Kashmir: A Journey From Paradise To Hell has been edited by Ruhaan Shah.
“Stone pelting continues, 3 CRPF Jawans sustain heavy injuries.”
“19 soldiers killed at Uri as Pak unleashes Jaish again.”
“Our neighbours mutilated their bodies. This is a reprehensive and inhuman act. Such acts don’t even take place during a war, let alone peace”, Jaitley said. Stating that the sacrifices of the soldiers will not go in vain, he also said the armed forces would appropriately react to the barbaric act.
We wake up to these words while reading newspapers or browsing through our social media feeds. These are words that should ideally haunt a nation. But for us Indians—you and me—this is nothing new. Let me tell you what will happen next. A top journalist and his panel of ‘experts’ will convene at the “prime time.” The press will question the political leadership, the efficacy of our troops and the locals hindering, and more often than not, worsening operations. Tempers will flare, and egos will run rampant. A competition to see who can scream the loudest or get offended first ensues. Summed up above is the Kashmir issue for an average Indian, someone who comfortably sits in an air-conditioned room, miles away from ground zero.
Kashmir paints a grim picture today. Bloodshed is the order of the day. At present, we deploy seven hundred thousand troops in the valley. These numbers do not comprise the personnel from CRPF or the local police. So, is it necessary to deploy so many troops to counter a couple hundred poorly trained, poorly equipped terrorists? Sadly, the answer is yes.
On a given day, the situation in the valley could be extremely volatile; tires set ablaze; curfew imposed; mobs take over police stations; citizens held hostages. Separatist forces go to the extent of using women and children as shields while pelting stones. Some even have the audacity to throw stones openly while shouting anti-India slogans. Public harassment and mockery of soldiers is a source of entertainment. They share videos of such events on YouTube for the world to see.
It does not stop there. Soldiers maintaining peace have petrol bombs thrown at them. Miscreants loot or set convoys of cars on fire. The sight of someone hoisting Pakistani or ISIS flags is common. Loudspeakers play the cries of ‘Liberate Kashmir’. Sneaking into military bases and slaughtering sleeping soldiers is the new game to play. Killing a virtually defenseless man must give them quite an adrenaline rush. Such cowardly acts boost their false hopes of annexing Kashmir as a part of Pakistan. Killing with a bullet is not enough. Mutilation is a must. Thousands turn up for the funeral of a dead terrorist because he died a ‘shahid’ and his coffin is a trophy that parades a town. Gallantry medals are dished out like candy, but effective actions are few and far.
For a soldier deployed in Kashmir, it is very frustrating. When one of his comrades fall, and he cannot save him, his blood boils. The metaphorical shackles on his hands prevent him from shooting back. Our neighbours trespass into our land under cover of artillery fire. They empty their AK-47 magazines, lob grenades and fire RPGs at our troops. Ceasefire violations mean nothing to them. They have gotten too comfortable with the fact that the UN Security Council is not going to intervene.
India will be its usual ‘get attacked first, respond later’ self on the other hand. By the time India responds, the Pakis have crossed back into their land, while leaving a trail of dead bodies behind. Pakistan training and supplying for the proxy war is known. We do not act on it. ‘Hum iss haadse ki kadi ninda karte hain’ does not work when you have machine gun fire aimed at you and no cover to find. The Indian soldier is not weak or incapable of responding back. The wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 proved that.
More recently, the surgical strikes further established the fact that we can avenge our fallen comrades, too. However, what restricts us is our political system. I have always maintained that Manohar Parrikar was the best Defence Minister our country has seen. He did not hold back, whether it came to the acquisition of equipment or payback. Him going back to Goa has only boosted the confidence of extremists. Jaitley may prove to be good in the future, but he is no Parrikar.
With the whole ongoing military conflict and social unrest, we tend to forget the real victims—the ordinary people of Kashmir. The thought of a girl who could not go to school holds India back from waging a full-scale war. What stops us, is the sight of a pregnant woman who could not reach the hospital in time and lost her unborn baby. People in Kashmir do not have access to basic facilities like water, power supply, quality education, telephone lines. This election season, the voter turnout was a mere 6%.
People there do not even have an option of choosing their Government because they live in constant fear. The threat and the risk are just too much. Children go to schools and colleges and what returns is their still bodies. Attacking schools, colleges, governmental institutions and hospitals always leads to a massive body count. The terrorists know that. Kashmir’s primary revenue sources—tourism and exports of wood and other materials—are taking a serious hit. So what does an out-of-work tour guide angry and upset with things do? He runs to the first job opportunity he finds. That way, he can feed his two-year-old daughter. Even if the job means throwing stones at security forces.
What is the solution to the Kashmir conflict? I do not know. I am not stupid enough to say that let us drop a nuclear bomb across the border and end it for once and all. However, I am also not an optimist who will say that India and Pakistan should compromise and become the most cordial of neighbours. Blood will spill. The Kashmir solution will be sorted out by talking and inking accords. The only difference will be that the ink may as well be blood.
“In an ideal world, you could reunite the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir with the Indian-occupied part and restore the old borders. You could have both India and Pakistan agreeing to guarantee those borders, demilitarise the area, and invest in it economically. In a sane world, that would happen, but we don’t live in a sane world.”
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Lutalica.
To read more by the author of Kashmir: A Journey From Paradise To Hell, click here.