Article 35-A
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These incidents are different what people have been used to witness about army in the past many years when militancy was at its lowest ebb.  However, it seems the army has now again adopted the same approach it used in early or late 90’s when Kashmir had thousands of armed militant in every nook and corner and army was accused of gross human rights violations and civilian killings.

Image: The Legitimate

Asem Mohiuddin

Srinagar: On June 16, a group of army men caught hold of a bike rider in South Kashmir’s  Bijbhera town, as the youth Mudasir Mantoo was being severely thrashed it caught attention of some locals especially shopkeepers, seeing the miserable condition of young  boy they approached the army men and started arguing with the soldiers to spare the boy . Instead of listening to elderly citizens, the army men opened fire that left 6o year old Mohammad Abdullah injured. He was shifted to SKIMS and after battling for his life for 24 hours he succumbed to his injuries.

Locals’ alleged youth had tried to overtake the army convoy passing through the area that left soldiers angry.  In a similar incident, at Banihal an engineering student Mohammad Moazam was beaten by army for overtaking their convoy along the national highway at Banihal.

Five days later as some troopers of 35 RR were patrolling in Central Kashmir’s Chadoora town, some boys busted a juice wrapper near an army patrol party and in retaliation the soldiers opened fire resulting in the killing of 24 year old, Tanveer Ahmad Wani who was working as a tailor in a nearby market. Wani had left for lunch when he was hit in a head and died on the spot. Another civilian who received bullet in the shoulder was injured and is being treated in the hospital. The killing of civilian triggered a series of protest in Chadoora town and its adjacent localities and observed three days shutdown.

On Saturday, a group of army men who were returning from Amaranth yatra duty were stopped by a naka party of J&K police that was headed by an Assistant sub inspector. The police had been following government instructions by not allowing anybody to cross the security barrier after the cut off time that was fixed by the government, especially after the attack on the Amarnath yatra pilgrims in which eight yatris died and 18 suffered injuries.

Since army men were in civvies, the policemen took them to nearby police station at Gund. Inside police station instead of cooperating with the police men, the army jawans sought help from nearby camps and when reinforcements arrived headed by major rank officer the soldiers started beating policemen. They ransacked the entire record of the police station and broke the belonging of the policemen and officer and when the soldiers left the police station six police men were injured. Though police registered the case against the army men but army termed it a minor incident. Though, IG Police, Muneer Khan said that army has apologized for the incident and assured the police such incident will not reoccur and action will be taken against guilty.

Three incidents that took place in different part of the Valley with a span of week is an indication how army has been behaving in the Kashmir since the top high command not less than its Army chief Bipin Rawat asked his foot soldiers to be tough with those whom they consider anti national elements.

These incidents are different what people have been used to witness about army in the past many years when militancy was at its lowest ebb.  However, it seems the army has now again adopted the same approach it used in early or late 90’s when Kashmir had thousands of armed militant in every nook and corner and army was accused of gross human rights violations and civilian killings.

 As per the official figures the number of militants is not more than 250 still the security forces and top armed officials in Kashmir and New Delhi are worried. Videos of the incidents by army were deliberately released of civilians especially youth being thrashed by the men in olive which has not gone down well within the masses. And the trust which army and police officials often claim to have been build in the Valley by using its people friendly programs like Operation Sadbhavana is at stake or is in tatters. Many officials claim that these incidents are being deliberately done to subdue the local population and humiliate them for taking part in the protests or funerals of militants; however, the killing of innocent civilians will prove as a bad stain on the image of army, state and centre government.

Image: The Legitimate

Infact, awarding medal to Major Gagoi who had tied a civilian Farooq Ahmad Dar of Chil Bras village to the bonnet of the jeep on the day of polling for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat was held. This incident has not gone down well with local population. Even the State Human Rights Commission has now asked J&K government to provide compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Dar who was used as a human shield.

Even mainstream politician including those of ruling party PDP condemned the use of human shield by the army. However army remain adamant saying that by using Dar as human shield the army officer has done something novel and saved human lives. Three months after awarding the officer with the men from the same unit killed an innocent tailor. Though police has registered a case, however people have no hopes of justice because they feel armed forces always get away as they take refuge in Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA).

There are reports that army has instructions from the government to use iron fist even against the civilians.  From past few months to build pressure on the militants operating in Kashmir especially in south Kashmir the Army, Police and the CRPF on daily basis have launched Cordon and Search Operations (CASO) during these operations the civilian population have to bear the maximum burnt of security forces and there are many accusations that civilian homes are being targeted and houses vandalized by the troopers. Though the aim of these incidents is to scare people, however, it fails to achieve anything but has alienated the young population who then seek refuge in the arms despite knowing the fact that without any proper training or weapons they could not last for months. Many of the recently killed militants during encounters have not completed one year in the militancy before they got killed during encounters.

The government and those who are framing the strategy should seriously ponder over the current happenings in the Valley and should even take opinions from those commanders who have served in Kashmir and are asking government to adopt human approach as no war can be won without the support of local population.

Even policemen who are always on the forefront have to face the humiliation at times. ”I am still unable to understand why we were beaten. The army men told us we have powers to burn everything and they did everything to harass us,” said one of the injured policeman at Gund police station. Though case has been registered against the unit but strict action should be taken against the officials then only it will convey a strong message. J&K police has always been on the forefront of every issue and now they are being treated like this also sends a very negative impression on the army.

These incidents also reflect badly on the elected government especially on the state government that is run by PDP and BJP. There are many ways that could be adopted to bring people back in the fold, however, using force and civilian killings could snowball a small incident into a big controversy. The Army’s role in Valley can’t be negated but while dealing with common masses especially civilians it is duty of senior commanders to inherit discipline among the soldiers otherwise they should ready for any bad thing which will take years to heal up.

After the Saturday’s incident of beating of policemen the debate on the social media is that even men in uniform are not safe in Kashmir. We are currently living in 21th century and a small incident catches global attention and if these incidents or ignored then people will have no option but to hit on the streets again like they did in 2008, 2010 and 2016 and hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands injured.  Time has come when senior army commanders should realize that by using force things could only deteriorate and more civilian killings could leave everlasting wounds on the psyche of locals. So time has come when along with military leadership, the Centre and state government should come out with a roadmap that will put end to this violence that has so far claimed thousands of innocent lives.



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