Need for maturity, sagacity

ARMY CHIEF'S 'DIRTY WAR' REMARK

The recent utterances of Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat that “proxy war is a dirty war” and that it needs to be fought “with innovations” while commending Maj Littul Gogoi’s action, is bound to send wrong signals to the rank and file of the army. Also, it should be not surprising if the police and the paramilitary forces too emulate the army.

If the army personnel can go scot free and even be commended for their actions, why not the others, even if not commended? A precedent has been set, howsoever absurd, and not just the method of using a human shield. Even any other “innovative” methods would be hailed by the powers that be as commendable.

The very timing of the chief’s statement, when the Valley is on the boil, sends out a message that the army cares two hoots for the feelings of the people of Kashmir. Despite protests against the human shield incident of April 9, in which Maj Gogoi strapped a local man to a jeep and paraded him through the villages to ward off stone pelters, the army chief, in total disregard of the adverse impact it would have on the locals, went on to announce a Commendation Card for the errant Major.

To add salt to the wounded feelings of the people, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley came out with the statement that the Major’s action was correct. It goes without saying that Jaitley’s statement had the tacit consent of the top leader of the country.

Restraint is no longer a word that the commanders of the troops in the Valley can ask their personnel to exercise - a word that constantly was ringing in the ears of the paramilitary personnel deployed in the Valley.

It speaks volumes of the perseverance and patience of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel that even under grave provocation, these men never opened fire on the stone pelters though there were one or two odd incidents in the last decade.

Right from dawn to dusk, these personnel have maintained law and order and faced the stone pelters without any incident of violation of human rights. Even nights were not smooth going for these men as they had to be alert all the while to ward off any fidayeen attack.

The army’s civic action efforts end up as hypocritical facades to apparently win over their hearts and mind. With the ever increasing hostility between the security forces and the denizens of the Valley, situation could worsen further.

The goodwill earned over the years by the security forces has been erased by just one act of a Major and further aggravated by the support he has received from the army chief besides other political leaders. While it has taken years to earn the goodwill, it has taken just a day’s errant behaviour to wash out all that goodwill.

The current tense situation forebodes ill for the nation. When an entire population turns against the security forces, things can get too difficult to handle and we may regret the actions taken by the security forces now and the utterances of the army chief and the political leaders.

The army chief’s contention that he awarded the Commendation Card to Maj Gogoi to boost the morale of his personnel is a mute admission that the morale of army has not been high. To say so and then to take umbrage under a despicable act in blatant violation of human rights does not bode well for a leader of one of the largest armies of the world.

The fact that the army is dealing with our own countrymen seems to have been lost sight of. This all-important fact is repeatedly hammered into the minds of personnel of paramilitary forces and hence the utmost restraint exercised by them which over a period of time becomes their second nature.

The video of a CRPF man being manhandled by a few miscreants while returning to their base is a testimony to their patience. Much easier it would have been for him to fire at the miscreants. But he averted a serious situation. He has been rightly commended by the CRPF bosses for exercising utmost restraint under grave provocation.

Element of fear

The army chief expects the people to fear the army. If that be so, the soldiers should be confined to their barracks as frequent interaction with the people will drive away that element of fear from them. While on the one hand the army strives to win over the people, on the other they expect the Kashmiris to fear the army. The chief needs to decide as to what exactly he expects and wants of the people.

Going by the incidents of the last few years in the Valley, the youth are no more scared of death as evident from their intrepid stance of openly challenging the security forces to fire at them despite their menacingly pointing their weapons at them.

But it needs to be remembered that more the killings, more would it aggravate the situation. The law of the land has to be upheld at all costs. Though the law permits every person to kill another person in self-defence, it does not give free hand to kill anyone who pelts stones.

Violation of human rights under our own constitution and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which we are signatory, can have repercussions in the international arena. We are already guilty of having committed a war crime under the Geneva Convention by tying up a man to a jeep to serve as a human shield.

Any further violation can force us to hang our heads in shame in the international forum and see the deployment of UN Peace Keeping Force from other countries to maintain law and order here. Maturity in our thoughts and actions is what is called for and not indulgence in jingoism to “raise the morale of army” and playing to the galleries.

(The writer is IGP (rtd), CRPF)

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