven civilians in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district due to clashes with security forces at an encounter site has drawn sharp criticism against the Indian Army and other forces for their handling of the continued turbulence in the Kashmir valley.

On Saturday, security forces killed three Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists in an encounter after an input about their presence at Sirnoo village in Pulwama. However, soon after the encounter ended, protestors who rushed to the encounter site clashed with the forces and were allegedly fired upon.

Soon after the incident, General Syed Ata Hasnain who is a vocal defender of the army, wrote a report for Firstpost titled ' Pulwama encounter: Civilian casualties in clashes point to increased suicidal trend among Kashmiri youth'and said, "The involvement of civilians is adding a flavour of far greater negativity and opening up the security forces to greater allegations of human rights violations."

He further explained, "In an effort to get to the encounter site — first to help the militants escape and then to quickly retrieve their bodies for funerals — civilians in large numbers arrived at the site of the gunfight. Stone-pelting mobs, with great passion and unmindful of their personal safety, attempted to resist the security forces, resulting in the death of seven civilians, in a chilling reminder that the situation in South Kashmir seems to be worsening."

Retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju also reacted to the Pulwama violence by comparing it to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre conducted by British general Reginal Dyer. On Twitter, Katju said, "Three cheers for the Indian army which has now started killing civilians in Kashmir, like General Dyer at Jalianwala Bagh or Lieutenant Calley at My Lai in Vietnam. All Indian army officers and soldiers should be given Bharat Ratna."

Hasnain responded soon after to the former judge's tweet.

Katju also wrote to Firstpost with a response to Hasnain, mentioning that a "guerilla war is only possible with popular support". Here is the statement:

"General Hasnain, like General Panag and General Ved Malik, is a highly respected retired Indian Army General, and I hold him (as well as the other generals I named ) in high regard. I have read his piece in Firspost and would like to respond:

"The situation in Kashmir today is this: Due to the continuous stupidity of our political leaders over decades, the Kashmiri people are almost entirely alienated from India and bitterly hostile to it. Consequently, they are resorting to armed fights with the Indian security forces, using guerrilla tactics (of hit and run) as used by the Vietnamese people in their war against first the French, and later the Americans.

"An army can fight another army, it cannot fight the masses. A tiger can kill a beast, it cannot kill a swarm of mosquitoes. So the Indian army is engaged in a war it cannot possibly win. The guerilla has the advantage of deciding the place, time, and duration of the attack. It is said, 'The people are the sea, and the guerilla is the fish which swims in it, and without the sea, the fish will die'.

"In other words, guerilla war is possible only with popular support. That is support the Kashmiri militants are getting.

"Presently, the number of militants may be only a few hundred, but a large number of non-militants in Kashmir are their sympathisers who give them shelter, food, and intelligence, and, as General Hasnain has admitted, the number of militants is increasing.

"In such a conflict, when a non-militant is killed (as happened recently in Pulwama ) his non-militant relatives often become furious, and to take revenge they become militants. I am sorry to say but our politicians, who are the real villains, have made our soldiers into a 'Bali ka Bakra'. How this conflict will end and what is its solution I cannot say, but this much is certain: The Indian army is in for the long haul in Kashmir.

"And in the meantime, my sincere advice to army personnel is to not behave like Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl, or Generals Tojo and Yamashita, who were found guilty of atrocities and ordered to be hanged by the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals."

Updated Date: Dec 17, 2018 15:02:59 IST