Soldiers in Kashmir are far from family, yet amidst one….
The title of the article might give an uneasy feeling as normally in a society there is not much of a link between civilians and Army, but for state of Jammu and Kashmir. This gives an indication of separate scales required to be used to measure the relationship in such a society and most certainly a higher level of awareness and wisdom. An army is primarily responsible for securing the nation’s borders from external threats. However, in certain extreme circumstances, if the situation goes out of hand of Police and Paramilitary forces, government is forced to use military to maintain Law and Order in the society.
Such circumstances primarily include anarchy, insurgency and terrorism. In such a condition, Military is given provisional powers to act as a Police Force. Civilians living in such conditions for a long time have a different perception of forces and face issues that, us being from the mainland can’t even imagine.
With this brief background, I would now focus on specific issue pertaining to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the problems of the civilians that dictate the relationship of Army and Awaam. The common people of the state have seen the worst times filled with bloodshed and radical notions forced on them. Army deployment to counter the menance of terrorism and safeguarding the civilians added to the hardships of the people, as terrorists and their sympathisers were from the locals and this made all locals come under the suspicion of either being a terrorist or a supporter. As per army’s nature of the duty, they could not afford to believe anyone based on vocal claims of being innocent an leave them without following the procedure, which later could convert into a big tragedy. However, a common Kashmiri, caught in the struggle of livelihood has never identified himself with the radical wing nor understood the requirement of a separate Kashmir for muslims. They were always happy and contended living with other communities, rather than living in state of constant fear for three decades now.
Kashmiris are unwillingly caught between terrorists on one hand who force or lure them to join militancy and doesn’t value their lives and Army on the other hand which has to impose restrictions on them in their day-to- day lives to ensure their safety and safeguard national interest.
However, Army has always taken the humane approach and preferred in saving the innocents over neutralizing the terrorists. Therefore, terrorists surrounded in operations are always motivated to surrender and repeated calls are made for them to leave weapon and come out, even at the risk of drawing fire. All attempts are made to induce surrender, using local people and parents. The Government provides protection, relocation, career opportunities and incentives to motivate them to abstain from the path of terrorism and join mainstream to make their lives better and contribute to progress of the society. For over three decades, army has continuously made efforts to make people’s life better, by indulging in field outside of their domain and charter. These efforts of going out of the way to make people comfortable and helping them with day to day issues have not gone unnoticed & civilians appreciate this aspect of Indian Army.
Organising Medical camps, attending to patients, sponsoring education, organizing sports events, identifying talent and projecting it on national platform are just some of the things that army does regularly to ease the hardships of the civilians. The Kashmiri Awaam also understands that what is actually better for them and Kashmir. Our army has shown the world the best way about ‘How to deal with the civilians despite being risked for life in a counter terrorism environment’. While, nowhere in the world armies deployed in such an environment, are actually worried about saving lives, our army has proved that, not only are they saving civilians but also uplifting them by providing them basic facilities and opportunities, managed solely from their own resources. This intent of the army is more important than all other things. The treatment of a lady, child, old and weak by a soldier involved in operations speaks highly about the professional conduct and grooming of the army and the same treatment and respect is given to family members of the terrorists. They are never unnecessarily disturbed or harassed for his son’s deeds. Over the years, a strong bond has been formed between the Army and Awaam. This co-existence in such a violent environmnent itself says that how both these communities complement and respect each other.
The response to the army’s events and the footfall of civilians is a proof in itself that Kashmiris respect the sincerity and know that this organization is not doing all this for some wicked agenda but for the betterment of the people. The difference can be clearly seen by the footfall in events of army vis-à-vis other civil agencies. It is very important to have this connect/ bonding between the army and the citizens for Kashmir to move over this era of violence and rise to a new future. We always talk about the hardships of the civilians but ignore the hardships faced by the army. We all know that in a bonding between two fraternities, it is important for both of them to understand each other & their constraints. Army, does everything that it can, to ease the hardships of the civilians, while being under continuous risk. But important thing to understand is that the army can’t compromise with the safety and security of the citizens, thereby, certain procedures and drills of army create issues for the civilians. However, it is always for the larger good of the civilians. The onus lies on both the fraternities to understand the restrictions of each other for the unbreakable bond to develop. We all know that army exists in Kashmir for safeguarding the state from internal turmoil and reduce the violence caused by terrorists, so that the external enemy cannot take the advantage of the situation to create divide amongst us in the name of religion. Also, it is a fact that army works solely and professionally for the country without being biased. It does not work for any political agenda or harbor hatred against any community.
While, any sane and neutral man, who had seen the Kashmir of 90s and the human rights allegations against the army at that time would vouch for the fact that the situation has changed a lot here. The terrorists have been reduced to a mere 250 from the 5000-6000.
Also, the important thing is that the civilians see the army as their own and know that army is here to protect the innocents. This growing trust and bond is the indication of changing times. The kids do not hide and are not afraid to see men in uniform, but they happily wave to them and aspire to be one of them in future. The grown ups approach to the army personnel with their problems and issues before approaching to Police or any other civil authorities, because they are aware that there problems will be heard patiently and help would be given without a second thought. They love and admire the soldier, who works with dedication in such challenging environment far from his loved ones, risking his own life in order to secure their’s. As the time goes by and situation improves, when Kashmir would once again become a heaven, when this bond of Jawan and Awaam will increase to the point of bieng unbreakable, the irony is, that would be the time for security forces to move out of Kashmir and focus on their primary duty at the borders, as the saviours of the nation.