AA Edit | Probe Army attacks; also hold polls in J&K quickly

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the land they belonged to for generations.

Militancy and terrorism have had a roller-coaster ride in the Valley, especially in the last four decades. (PTI File Image)

Kashmir is on the boil again. The reports of the deaths of four Army soldiers in an ambush by terrorists, which were followed by serious allegations that the Army tortured three civilians to death after picking up eight villagers from the Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir, point to a situation which warrants the attention of the whole nation.

While the Army continues its search for the killers of its troops and conducts an investigation into the alleged torture-death of the civilians, the government of Jammu and Kashmir has initiated an investigation into the deaths. No doubt the death of men in uniform is condemnable but it cannot offer an excuse to their colleagues to unleash brute force on civilians in the name of investigation. People who trust the Constitution believe in the rule of law and they demand a strong message be sent to the armed forces. Its personnel cannot take law into their own hands, however painful their losses are.

There is in fact very little point in blaming the Army, a force trained to fight the enemy and succeed, as it’s not equipped to operate against fellow citizens. It is successive governments since the 1980s that have commissioned the Army to do the impossible here, and hence the blame of the killings must be laid at their door.  

The government would hold that it has a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and the security situation has improved significantly in Jammu and Kashmir, but the reports emanating from here tell a different story. Three Army soldiers were killed in an encounter in Kulgam in August. In September, two Army officers, two soldiers and a deputy superintendent of police were killed in an encounter in Ananatnag; it was followed by the death of five soldiers, including two captains, in an encounter in Rajouri in November. In the latest incident which took place this month, the terrorists have claimed the lives of three soldiers.

The government and its machinery had got Article 370 of the Constitution watered down, deeming it to be the silver bullet that would solve all the problems of the region in one go. It cannot be said that they genuinely did not know that the Kashmir problem is a historical one. India has been bearing it since Independence and it cannot have a magical solution. Two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars and endless battles over the region and hundreds of Indian citizens and Indian defence personnel have been killed. Militancy and terrorism have had a roller-coaster ride in the Valley, especially in the last four decades. Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the land they belonged to for generations.

The ruling party must stop seeing Kashmir as a plank to earn votes on. It is human tragedy that has been unfolding here for decades, and political mileage from it can only come through honest effort. The government must trust the people of Kashmir and their leaders and initiate the democratic process. Dishonest claims, disdain for democratic process and over-emphasis on the arms cannot bring peace here. 

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