The situation in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the reports, is getting worse with every passing day.
The army action of tying a man to a military jeep as human shield as well as the violence in the Pulwama Degree College and the subsequent chain of events has further aggravated the state of affairs in Kashmir. The agitation began after the security forces and the CRPF entered the Pulwama College in their vehicles. Although the army spokesperson clarify that the soldiers entered the college premises to inquire about a drawing competition held in the college, the students unaware of the purpose of the visit, thought that the forces had come to pick them up. They protested and the police, retaliated. Violence was triggered after a student got injured with pellets. The incidents eventually led to the closure of the college sparking protests in other parts of the region. Although different versions about the army and the security forces entering the campus premises exist, there is a fact that is comprehended. Ordinary Kashmiris have reached a stage where they don’t trust the authorities and their weapons at all. The distrust has always been there. But this kind of complete isolation is seen for the first time in years. The atrocities carried out by the police and the army, the human rights violations and the stone-pelting by the students and others in retaliation are the expressions and the reason for this distrust.
A recent election in the extremely militarized Kashmir grabbed attention due to the absence of the voters. Only 7 per cent voted in the Srinagar by-election while it was 2 per cent in some areas. Another answer to such an extent of isolation lies in the incident that shamed the entire nation- using a man as human shield. Farooq Ahmad Dar, a 26-year old exercised his right to vote regularly defying the calls for boycotting the election. He was tied to the front of a jeep as human shield by the army personnel and driven around the town and Srinagar Parliament constituency. It was purportedly a warning to the stone pelters who agitated against the army. One of the several outcomes triggered by the incident was Dar declaring that he would never cast his vote again. Who is going to benefit if the soldiers, who fail to realize that the use of human shield itself is a violation of human rights and that expressing their resentment towards innocent civilians would only result in reverse effects, get deployed in Kashmir for maintaining law and order? The military leadership condemning the ‘use of human shield’, a criminal offence as per the Geneva Convention, and starting an investigation into the matter is a positive measure. However, in a region with a history of severe human rights violations, an inquiry should be carried out on the benefits of deploying soldiers who lack the required patience, vigilance and training. If we haven’t decided to cause more shame, animosity and isolation, measures for curbing the military presence in Kashmir should be contemplated.
There have been several incidents when Kashmir was ready to stick to India and reject the ploys of Pakistan. But the Kashmiris are in a quagmire, stuck between those within the border and on the other side of it enduring miseries they don’t deserve. Kashmir is as well another example of the fact that military presence would only foster feelings of isolation. This feeling of separation has reached its peak starting from the deploying of a soldier for every 25 Kashmiris. This feeling is not a creation of anti-Indians in Kashmir. We can even now bring the Kashmiris who only wish to live with dignity and in peace, close to us. And for that, the first step is to keep away advisors like Attorney General Rohatgi who defended the army action of using human shield. Forming a committee of fair and just political experts to heal the wounds and to seek ways to soften the attitude of Kashmiris towards India would also be appropriate.