Saturday, 19 January 2013

Runaway grandmother - The story is now old but not over

I am publishing below a letter I wrote to Praveen Swami of The Hindu whose recent articles in Hindu have been appreciated by some as being 'more balanced' than the 'jingoistic' reporting in the Indian media about the killing and inhuman mutilation of two Indian soldier's bodies at the Line of Control by Pakistani army soldiers after a cross LOC infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. In my letter to Praveen I raise some issues about how the GOI disputes some of the statements in his article as inaccurate especially the so called real trigger of these incident which was an old lady crossing over to POK without anyone noticing in September 2012. The Indian army spokesperson says the incident happened in 2011 not 2012 and so cannot be linked with the beheading. I also take exception to Praveen in effect stating that both sides have carried out mutilation without being able to have any proof to corroborate that statement. Finally I make an argument that to be really balanced his article should have mentioned about Pakistan army being accused of facilitating infiltration of terrorists into J&K by resorting to shelling and firing across the LOC which in my view is the real cause of tension at the border i.e. the terrorist infiltration.


This is regarding your now 'famous' article which appeared in The Hindu on 10th of January. I am sure you must have received responses on this and this is an old story now. The story may be 10 days old but it is by no means dead and while your article when it appeared would have possibly been considered by many as following high standards of journalism. It would have been praised as an article in which you brought out 'the facts' of the current escalation in conflict in a particular section of the LOC. After which it has been quoted everywhere from India, to Pakistan, to Washington, to UK. I also read the response from GOI and your response to that which appeared in The Hindu on 11th. 

The basic premise of your story was that incident started off with the grandmother crossing over in September 2012 which the Indian Army claims happened in September 2011. The Indian Army has also denied that it crossed over and raided the Pakistani post. While initially Pakistan had claimed that Indian soldiers had raided their post but now they have been saying that they came withing 30 meters of LOC and 'fired at them across the LOC' in their foreign minister's own words, which appears to me more closer to the fact of what really happened on the day when their soldier was killed on 6th/Jan.

While these another set of facts if they go unchallenged by you do place some doubts on the way your story was constructed but for me the crucial question in your story as I am sure is also for you is beheading as an insult to the dead soldiers. No matter what arguments on the issue are made that both sides may have carried it out, a past act does not justify the present specially when there is no proof of mutilation and beheading of enemy dead bodies by Indian soldiers as mentioned in your article "by the account of one military official, which The Hindu could not corroborate independently, beheaded two.".  If you could not corroborate independently then is there a justification in your carrying it in that way. I believe you should not just leave it at that. Your should bring about the facts of incidents when the Indian army did carry out such inhuman acts. I would like them exposed so that these incidents are brought to an end. Simply stating that the facts cannot be corroborated is not enough especially since we can corroborate that Indian soldiers were mutilated by Pakistan Army including the often quoted incident of the reward that Musharraf gave to Ilyas Kashmiri and also Saurabh Kalia's case.

The first account of beheading of enemy by Indian solders I came across is what I had read quite some time ago in a book about Kargil War by Srinjoy Chowdhury, But then there is beheading and there is beheading. That book carried an account of the Naga regiment soldiers who carry a 'Dao' weapon beheading enemy in hand to hand combat and then unfortunately also carrying it back with them. Now while this is not a graceful subject but the qualitative difference between beheading or bayoneting in hand to hand combat and the torture and killing of a captured soldier or the mutilation and beheading of dead soldier's bodies and the effect that has on their families should not be lost on anyone. This is adding insult to their grievous loss which is hard to tolerate for anyone. 

While your article does make every effort to sound balanced say mentioning PAK(a fact) instead of POK(also a fact of history) but it misses the most important reason why cease file violations in LOC are so crucial for India. It is not a game of one-up-man-ship for the Army; it is the infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir and the support that Pak army provides to them and continues to do so as I write this email to you is what is the main issue. That point was completely missing from your article. You did allude to it in your followup article on this issue but in a very different light, again diluting the problem of cross border terror. You have yourself written a book on the subject of the "Informal War" in Kashmir being waged by Pakistan on India. So the fact is that the Indian Soldier is continuously paying sacrifices on behalf of the nation. He cannot be considered dispensable for a higher cause. Had this present issue not been raised so strongly in the media then no general or politician would have bothered to visit the slain soldier's family.

It is my submission that the Indian political leadership has failed the Indian soldier, and if they claim to be patriotic and expect continued sacrifices from the soldier and his family, if they expect the soldier to continue fighting this war of attrition in Kashmir while they do nothing substantial about the continued support that Jehadi's get from Pakistan then they are perhaps expecting too much from the soldier. It does not need television anchors to question the Pakistan policy of the Indian government after an incident like the present one. One can never rule out another Mumbai. If we are waiting for another Mumbai before substantial efforts are made to dismantle the terror machinery in Pakistan then another Mumbai will happen, may be sooner than anyone expects; after all a lot will change in the subcontinent once USA exits Afghanistan. When it comes to terrorism, the civilian government in Pakistan, the citizens of Pakistan and the friends of Pakistan(including western powers) are also in the dock not just Pakistan Army. A concerted reply is needed from Indian Government, Army, media and the people for this issue of terrorism. One cannot remain neutral to it. We cannot continue to pay odd sacrifices, they have to be held accountable and I don't think anyone has seriously being asking for a War, being fully aware of the consequences, but people are asking for accountability which should be achievable by other means. Should it not?

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