Understanding Kashmir Imbroglio 2016
In the din of hysteria created around the military action on LOC, which was in response to the killing of 18 Indian army jawans in Uri, the issue of the anguish of people of Kashmir has been undermined. As such India-Pakistan skirmishes (September 2016) are mostly centred on the issue of Kashmir. On one side India’s claim is that Kashmir is the inseparable part of India and no power on the Earth can separate it from India. Pakistan, on the other hand, raises doubts about the Kashmir’s accession to India and says that as it is a Muslim majority area and it should be part of Pakistan. The attack on Uri by terrorists killing 18 Indian soldiers has rekindled the issue once again. The whole episode actually begins with the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commandant who was killed in an encounter by the Indian military. After his killing, there were two types of reactions yet again.
Indian media presented it as a big achievement in cracking down the militancy. A section of Kashmiri people was shocked and they started coming on streets to protest. The manner of their protests has been that of stone throwing on the police-military forces. In the painful incidents which followed nearly 80 people have been killed, over 9000 people got injured and many of those injured suffered the pellet injuries leading to the loss of their eyes and penetration of pellets into different parts of their body. Some army-police personnel have also received injuries. The resulting situation led to the imposition of curfew in the state and this curfew had been the longest curfew which was imposed in the state.
In an attempt to restore peace various efforts have been made by the state. Home minister Rajnath Sigh visited the Valley to hold discussions with the state leaders. His and the stand of Government of India has been that they will not hold talks with the separatist leaders. When all party delegation visited the Valley some of the members of the delegation like Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja tried to meet separatist leader S A R Gilani, who refused to meet them.
Curfew was lifted after nearly two months, but the situation remains tense. With the attack by the terrorists in Uri; the whole focus has shifted to the issue of terrorism. As such as for as the disturbance in Kashmir is concerned the Government is alleging that the protestors are mere 5% of the population and they are being instigated by Pakistan. Surely Pakistan has some role in keeping the Kashmir issue alive to bake its own political bread. But the discontent of the section of Kashmir people has been simmering and has reached a peak in last few years. The youth, in particular, are disgruntled due to the feeling of alienation. The people of Kashmir are double victims. The acts of terror are a regular nuisance to the peace in the valley. No less is the violation of the civic rights of the people from armed forces. The Armed Forces Special Powers act, which is operational in the area, gives impunity to the armed personnel leading the regular harassment of the innocent civilians in the area.
Amnesty reports emanating from Kashmir tell us the extent of such violations. Amnesty International’s report released in Bangalore begins with defining the scale of human rights violations in Kashmir that have been perpetrated by security forces personnel with glaring impunity. The report states that from 1990 to 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir state government reportedly recorded a total of over 43,000 people killed. Of those killed, 21,323 were said to be ‘militants’ 13,226 ‘civilians’ (those not directly involved in the hostilities) killed by armed groups, 5,369 security force personnel killed by armed groups, and 3,642 “civilians” killed by security forces.
The AFSPA, which gives army sweeping powers, leads to extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Section seven of the AFSPA makes it mandatory to seek the prior sanction of Central and State authorities in order to prosecute any security force personnel in civilian courts. Under the pretext of protecting national security, the excesses of the security forces go unchallenged. 96% of all complaints brought against the army in Jammu & Kashmir have been dismissed as “false and baseless” or “with other ulterior motives of maligning the image of Armed Forces”.
It is in under these circumstances that every incident in Kashmir acts as a flaring point and the youth in particular come to streets to protest in large number. Their deeper dissatisfaction with the state of prevailing affairs is very painful. In the civilian areas, there is a practical army rule, nearly six lakh of army personnel have been deployed there for years. The people of Kashmir do not have the feel of democracy from years and this leads to a deeper dissatisfaction, it is not just a Pakistan inspired problem, while the role of Pakistan in instigating the protests is very much there.
What is the way out? The UPA II had set up the three-member interlocutors committee, which in their report wanted the clauses of autonomy of Kashmir Assembly restored, they emphasised on dialogue with the dissident militants and with Pakistan. There has been a constant demand to repeal AFSPA from the region and to reduce the number of armed personnel in the area. The present coalition of PDP and BJP which is ruling the state is very ruthless as far as dealing with dissidence is concerned; their stand of not talking with dissidents has prolonged the restlessness in the area. With Pakistan’s role; the attack on Uri and before that in Pathankot has vitiated the atmosphere further. One remembers that during the election campaign the BJP used to assert that with Modi in the seat of power, terrorists dare not attack! That hollow boast stands exposed. The need for peace in the area, the need to give the Kashmiri people as an era of calm is needed in an urgent manner. Pakistan needs to be engaged on the matters related to Kashmir. The treaty of accession of 1948 giving autonomy to Kashmir needs to be respected. The report of interlocutors was a major and balanced approach on the issue. It needs to be brought forth and considered seriously for bringing in peace in the region.