MOHAMMAD ASHRAF | 5 MAY, 2017
View From Kashmir: Army Generals Give Sound Advice
In a recent interview, the former Chief of the Army Staff General Ved Prakash Malik said that Kashmir needs a political solution and bringing peace is not solely the task of the Indian Army. The former Army Chief said, “Conflict resolution has to be done at the political level. It’s not right to place the complete burden either on the Army or CRPF. If the Army is expected to resolve the Kashmir issue single-handedly, it cannot be done. A political solution is a final solution.”
General Hooda, the former Army commander had last year during the “Burhan Uprising” given a similar statement. Lt General D S Hooda, had said “it’s been over 40 days (of uprising) and everybody is suffering due to stone-pelting and clashes.” “Everybody is suffering. Government employees, traders, school children, teachers, mainstream leaders and even police and forces have suffered over the past more than a month of cycle of conflict,” Hooda said. “So my appeal to everyone, including the separatists, is (let’s) join hands to restore peace as a single party can’t do it alone.”
Earlier, General Panag had expressed his extreme displeasure about the use of a human shield by the Army. A day after the image and video of a shawl weaver Farooq Ahmad tied to an Army jeep as human shield had gone viral on social media sites, Lt. General (Retired) Harcharanjit Singh Panag, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command gave vent to his feelings on the social networking site, Twitter. He had tweeted, “Image of a “stone pelter” tied in front of a jeep as a “human shield”, will 4 (for) ever haunt the Indian Army and the nation”. In another tweet, he said, “When the state starts looking like a mirror image of the terrorists, it spells ominous portents”.
Lt. Gen V.G. Patankar (Retd) former Corps Commander in an article advocates a “New covenant for Kashmir”. According to him, the way forward lies in beginning a new narrative and a fresh engagement with the people. “A new narrative will usher a balanced, even handed policy that not only brings normalcy in the physical sense but also give back to the people their sense of identity and dignity”. Even the present Corps Commander has stated that the Youth of Kashmir need to be engaged with a fresh initiative. These field commanders now realise that force and more suppression are not going to bring in peace.
Apart from these important personalities, some more senior Army officers have opined that Kashmir needs a political solution rather than a military one. The reason for this contradiction in the views of some senior Army Officers and the Delhi based politicians is the knowledge of the ground situation. The Army officers have been in the field and very well know the feelings of the people on the ground. While the ruling Politicians within the state and in New Delhi claim 95% to be “loyal” and only 5% disgruntled and alienated people, the Army Officers dealing directly with the people on the ground know that the reverse is true.
India was considered to be the largest “Secular Democracy” in the world. However, the new rulers are making every effort to completely erode the secularism as well as destroy the democratic set up. The Hindutva wave has created problems not only in Kashmir but all over India. One fails to understand why these people are dragging the country back to virtually the Stone Age? The clock can never be turned back. It is very strange that human beings are being degraded to a status lower than animals! It is a misfortune for India that the progressive and secular people are not able to put up a united front against the communal and divisive forces at present enjoying total government patronage. In their fanatic and chauvinistic approach they do not understand that they are “Unmaking” India.
As suggested by these top ranking Army Officers, the solution to Kashmir is not through the barrel of a gun but through understanding and dialogue. First and foremost is to respect the basic human rights. Even if people have serious grievances and have been oppressed, the solution does not lie in more suppression. Putting an iron curtain like blocking Social Media and suspending internet is not going to sweep the issue under the carpet. It will emerge with more vehemence. These steps are a total negation of the Digital India concept. The sooner the advice of these high ranking Army Officers is heeded, the better for all!
(Mohammad Ashraf is former Director General, Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir)