Civil liberties and Democratic Rights organizations have for long argued that using Indian Army to prosecute war against our own people is to fight an ignoble war, because such wars are Dirty Wars under the very definition of Counter Insurgency warfare where our own people are treated as enemies to be suppressed by using military force. Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation as well as other civil liberties groups have been witness to and chroniclers of heinous crimes of sexual violence, custodial killings, massacres, enforced disappearances, blinding young men and women, use of pellet guns in such wars by India’s armed forces over several decades. Our work convinces us of the folly of using army for prolonged wars against our own people, when enlightened self-interest beckons a democratic resolution for long festering disputes such as the Kashmir Question.
Consequently, for the Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat to claim that the rules of engagement in a dirty war are “played in a dirty way” because it is a “proxy war”, is a slopism at best or a subterfuge to pass off the blame for Kashmir insurgency on to Pakistan. For 27 years Jammu and Kashmir has been a “Disturbed Area” where army and the para military forces enjoy legal immunity under Armed Forces Special Powers Act and provisions of Indian Army Act 1950 for any offence committed by them in such wars. In course of 27 years Kashmir went through a variety of developments, moving from militancy to mass agitation and now again a revived militancy. Difference is not the spread of armed militancy but its fewer numbers are publicly backed by masses of people gathering at encounter sites. People’s resistance has transformed in the course of these 27 years where the nature of defiance expresses itself in the contemporary culture of protest and very measured statements from all sections of Kashmiri society, deflecting provocations and insinuations, to insist on movement’s indigenous political character and causation. Starting with 2008 when masses came out during the Ragda agitation and the brutal crackdowns which followed as well as carried on each time people took to express themselves non-violently is all well documented facts. The extraordinary rescue and rehabilitation work carried out by Kashmiris during the floods of September 2014, when they even rescued army personnel, including in Badamibagh, the Hq of XV Corps of the Indian Army, expressed the collective resilience of a battered and bruised people, still capable of reaching out to their adversary. Fanaticism has been displayed by supporters of Government of India rather than by the Kashmiri society. Unarmed Kashmiri protestors have been felled by bullets, pellets, tear gas canisters, beaten black and blue, incarcerated, juvenile and adults tortured, criminal cases foisted on the young, are dismissed as propaganda by “anti-nationals”. Instead of admitting that military solution has run its course and popular mood in Kashmir has turned more determined in its struggle for ‘Azaadi’, the army chief continues ‘to slog a dead horse’ of military solution, when everything else points towards political solution.
Every discerning observer of Kashmir today, including the civil liberty movement, retired generals, former cabinet ministers, former National Security Advisor, every political party in J&K, barring BJP and its cohorts, have unequivocally vouched for the indigenous character of the current upsurge in Kashmir. Furthermore, a bench of Supreme Court hearing the matter regarding fake encounters in Manipur 1990-2012, in its interim judgment on July 8, 2016, the very day Burhan Wani was martyred, raised some pointed questions to the Indian Army and the Union of India. The bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit asked “What would be the consequence if normalcy is not restored for a prolonged or indeterminate period?” The bench said “In our opinion it would be indicative of the failure of civil administration to take effective aid of the armed forces in restoring normalcy or would be indicative of the failure of the armed forces in effectively aiding the civil administration in restoring normalcy, or both”. The Bench also said that “normalcy not being restored cannot be fig leaf for prolonged, permanent deployment of the armed forces as it would mock at our democratic process”.
Rejecting all this, General Rawat on 15th February 2017 likened the stone pelters to “anti-nationals” and threatened to “go after them”. In the interview given to PTI on May 28, 2017, General Bipin Rawat went ahead to justify the criminal act of using civilians as “human shield”, dismissed the likelihood of a political solution in Kashmir by projecting it as a “proxy war”, advocated military solution in Kashmir, made the astounding claim that not just India’s enemies but Indian people should “fear” the Indian army, and expressed his ardent wish that the protestors “instead of throwing stones at us were firing weapons at us”. Because “(t)hen I could do what I (want to do)”. The shameless call by Army Chief asking citizens to pick up arms instead of the stones is to facilitate Indian army to use ‘equal’ and ‘proportionate’ force while exercising self defence which otherwise will be prohibited by International Law. Further, his remarks show singular disregard for Rules of War as well as utter contempt for the Rule of Law, authorizes violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, and amounts to normalising lawless war which is already unleashed by army on the people. One fact which even the army chief knows is that Kashmiris have lost their fear and awe of Indian army. Their memory of what army is capable of doing is a constant reminder etched on their lives. So the army is not feared, they are simply disliked if not hated for all the pain and loss caused to the native Kashmiri Muslims. In such a situation to privilege military solution is like pouring oil on fire.
The sum total of what he said shows that the Army which had come to acquire a veto power over repeal of AFSPA under the UPA Government now is being allowed to pursue its own course of war in Kashmir, because BJP prefers soldiers to resolve problems, it does not have the political stomach to resolve. Public support by BJP’s cabinet ministers, Government’s highest law officer, and others is an acknowledgement that the ruling party has no Kashmir policy other than a brutal suppression to erase the idea of ‘Azaadi in Kashmir’. The implications are horrendous. For one Kashmir is now projected as a total war between India and Pakistan and Kashmiris are considered as “anti-nationals”, whether they throw stones, shout slogans, waive flags, stage sit ins, hold meetings, simply by virtue of a concocted understanding of the situation. For another it means that leadership of the Indian army, while grossly mis-reading the situation in Kashmir, remains innocent of the deleterious impact rapid expansion of Hindu right wing vigilantism has on developments in Kashmir. A Government which on the one hand promotes and patronises Hindu vigilantism in India and especially Jammu and on the other side an Indian army which speaks of a military solution in Kashmir is a double whammy on Kashmir. It shows how Indian State is propelling a descent into militarized vigilante based authoritarianism. Indian army which has been engaged in prolonged military suppression for nearly three decades in Kashmir, all for want of a democratic solution, ought to know by now that restoration of authority through coercion has been tenuous and temporary; the real cause of such war remains intact, as developments in Kashmir since 1989-90 have clearly shown.
CDRO wants to remind the public that Constitution nowhere, even in its list of Duties, demands of the citizens to fear and obey the army. Such outrageous interpolations, therefore, serves as a reminder that the even the most disciplined army can get hollowed out by a long drawn out engagement in wars against our own people. An army, which gives into what Carl von Clausewitz described as “rude acts of mere instincts”, and believes that people must fear their army, is desperately desirous of playing the role army plays in Pakistan, the very country General Bipin Rawat blames for the imaginary ‘proxy war’ today in Kashmir. Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations, therefore, considers General Bipin Rawats’s remarks as mocking the “Democratic process”, which the Indian army, and as its chief, he is expected to defend and uphold.
C. Chandrasekhar (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Asish Gupta (PUDR, Delhi), Pritpal Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal) (Coordinators of CDRO).
Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR,Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep(Delhi).