Jammu and Kashmir – Innocence lost

Saturday, November 09, 2002 Vishaal 0 Comments

The blood bath in Jammu and Kashmir has been the costliest for the innocent people in the state. But with both the Indian and Pakistani governments trying to checkmate each other for international sympathies, hurling allegations at each other for the growing terrorism, their life has become miserable. As the number of Indian armed forces doubles the offensive of the militants across the LoC increases with attacks on soft targets, the people.

After deducting the civil expenditure of ministry of defense and NCC, the budget estimates for the military sector in 2001-02 comes to be Rs. 81,107 crore (22 per cent of the total Indian government expenditure and is 3.88 per cent of estimated GDP, for 2001-02). The defense think tank needs to overhaul their management strategy as statistics prove that merely having a formidable force is not enough.

While the union government claims that toll in the valley is more than 20,000 the state government claims it is more than 70,000 in the past 11 years of internal conflNHRC 1998 reports states there were 228 cases of human rights violation from J&K.
ict. One does not know whether these casualties also include those innocent victims killed by the security forces. The

A study by the University of Kashmir (1999), shows 60,000 people had died in Kashmir and there were 20,000 orphans and 16,000 widows; 80 per cent of the deaths were due to cross firing, killings by security forces or in custody and by the renegades. Records of the Government Mental Hospital, Srinagar shows that in 60 out of the 70 case histories, patients were either victims or were witness to atrocities committed by the security forces on someone close to them. The senior state officials claim custodial deaths have shown an alarming rise. Added to this the number of people killed in police encounters and missing people. The defenders of the armed forces argue that the ratio of casualties of soldiers to militants is very high. In just the first five months of year 2000, 195 security personnel were killed.

On the other hand the mishandling of tragedies in Chhatisinghpora (massacre of uninvolved forces to be militant killers responsible for the Sikh massacre but later found to be innocent civilians) and the killing of five demonstrators shows, it is an unaccountable force working under the immunity provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Violence preceding the Agra summit has created extremely negative sentiments both at the public and political level. More than 11 years of militant crackdown, operations and ‘interrogations’ has embittered and estranged the people. The announcement by home minister L K Advani for the state government to formulate its own terrorism law and India’s stand that it would not allow using cross border violence as a negotiating tactics are futile for the innocent victims families. By now the people know that neither party (militants or security forces) would blink an eye before pulling the trigger at an innocent Kashmiri, if their selfish causes were met.

After the failure of the Agra summit and the escalation of militant activity in the state the onus on the army to deliver results are soaring. But that does not give license to use of this military prowess against one’s own people nor does it convert to opening of borders for mercenaries. It is time the military strategy was geared against the insurgents without losing the confidence of the Kashmiri population.