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28

Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU for 2.5 years and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.

Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Originally posted on Quora.

A lot of answers are here. The only weird thing is not one of them is from a JNU student or who witnessed what happened on that controversial day and yet everyone has such strong opinions about the whole incident from people calling everyone studying in JNU as terrorists, jihadis and naxals to asking for the university to be completely shutdown!

I am a JNU student studying right now and also happen to be a witness from distance for some events that happened on that controversial date - 9th February 2016. So, that kinda renders me more legitimate to answer this question than people who only know about it through Zee News and Times Now.

On 9th February 2016, ex-members of a student organization DSU, short for 'Democratic Students Union' had called for a cultural meeting of a protest against what they called 'the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat' and in solidarity with 'the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination.' A lot of Kashmiri students from inside and outside the campus were to attend the event.

'Democratic Students Union(DSU)' is an ultra-leftist group in the campus that believes in the ideology of Maoism. It's a very small group of very well read students. They are not terrorists or naxals by any means. I have been in the campus for more than 2 years and never have I witnessed or heard of them committing a terror activity as much as of throwing a stone, let alone overthrowing the state!

Now, first things first.

Did they do something wrong in organizing a meeting over the issue of Kashmir? Is the issue of Kashmir so sacred to us and our brains so brainwashed with the idea of nazi-like nationalism that we are not even ready to hear about the issue of Kashmir from Kashmiris themselves?

Do I support the secession of Kashmir from India? No.

I am not even aware of the exact nuances of the political matter, but I am ready to hear, learn and debate all sorts of opinions, especially from the inhabitants themselves.

Now, did the organizers of the meeting do something wrong in calling Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat's execution 'judicial murder'? And was it the first time somebody raised an objection on capital punishment and the judgement of a court?

After Afzal Guru was hanged, a lot of human rights group condemned the hanging. The political party PDP with whom BJP has formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir itself called Afzal's hanging 'travesty of justice'. Arundhati Roy condemned it. Shashi Tharoor called it wrong. Markandey Katju has severely criticized it.

Praveen Swami, Indian journalist, analyst and author specialising on international strategic and security issues wrote in The Hindu,

"The Supreme Court’s word is not, and ought not to be, the final word. Indeed, the deep ambiguities that surround Guru’s case are in themselves compelling argument to rethink the death penalty."

Former Delhi High Court chief justice, Justice AP Shah, said that the hanging of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon were politically motivated.

Now were all these people anti-nationals, terrorists, jihadis?

I have faith in your wisdom to answer that.

Now coming to next issue - the shouting of 'anti-national slogans'.

Now 20 minutes before the meeting was going to start, ABVP, who consider themselves to be the sole harbingers of nationalism, wrote to the administration asking it to withdraw the permission of organizing the meeting as it was 'harmful for campus' atmosphere'. The administration, feeling afraid of clashes, denied the permission. Now, for those who do not know, JNU is a beautiful democratic space where all voices are heard, all opinions however radical, respected. And ABVP was scuttling that space.

DSU asked for help from JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru Students' Union) and other left student organizations like SFI(Students Federation of India), and AISA(All India Students Association) to gather in support of their right to democratically and peacefully hold meeting and mind you, NOT in support of their ideology or their stand on Kashmir. DSU, JNUSU, and other student organizations decided they would not let the administration and the ABVP scuttle their hard-earned democratic space to debate and discuss, and decided to go ahead with the meeting.

The administration sent security guards to cover the badminton court where the meeting was supposed to happen, and denied the permission to use mics. The organizers agreed.

They decided they would continue the meeting around the dhaba itself and without the mics. However, the ABVP mobilized its cadres and started threatening and intimidating the students and organizers. They started shouting cliched slogans like

'Ye Kashmir Hamara hai, saara ka saara hai.'

The organizers as a response to them, and to create solidarity among the students attending the meeting started shouting,

"Hum kya chaahte? Azaadi!"

Do you think there was something highly inflammatory  and dangerous in this statement? Think about it. Nations break all the time. We were chanting the same slogan under Britishers. Soviet Union disintegrated. Secession is neither good nor bad. It depends on the precise circumstances of the region. And mind you, I don't support the secession of Kashmir. I claim to have insufficient knowledge of the situation and conditions of the people residing in that region. Hence, I am neither for nor against it. Hence, I have no problems with a group of students simply shouting slogans in support of a particular region's freedom. They were not planning a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize Kashmir from India. They were simple students who read, travel and learn about socio-political issues and have a stand about it.

Next slogan -

"Tum kitne Afzal maaroge, har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

Now, I did not study the case closely, and hence, would believe in the courts of India and therefore, I believe Afzal Guru was a terrorist. Though principally I am against capital punishment.

However, this group of students believed that he did not deserve capital punishment and also have their skepticism about his involvement in the parliamentary attack. I am picking up this from wikipedia -

"It has to be noted, that in its judgement of 5 August 2005, the supreme court admitted that the evidence against Guru was only circumstantial, and that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation."

And this directly from the Supreme Court judgement:

"The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

So, a group of students believe that Afzal Guru was framed, had no role in the attack on the parliament and his capital punishment was wrong. Big deal?

And were therefore shouting, "Har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

And mind you, these people are not carrying any arms, all they are carrying are ideas.

So, in such a case, what should the state do? Charge them for conspiracy against the state? Or maybe merely try to engage with them, debate with them about a difference of opinion?

And was this some secretly organized meeting about overthrowing the government smuggling in bombs and grenades? No, this was a public meeting. Everyone was invited. You were free to disagree with them. They are not doing it in hiding. If they were terrorists they would not come out in public! But didn't you see them all at your TV channels courageously defending themselves and their right to have a difference of opinion? Tell me, which traits of terrorists do you find in them?

Now, I'll come to the most controversial part - the slogans against India.

In the meeting, there was a whole group of Kashmiri students which had come from outside JNU to attend the meeting. If you would even look closely at the video that is being circulated, you will only see these students who had formed a circle in the center of the gathering. And trust me ,not one of whom was from JNU! I was present during the event for some time, and I could not recognize a single face from that group as being from JNU.

This group of students, who belonged to Kashmir, and had faced the wrath of the AFSPA for decades, were angered to see ABVP disrupt their meeting, and started shouting the slogans against India, like:

"Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi!"
"India, Go Back"

In my almost 2.5 years of stay in JNU, I have never heard these slogans shouted anywhere. These are nowhere even close to the ideology of any left parties, let alone DSU.

To make things clearer, here is what a Kashmiri student who is not a JNU student and who was not present in the meeting, has written about the slogans on his facebook wall, after hearing them on youtube:

"Let me do the “DECONSTRUCTION” not Derridian but ‘Kashmiri deconstruction’ of the slogans that have become so controversial.

1. BHARAT KEE BARBADI TAK JANG RAHEY GEE

Bharat for a Kashmiri young men and women who were born in 1990s and after means Indian Military Establishment. The representative image of Indian state is always, Men-in-uniform-with-weapons.

BARBADI is used in the same lexicon as it’s used by different organizations in India. It means end to the military occupation of Kashmir.

JANG means struggle, whether peaceful, Gandhian, Marxian, Gramscian or violent depends on your interpretation of the word.

I hope it leads to some clarity. Anyways it might be a ‘fringe’ slogan in spaces like JNU but it’s a ‘mass’ slogan in Kashmir.

2. AZADI: The word AZADI, which is the most confusing word for ‘Indians’. Let me simplify it for you. It’s not a seditious slogan nor is it secessionist. AZADI as a slogan is historically, socially, culturally, conceptually and principally rooted in the principle of Right to Self Determination of people belonging to a region occupied by two nation-states identified as Kashmir.

Let me add more, Azadi is a synonym of Resistance and has a very deep aspirational value attached to it."

About the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad', it is disputed. I did not hear any such slogan while I was present there. There is a slogan in a video, but it's not clear as to who shouted it - the Kashmiri students or the ABVP as a conspiracy, as this video below explains:

Now, that it's been clear that no JNU student was involved in shouting anti-India slogans, let's come to the way the government responded to this:

The police on the orders of Home Minister Rajnath Singh raid our univeristy and then hostels. They pick up the JNUSU President from within the campus with no substantial evidence and the court remands him for a 3 day police custody. He did not shout the slogans. He is a member of the All India Students Federation(AISF) which is the student wing of the Communist Party of India(CPI) which has no Maoist or secessionist ideology and is the mildest of all left parties.

Yesterday too, seven more students were picked up by the police from the campus.

I say, if you are hell bent on arresting, arrest those Kashmiri students at the most. But ruthlessly witch-hunting students is outrageous and clearly not what you would expect from a democratic government!

And finally, I am going to touch a raw nerve here, but I think it's become important that someone does -

"Why are we so volatile regarding our ideas of nationalism? Why do we treat it like religion? Somebody shouts few slogans and it becomes absolute blasphemy! A university is a place for debate, discussion and dissent! Slogans should be answered by slogans, and not by sedition charges!"

Elaborating on this, I would like to quote the first prime minister of India 'Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose name the university bears:

A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People."

At such a crucial time, when JNU is facing all kinds of fabricated lies and flak from media, I would urge all of you to stand with JNU. It is one of a kind of university and it's absolutely beautiful, both in it's spirit and geography.

I urge you all to visit my university sometime. It welcomes everyone, accommodates everyone...:)

While Jammu and Kashmir has always had among the lowest suicide rates (0.3% of all suicides) in India, statistics show a rising trend (44.3% more in 2012 than 2011) as opposed to a slight decline (0.1% less in 2012 than 2011) in the overall national figures. The dramatic increase is concerning in a state where the ongiong conflict creates a volatile situation or the youth.

Suicide - warning signsDr. Raminder Jit Singh knows loss personally. Every decade of his life had been dotted with people he cared about logging out of life, leaving behind bewildered families. His cousin's suicide left behind a wife and three children, and it was the impetus that led him to start The - Sara.

'The - Sara' is the first Registered Non - Profit Organization  working in the field of Suicide Prevention & providing Emotional Support in the State of J&K. 'The - Sara' is a non-religious, non-political and non-sectarian Organization formed by a group of like minded professionals, Health Care Givers, Business people, Artists, Homemakers, Engineers, Teachers and Retired Government Employees dedicated to the cause of Suicide Free Society.

 Recent Activity - 'The - Sara' in March 2013 carried out a Pamphlet Campaign on an issue "How to deal with Exam Stress". This initiative was supported by Companies/Brands like AOC India, Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd., Vodafone and Simula Infra Development. (Pamphlet attached)

Present Activity 
- at present we are working on a Project "Epidemiological Study of Suicides in Jammu" in co-ordination with J&K Police. (Permission Proof attached)Upcoming Activity - Continuing with our commitment towards our cause and Society 'The - Sara' is planning to carry out Pamphlet Campaign with the Theme "Learn Suicide Warning Signs". These Pamphlets will be distributed in various parts of Jammu & Kashmir.
Future Activity - we have moved Proposal with IGP Jammu Zone for establishment of "Suicide Prevention & Emotional Support Center". DGP of J&K Police has agreed to take up this Project under Civic Action Programme. This S.P.E.S Center shall provide On-line, Telephonic and Face - to - Face Counseling Services. This proposal is facing numerous glitches. (Proposal Proof attached)
https://aamjanata.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Proposal-to-PHQ.pdf

Since Suicide Prevention is accorded little priority in India therefore is no 'Grant in Aid' Scheme of Govt.of India to support Suicide Prevention Organizations/NGO's. Henceforth, we are carrying out our activities through donations of few well wishers including some Police Officials & through sponsorships of our campaigns. "I am fighting a lost battle." says Raminder Jit Singh. "Jub Tak Hai Jaan the show must go on."

If you think this is an important cause, do contact @abdullah_omar, the CM of J&K and ask him to explain what is goingr. Why would the state not support an NGO wrking on a subject of concern?

6

Disclaimer: I see Kashmir as a part of India as a geographic reality. If it becomes free, I will see it as free. I refuse to cater to bullshit that treats Kashmir as a separate country before it becomes one. This goes for separatists who don't like me calling Kashmiris Indian and this goes for nationalists who don't understand why I put a high priority on the rights of Kashmiris in Kashmir. For me Kashmir is India, rights of Kashmiris are rights of Indians, and that is that.

I believe Kashmir must have the right to determine its destiny - including making horrendous mistakes (which is how I see the separatist cause) if they are determined to do so.

As far as my opinion goes (not that anyone is asking) a free Kashmir is a myth and if Kashmir separates from India without war, it will either be a part of Pakistan or worse a puppet government of Pakistan (think Taliban conquest of Afghanistan), which will hardly be the nirvana separatists are peddling it to be. Kashmiris as puppets caught between the separatists and the state (and the separatists are winning). Taken to its logical conclusion, Kashmir will eventually likely be a part of China as their fee to Pakistan for safe passage through Balochistan on their way to the sea. That is the only way Kashmir can exit India through methods they are currently using.

India is paranoid and resistant to giving Kashmir any leeway for fear of losing it altogether, replacing a courageous political solution with the application of force to impose an indefinite limbo. This is not good for Kashmiris and it is not good for the Army either. You simply cannot turn a region into a massive prison and then also expect there will be no jail breaks. Nor can you expect an Army to live among people and have enemies among them. They are not police. Not in function, not in training and not locals themselves. Soldiers will break and kill innocents and brothers-in-arms and commit suicide. People will get cabin fever and make desperate attempts for freedom that have no sanity to them.

What Kashmiris need to realize is that India and Pakistan got their freedom not through struggle, but through the collapse of the British Empire. India may be on the way to collapse, looking at national data on many fronts, but that collapse is unlikely to be fast enough to force India to give up Kashmir in the near future. All the protesting is only going to keep the state tightening controls at every opportunity to make it harder to defy the state, increasing the claustrophobia.

The separatists want this prison so that their demand for separation is not forgotten. The Indian state wants this prison for control. The Army wants this prison to use the jail breaks to keep AFSPA alive (and get rewards for dead militants), since they too do not have the option of exiting. The only person who doesn't want Kashmir imprisoned is the Kashmiri who wants freedom.

Kashmiris are shown the carrot of a free Kashmir where no bad things will happen and the stick of human rights abuse and an emotional frenzy triggers a highly predictable cycle of protests, abuses and more imprisonment. I wouldn't be surprised if corrupt people in the Indian Army were paid by separatists to kill a few people to keep people protesting. Rewards for Army, rewards for separatists.

There are things India needs to do. The first being to stop coddling/fearing the Army as if they cannot or will not do their jobs without impunity for a few crimes on the side. More importantly, India needs to create opportunities for freedom for Kashmir. How can Kashmiris experience more of life doing what they want. There need to be protocols that recognize the unrealistic duration of time they have been living with heavy security and extra efforts to create protocols that don't confuse bullying with security.

Kashmiris need to realize that they are being used. There is no Nirvana. There is no freedom to be had like this, only a well designed prison. A peaceful Kashmir suits no one except them. Kashmiris need to engage more with their present than their past. However much they avenge the past, it cannot change. The need is to work on their present and ensure a better future, which conflict cannot provide. To refuse to risk life and limb and sanity in hate and conflict. Do all protests have to stop? No. But the protest must have a goal achievable by protest. If you must face a gun, then the need is to face it in order to secure something for yourself. Random anger spilling on the streets is a very high risk for no gain and plenty loss.

Should the dream of a free Kashmir be given up? I'd like to say yes, but Kashmiris are not asking me. In my view, if Kashmiris really want freedom, then the best way would be for separatists to enter politics and contest elections on the promise of a plebiscite. Even Indian freedom fighters participated in government in the British Raj, not just protested. Educated professionals, industry, prosperity, accountable leaders who believe in their freedom to take over. If "all" Kashmiris want freedom, it ought to be a breeze to get elected and then for the elected leaders to negotiate with India for a plebiscite, which kind of makes it difficult to say that the ones wanting to separate are a minority, which is how it appears at the moment.

If India refuses, such an elected leader could even appeal to the UN for intervention with very high credibility through the very nature of being elected. So far, even if the claims of Army forcing people to vote were true, there seems to be no indication that people wanted a pro-freedom government - even as a compromise. If separatists campaigned and won on the promise of a plebiscite, it would be clear and as good as a plebiscite on the need for a plebiscite, so to say. It would be something no one could dispute. This could help bring about a new plebiscite, even if Pakistan does not fulfill its original deal on PoK.

This will also force separatists to put their money where their mouth is instead conning Kashmiris for an unending propaganda war. It will prove the truth or lie of the claim that "All Kashmiris want freedom". It will also give the elected state government a lot of leverage during negotiations with the center on the AFSPA and many other things. A shift from arbitrary claims of support to democratic representation. Not to mention it would force India to address human rights issues on an urgent basis if they want the people to keep believing in them. More importantly, it will be an irreversible step toward solving the problem.

On the other hand, I think if it comes to a plebiscite, there should be an agreement before the plebiscite on whether it should be held for all of J&K state (which reduces the chances of separation) or for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh separately, with each choosing their destiny. Finally, the result of the plebiscite, if it happens or the failure to prove its need should be the end of the conflict.

All that said, freedom means the right to choose for yourself, even if the choice is a horrendous mistake. You simply cannot imprison people "for their good" and call it a good thing.

What about the Pandits?

What about them? They too should be a part of this to whatever extent they wish. It is not like the way we are proceeding is easy for them to return. No matter how unjust it is, it is impossible to move the clock back. It has to move forward. It is not even as if Kashmiri Musims are safe either. There will be a point, whether as part of India or free that they will have to decide if the risk of return is worth the reward of it. Kashmir is hardly likely to be completely safe in the near future.

Freedom, in my view is less about the name of the country you belong to, and more about if you can live freely. Content, happy people cannot be bothered to come out on the street and protest, whether in India or free. Indian government should stop this colonization method they use. Not just in Kashmir. People are dropping out of believing the state all over the country. Be it militant movements or Maoists or non-violent protests or anti-project movements or anti-rape protests or anti-corruption protests or whatever. The belief of Indians that the state can be trusted to rule them is at an all time low. India has to start listening to people and to serve them instead of control them, and Kashmir is as good a place to start as any.

I don't think Kashmiris can be free without letting go of hostility  however much injustice causes it. Even if India set them free right now, anarchists are not suddenly going to become creators. All it would be is a vacuum for the biggest gun to claim as their property and a new cycle of the same story.

Protests are an expression of anger. Freedom has to be a strategy.

When I wrote my post on Kashmiri Pandits, a friend responded privately with a nugget of political insight – before the ethnic cleansing, Kashmiri Pandits did favor independence over merger with India. If that is true, then Pakistan did Kashmir a grave disservice by sponsoring the butchers who devastated them and turned them firmly pro-India.

That got me thinking about the the differences between Pakistan’s supposed support for Kashmir’s freedom, and its actual actions.

Please note, in the following observations, I have no particular opinion on what “should” happen with Kashmir, though I do see a disadvantage for India, the region and the world if Kashmir becomes independent and a target for Pakistan’s strategic depth. Not to mention, I am convinced Pakistan will not allow an independent Kashmir beyond getting it to separate from India.

Here is why.

1. When India and Pakistan got independent, Kashmir also became independent of sorts. It successfully negotiated its Stand Still agreement and while we can argue intent till the cows come home, the basic fact stands that the supposed “occupation” of Kashmir by India came after the occupation of Kashmir by Pakistan.

2. Regardless of whether the occupation was valid/popular or not or when it was signed, another fact that cannot be disputed is that it was a reaction to the Pakistani invasion/occupation and based on the understanding of a merger with India, unlike Pakistani occupation, which violated a Stand Still agreement they had made with Kashmir.

3. While there are no doubt many Kashmiris who fought for independence from India, militants from Punjab, Pakistan cannot be called Kashmiris.

4. Pakistan has initiated two “sly captures” of Kashmir territory since, which certainly cannot be called an indigenous Kashmiri independence struggle, since they escalated into wars between two armies.

5. Militants with pro-Pakistan agenda, comprised of Pakistanis (and other nationalities, trained in pakistan) have outnumbered and indeed hampered Kashmiri militants (who received far less assistance).

6. The ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits also came at a time when the voices in Kashmir demanding independence from both countries gathered momentum. If we add this insight that influential Kashmiri Pandits supported independence for their own reasons, it translates to not only an ethnic cleansing, but also a weakening of the political voice for independence (as opposed to merger with Pakistan – which the Kashmiri Pandits didn’t want).

7. Pro-independence separatists and moderates who have no specifci pro-Pakistan agenda have a disconcerting habit of turning up dead, being blamed on Indian Army and then being found out as work of militants or the unseen “hand”.

8. Rallies in Pakistan demanding conquering Kashmir from India via jihad have few Kashmiris – largely Punjabis.

9. Every conflict Pakistan has engaged in has been about land – specifically control over land and denying its citizens control over their land – be it the Balochs, be it the Bangladesh, be it the Taliban prop-up in Afghanistan (against both Soviets and later Afghans themselves) or be it Kashmir.

10. Pakistan’s idea of independence can be understood from Azad Kashmir, where freedom means political leaders must swear allegiance to Pakistan to have the rights to come to power.

11. Muslim Kashmiri who does not want to be identified points out that Kashmiri Muslims who are pro-India also get killed and many have migrated out of Kashmir too – which is even more ignored than Kashmiri Pandits.

12. He also points out that the area of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan has been heavily resettled by people loyal to Pakistan. Sunny Singh says something similar too – ‘azad’ Kashmir has been re-settled by Punjabi primarily ex-military personnel as part of a policy of demographic shift in contravention of a UN directive – while Pakistan publicizes demands for a plebiscite, it has itself violated conditions for it – conditions that were likely to lead to a “1947 like” result for independence.

Stray observations. I don’t believe for a minute that if Kashmir becomes independent, it will remain independent. It will either be attacked and absorbed into Pakistan, or it will become a puppet state like Afghanistan under Taliban – the dirty work and plausible deniability terrain.

Whether this means Kashmir should not be given independence? I don’t know. Having a potentially hostile neighbor cannot be reason enough to deny the right to self-determination. But this question gets muddied if we look at experiences of other territories of interest to Pakistan. Would it be human rights to leave them at the mercy of such? I don’t know that either.

I do know that there are atrocities happening in Kashmir, which are totally unacceptable as a long term state of existence (or short term for that matter) and they need to stop. My article on AFSPA talks about that.

I do think that unless there is a space for feeling safe created, Kashmiri responses are going to be ones of panicked escape. It could be from the frying pan into the fire, or it could be from hell to paradise. We don’t know. What I do know is that even if we were to give Kashmiris freedom (or not), the desperate, survivalist state of mind and the resultant domination of public space by reactiveness (pro or anti India/independence/Pakistan will be detrimental to everyone’s interest, in every condition. This protection of human rights is as necessary for us as a democratic country, as it is for a thoughtful, responsible solution for Kashmir to eventually emerge.

4

Again, the time is come to talk about the AFSPA and again, the rhetoric is the same on all sides. Another classic Indian stalemate.

Omar Abdullah has taken on himself to get the AFSPA revoked from some parts of Kashmir at least, and wants the Army to give him options other than "No".

The Army, on its part is adamant that revoking the AFSPA will be the equivalent of giving terrorists free rein - a claim that is scoffed by people who want the AFSPA revoked, but a claim extremely likely to be true by the estimates of many people well-versed with counter-insurgency operations.

Human rights advocates persistently point out abuses by the Army as a reason to revoke the AFSPA, conveniently measuring human rights by the standards of a secure region and protests by the standards of a disputed region. They also consistently ignore that the larger number of human rights abuses is by militants which is possible to get higher with revocation of AFSPA. The stand here seems to be anti-state in the name of human rights rather than a well-considered focus on human rights, which could have created suggestions with better possibilities to work, since this group is credible in the eyes of both state and people.

Kashmiris themselves have diverse objectives, and no single perspective can be considered as representative of all.

Considering all these voices and their multiple desired outcomes, it remains important to identify areas all can agree on and consolidate those.

One such area is human rights. Whether the Army needs AFSPA or not, every side of this debate agrees that civilians have rights and they must be respected. There clearly needs to be reform that allows regular proscecution of soldiers engaging in human rights abuse. Rape, extra-judicial killings and such cannot be called counter-insurgency, and there needs to be a divorce from the concept of all pervading exemption from prosecution.

The Army claims to have suspended several of the accused, and it is a good beginning, but really a suspension is irrelevant. It is an Army matter on whether the soldier's behavior is acceptable in service or not. It cannot be considered justice for a rape or murder. In my view, the punishment for these should be the same as for any other rapist or murderer and from a civil court, unless the Army thinks it covers rapes and extra judicial killings as a part of the job description. Whether existing law provides for this or if it should be amended or a new law created, I don't know, but this is important.

Understandably there is concern over soldiers being framed, and the Army can and should provide competent lawyers if they believe a soldier is being framed, but keeping non-counter-insurgency harm to civilians out of the jurisdiction of civil courts leaves them with no recourse. The Army cannot live in a place and flaunt its laws too!

At the same time, the separatists need to tone down the rhetoric a lot, if they expect their concerns to be taken seriously. The story of victimization may be true, but as a story of a special victimization of Kashmir, it doesn't wash. Human rights abuse is very common all over India and indeed South Asia at the very least. If they imagine Pakistan, China or even an independent Kashmir would be any better, they need to get a dose of reality here. It needs fought and it needs fixed, yes, but is it a Kashmir special? Only if you know no other place than Kashmir, and no other logic than brainwash.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Black Humor Break:

Human rights abuse in Kashmir by the state should be considered as the true sign that the state considers Kashmiris their own. See how Baba Ramdev was attacked in the capital of the country. A Hindu, Brahmin, no less. We do it everywhere. Protest anything, and you get squashed. That is how India treats dissent. You are perfectly Indian, not to worry.

End Black Humor
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It also isn't an Army speciality. False encounters have been done by police and militants. Rapes have been done by absolutely every occupation man has known in far greater proportion than our Army. Read news of cops, for example. So revoking the AFSPA may not be the miracle cure it is advertized as.

On the other hand, militancy being the reason for Army presence is wearing thin. It is Pakistan's stated policy to promote cross border terrorism. The Army itself reports camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir being intact, routine infiltrations and cover fire from Pakistani posts. There is absolutely no indication that Pakistan will change its mind over this. Ever. In fact, Hafiz Saeed & Co are openly advocating more mayhem in recent days. This can be considered a permanent feature of having Pakistan for a neighbour. "Can we consider an Army in civilian areas a permanent feature?" - is the question.

While we are impacted by Pakistani actions, we are not responsible for them. We are responsible for our actions. And choosing indefinite Army control for a region doesn't seem to be one of our brighter ideas.

The Army's concern about pockets of militancy seems valid and makes complete sense and is not something that should be taken lightly - particularly by those who claim an interest in human rights and safety.

So there needs to be another way. And it cannot be military, it needs to be political and administrative. There needs to be some kind of plan for handing over control of the region to local police - including counter-insurgency. Possibly a specialist police force or strengthening an existing one. That might mean training, equipment, etc. With the intention that the Army will not be expected to come in and fight fires that get lit once it exits civilian areas. When this is done, it will become safe to revoke the AFSPA.

Lack of insurgency alone cannot be enough as Omar Abdullah seems to be thinking, because without the capacity with local forces, the revoking of the AFSPA will indeed be an invitation to militants in that case. If that happens, the Army will have to be back too and we'll have this same debate over and over.

This should be planned well and in terms of a permanent administrative solution in a sensitive area.

There will need to be provisions for the Army supply routes and transit bases and the rights of the soldiers to their protection by the local forces outside camp/convoy perimeters and themselves inside. There will obviously need to be the provision to repel attacks and give immediate chase to perpetrators - AFSPA or not. There will be border areas under the control of the Army. There will obviously need to be interfaces between local forces and Army...

It could prove to be a much welcome image boost for both politicians and Army. It will be much needed relief for soldiers from the stress of living with an unseen enemy among civilians. It will be a big breather for civilians to be secured by a machinery they can challenge if wronged. Also, police in general have far more of their role geared to dealing with civilian problems. The Army simply are not geared for that the way cops are. AFSPA isn't the only gap in function.

But yes, getting the Army out of the hair of civilians one way or the other, is an important goal to take up. The Army cannot be turned into an administrative solution. Nor can the actions of a neighbouring country be considered adequate reason for permanent Army control in our own.