Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was gunned down by security forces, and Kashmir erupted, leaving 50 protesters dead, thousands injured, many blinded for life, with curfew in the Valley for more than 25 days.
The CRPF continues to use pellet guns. Our most disciplined force, the Indian Army , was even accused of firing at elderly women. On Wed nesday , an ATM security guard Reyaz Shah was shot at point blank range by security forces. He had 360 pellets in his body.
I still hear many cases of the `midnight knock’. This has to stop. There has to be some accountability . No one can touch the security forces, thanks to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), a “dirty word“ to quote former R&AW chief A S Dulat.
The army did a good job in containing militancy in the Kashmir Valley. Many of my friends sacrificed their lives. But it’s now time for the security forces to move on, and move away from civilian areas.People find “the overpowering presence of security forces oppressive, humiliating and unacceptable“, as stated by former home minister P Chidambaram.
We have failed to share pain of the Kashmiri people. Initially , when the latest crisis erupted, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was nowhere to be seen. Former CM Omar Abdullah was busy tweeting, taking potshots at her or giving interviews to the media.
Even as we faltered, on July 22, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressing a public rally in Muzaffarabad, said, “You are aware of how [Kashmiris] are being beaten and killed. All our prayers are with them and we are waiting for the day Kashmir becomes Pakistan.“ This may be, as a Pakistani newspaper analysed, “nothing more than rhetoric“, but the fact remains: 50 Kashmiri protesters are dead and thousands injured.
Can we be unmoved if this had happened in any other part of `undisputed’ part of India? There must have been a reason why pellet guns were not used during the Jat agitation in Haryana. There must have been a logic behind security forces not firing live bullets during the Patidar and, more recently , Dalit agitations in Gujarat.
If we insist Kashmir to be an integral part of India, why this double standards on its people? Last month, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, reacting to Sharif ‘s statement, said that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India and Pakistan shall never be able to realise its dream of making Kashmir part of Pakistan. But will accusing Pakistan of spreading terrorism in the Valley and instigating protests help resolve this problem?
The issue is really about the disproportionate use of force. It is our territory , our government, our failure.
In July , a grandmother and a mother of four reportedly died when army personnel opened fire on a mob that an army spokesperson claimed had “turned violent“. The Army would like us to believe that the two women were part of the stone-throwing mob that tried to snatch weapons from the troopers. Later, the army expressed “deep regret“ over the “unfortunate“ loss of lives -even as it justified the firing.
But there is still hope. On July 31, over 10,000 Kashmiri students appeared for the Common Entrance Test for admission into medical and dentistry courses.
It is time to de-escalate and initiate a dialogue with Kashmiris. And for starters, let’s stop using pellet guns, withdraw AFSPA, stop those dreaded `midnight knocks’ and have the army and security forces withdraw from civilian areas.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh talked about forging an “emotional bond“ with the people of Kashmir. Let New Delhi follow up his words with action.