On 27 January 18,an army convoy of a regular infantry battalion passing through Ganaupora Village was subjected to stone throwing, in Shopian district in Kashmir valley, seriously wounded and making unconscious a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO). The unruly mob which had swelled to between 200 to 250 men was trying to pull the sullen body of the JCO and lynch him to death. The mob was also trying to snatch the weapon of the JCO and set fire to two army vehicles. Under extreme provocation, the army had to open the fire in self defence and three civilians were killed and eight were wounded. The JCO is in the intensive care unit and nine other soldiers were injured. Eleven army vehicles were damaged. This has been a very sad and unfortunate incident showing the civil military relations at its lowest ebb and is very dangerous for instruments of democracy to function in the troubled state.
The army has been deployed under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act J&K, 1990 (AFSPA) which is only applicable once the Disturbed Area Act has been invoked in the area of operations. The decision to declare an area disturbed is that of the state or central government once law and order situation deteriorates to a level where life and property is threatened.
The incident was further complicated by an inefficient and ineffective Chief Minister who blamed the Army for the deaths of the civilians with no reference to the provocation by the crowd. Omar Abdullah, the President of the National Conference also demanded arrest of soldiers. The civil police, the custodian of law and order in the state ; at the behest of the ruling party lodged an FIR against the Army accusing Major Aditya Kumar by name for killing the three civilians. This officer had had a very successful encounter a few weeks ago in which few ultras were neutralised. The locals at behest of separatist forces tried to create a situation to implicate the officer and defame him. It seems the Defence Minister was taken into confidence before filing of the FIR. Was the Defence Minister an accomplice to the FIR against the very soldiers functioning at her behest is better known to her. Did She take advice of the army chief or acted on her own? Will She have the moral right to order the troops to continue fighting counter insurgency in J&K when She cannot protect their actions ?
The army as an after thought has filed a counter FIR. The ruling party People’s PDF and their coalition partner BJP were seen to be pulling in the opposite directions creating a jamlog in the state. Father of Major Aditya Kumar, a serving decorated soldier himself has moved the Supreme Court to dismiss FIR filed by the civil police in the incident. Two army children have gone to National Human Rights Commission to safeguard the interest of army personnel who were on active duty when the incident took place. Where is this nation heading to when politicians are only looking at the electoral benefits and the kith and kin of army soldiers safeguarding the nations are fighting legal battles on their behalf.
Ever since the surgical strikes launched by Indian Army across the Line of Control (LC) the intensity of exchange of fire by both sides has increased resulting in larger number of casualties on both sides. This year itself nine army soldiers including two officers have got martyred. The aggressiveness shown by political leaders with an eye on the assembly elections in some states is further accentuating the situation. The army is really caught between the devil and the deep sea. Pakistan has further gone up the escalation ladder by using missiles in Rajauri-Punch sector. Track two diplomacy efforts need to be enhanced in order to bring down both nations from the escalatory ladder.
The Indian Army has a track record of excellent human rights record and always carries out surgical operations based on hard intelligence. Many a times benefit of doubt is given to terrorists and they are able to escape if the information is not confirmed. In the United Nations Peacekeeping, Indian Army is respected for its impartiality and professionalism. There have been incidents where Indian Army has bought casualties in order to save civilian lives and it does not believe in collateral damage.
The Indian Army uses minimum commensurate force and has seldom resorted to the use of air power or drones as is common for Unites States, Israel, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Russia and a host of nations in Africa and Middle East.
The Army through meaningful development projects through Operation Sambhavana and helping the locals during the floods couple of years ago, had built a very nice rapport with the locals and made genuine efforts on perception management. All those efforts have been eroded since this coalition government came into power and the situation further drifted after the death of Mufti Mohammed Syed. The separatists backed by Pakistan have succeeded in creating the crevasses between the people and the army due to inconsistencies shown by the state and central governments. The junior leaders of the army in the field are our main stay. Due to this situation they are unsure of what action and direction to take in similar situations.
Both the coalition partners in the state of J&K have failed the nation and must take the blame. There is a provision in the constitution to dissolve a state government if it works against the sanctity and security of the nation. The time has come in Jammu and Kashmir for the Centre to dissolve the assembly and institute Governor’s rule in the troubled state.