Soldiers in Kashmir are far from family, yet amidst one….
The title of the article might sound unusual as normally in a society there is not much of a link between civilians & Army. This gives an indication of separate scales required to be used to measure the relationship in such a society & most certainly a higher level of awareness & wisdom. Primary responsibility of an army is to secure a nation’s borders from external aggressor threats. However, in certain extreme circumstances such as anarchy, insurgency & terrorism, if the situation goes out of the hand of Police & Paramilitary forces, govt is forced to use military to maintain Law & Order in society. The military of the country is given provisional powers to act as a Police Force in order to control the worsening situation. Civilians living in such conditions for a long time have a different perception of forces & 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 & Kashmir & the problems of the civilians that dictate the relationship of Army & Awaam.
The common people of the state have seen the worst times filled with bloodshed & radical notions forced on them. Army deployment to counter the menace of terrorism & safeguarding the civilians added to the hardships of the people, as terrorists & their sympathisers were from the locals & as a result all the locals naturally come under the suspicion of either being terrorist or their supporters until proven otherwise. As per the army’s nature of the duty, they could not afford to believe anyone based on vocal claims of being innocent & leave them without following the procedure, which later could convert into a big tragedy. However, a common Kashmiri civilian, caught in the struggles of livelihood never identifies himself with the extreme radical Islam nor supports any requirement of a separate Kashmir for Muslims. They were always happy & contended living with other communities, rather than living in state of constant fear for three decades now. They are unwillingly caught between terrorists on one hand who force/ lure them to join militancy & doesn’t value their lives & army on the other hand which has to impose restrictions on them in their day to day lives to ensure their safety & safeguard national interest.
However, Army has always taken the humane approach & preferred in saving the innocents over neutralizing the terrorists. Therefore, terrorists surrounded in operations are always motivated to surrender & repeated calls are made for them to leave weapon & come out, even at the risk of drawing fire. All attempts are made to induce surrender, using local people & parents. The govt provides protection, relocation, career opportunities & incentives to motivate them to abstain from the path of terrorism & join mainstream to make their lives better & 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 & charter. These efforts of going out of the way to make people comfortable & helping them with day to day issues have not gone unnoticed & civilians appreciate this aspect of Indian Army. Army regularly conducts various events such as Medical camps for patients, sponsoring education, sports events, identifying talent & projecting it on national platform with a view to ease the hardships of the civilians. The Kashmiri Awaam also understands that what is actually better for them & 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’. As opposed to the norm across the world armies deployed in such inhospitable environment, our Army is actually concerned about saving lives. Also, our Army is known for conducting activities for uplifting them by providing them basic facilities & opportunities, managed solely from their own resources. The intent of helping and genuine concern is more important than all other material things. The treatment of a lady, child, old & week by a soldier involved in operations speaks highly about the professional conduct & grooming of the army & the same treatment & respect is given to family members of the terrorists. They are never unnecessarily disturbed or harassed just for being related to terrorists. Over the years a strong bond has been formed between the Army & Awaam. This co-existence in such a violent environment itself says that how both these communities complement & respect each other.
The response to the army’s events & the footfall of civilians is a proof in itself that Kashmiris respect the sincerity & know that this organization is actually concerned about the betterment of the people. The difference is amply clear by the attendance in events of army as compared to other civil agencies. It is very important to have this connect/ bonding between the army & the citizens for Kashmir to move over this era of violence & rise to a new future. We always talk about the hardships of the civilians, which is good but at the same time we must not 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. And moreover, it should be understood that the army can’t compromise with the safety & security of the citizens, and therefore, certain procedures & drills of army may create issues for the civilians. However, it is always with a larger aim to ensure the safety and security of the citizens. The responsibility lies on both the fraternities to understand the restrictions of each other in order to develop the unbreakable bond. We all know that army exists in Kashmir for safeguarding the state from internal turmoil & reduce the violence caused by terrorists, so that the enemy across does not dare to take the advantage of the situation and create divide amongst us in the name of religion, as it has been continuously trying for decades. Also, it is a fact that army works solely & professionally for the country without being biased.
While, any sane & neutral man, who had seen the Kashmir of 90s & 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 200 from the 5000-8000 in 1990s. Also, the important thing is that the civilians see the army as their own & know that army is here to protect the innocents. This growing trust & bond is the indication of changing times. The kids do not hide & are not afraid to see men in uniform, but they happily wave to them & aspire to be one of them in future. The matured approach to the army personnel with their problems & issues before approaching to Police or any other civil authorities, because they are aware that their problems will be heard patiently & help would be given without a second thought. They love & admiration of the soldier, who works with dedication in such challenging environment far from his loved ones, risking his own life in order to secure theirs. As we are waiting for the time when this changing face of Kashmir will become heaven again and leave this bond of Jawan & Awam as unbreakable bond of example to all & most importantly when these valued security forces will move from such internal conflicts of state to their primary duty to guard the borders as the savior of the nation.