A few days ago, the terrifying video clip of a youth tied to the front of an army jeep once again brought to fore the path being followed by the government in Kashmir. Only barbaric armies totally alienated from the people can stoop to using hapless humans as shields – that too when they are armed to the teeth and their adversaries are supposedly citizens of their own country. There have been protests from all quarters about this barbarity and utterly inhuman treatment. But at the same time, it must make us all think and reflect – is this the way to peace and justice in Kashmir?
News reports state that the hapless youth who was used as a human shield was one Dar, belonging to Chil village. He was picked up by an army patrol on the morning of April 9, 2017 – just after he had cast his vote in the by-elections! After being beaten up black and blue with rifle butts, Dar was strapped to the front of the jeep, with a paper proclaiming him to be a stone-pelter pasted on him. The authorities claim that this drastic step was resorted to as there was no way they could drive through hostile crowds of people to rescue some government officials who were trapped somewhere. But the fact that he was driven through many villages for hours on end, and the fact that at many places people requested the army men to release him and they cold-heartedly refused to do so, gives the lie to this version.
Moreover, it is reported that the army men kept announcing on loud speakers in Hindi throughout the shocking trip “this is the fate that will befall stone – pelters!” In other words, the army men took law into their own hands, summarily decreed that someone was a stone thrower, pronounced an arbitrary and cruel sentence on him to make an example and terrify people, and carried it out! How can it be expected that the people of Kashmir, or for that matter justice-loving people anywhere in the world, can condone such barbaric behaviour?
That the situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to worse is plain to everyone. Over 91 civilians have been killed in Kashmir in clashes or in cold blood in the last 35 months, compared to about 50 for the preceding three-year period (Source – Indian Army Press Release). Similarly, almost 200 army jawans have been killed in Kashmir in the past 35 months compared to about 100 in the preceding three-year period. The voting percentage in the recently conducted by elections, during which the army made a cruel example of a youth who had just cast his vote, was a dismal 7%. When a re-poll was ordered in some of the booths, it fell even lower, to an abysmal 2%!
Does this not show the complete alienation of the common people of Kashmir from the Indian state – the government and its’ elections? Kashmiri people are regularly portrayed in the rest of India as “terrorists”, “Pakistani agents” and so on. Kashmiri students are harassed in other parts of the country and even subjected to mob fury – just because they are Kashmiri. No attempt is made to present their part of the story and what their aspirations are. Even a retired army Lt Gen was savagely attacked and vilified as a “disgrace to the army” because he spoke up against the use of ‘human shields’ by the army in Kashmir.
It is quite clear that the Kashmiri people utterly hate the Indian government and its army. Perhaps it is impossible for the Indian government to rule over Kashmir without the army. As in the North-East, in Kashmir too the armed forces have been given sweeping powers and immunity by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that no crime of theirs – be it rape or murder – can be prosecuted.
The questions need to be asked – is the path being followed by the Indian government in Kashmir going to lead to peace and justice? Can the problems facing Kashmir be solved merely by treating them as “law and order” matters like the colonial powers did? Can we allow a most unjust law like the AFPSA to remain in place so that the people of Kashmir and the North East can be cowed into submission?