Sunday, 10 February 2013

"Occupation" of the Valley

Let me try and address a particular question of the so called "occupation" of Kashmir valley by the Indian army which is often raised by Kashmiri separatist, Pakistan based terrorist organizations, international "human rights" activists, certain foreign governments and some Indian "intellectuals".

As far as my reading of history goes the Indian Army went to the Kashmir valley in 1947 for the first time when help was sought by both the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and the popular leader Mr Sheikh Abdullah. When it landed in Srinagar airport it brought a sigh of relief to the population and not any fear of so called occupation. Indian Army went to Kashmir to defend Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh from the same forces which continue to threaten it today. To the people who leave no stone unturned to find faults with Army and criticize it I have to say please read some history about the circumstances under which the Army had to be called in both in '47 and in '89.

Historical reasons apart if we look at the present situation in the Valley then a number of foreign governments and international organization have pointed finger at the Indian government regarding the number of civilian deaths that have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir as a marker of "oppression" by the Indian Army. The number quoted has been an estimate of 60,000 civilian deaths since 1989. I am not sure about the figure but assuming it is true and regardless of the circumstances of these deaths, whether they were caused by terrorist violence, militants killed by security forces, extra judicial killings, terrorists convicted to death by courts or civilians caught in cross fire, this estimated number is of course unacceptable. But does it automatically lead to the conclusion that the cause of such a high civilian death number is a result of Army's presence in the valley? Won't the more correct reason be the proxy war being waged in Kashmir by the Pakistani Army and civilians being the victims of this war. Who is the aggressor in Kashmir today? Is it India or is it Pakistan? Then who has the onus of bringing these deaths to an end.

The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 NATO operation is estimated to be a similar figure of 60,000, yet none of these international organizations and foreign governments have accused ISAF forces in Afghanistan as "occupying" forces, when clearly they are foreign while Indian Army is within its own territory. The same governments who were pointing finger at India in the 90's are part of the ISAF forces.

The ISAF forces are now leaving Afghanistan by cutting a deal with Pakistan and Pakistan backed Taliban not because the war has been won but because the cost has been too high for them to sustain. The civilians in Afghanistan now fear the worst because they know that while the present situation is not rosy, the alternative is even darker. Indian Security Forces have been fighting this Pakistan sponsored insurgency for past 23 years yet India cannot give up on Kashmir because the commitment of the Indian Army is to the silent population in the Valley and also Jammu and Ladakh who do consider themselves as Indians.

Doesn't the nation owe to the people of Ladakh and Jammu the same protection and freedom of life that it owes to other citizens of India. Will the Indian army be able to defend Ladakh and Jammu without protecting Kashmir Valley? What about the Kashmiri Pandit minority population which is a refugee in its own state? What does the nation owe to them?

While all complaints of human right abuses deserve to be looked at dispassionately and justice be done but calling Indian Army an occupier in Kashmir suits only the enemies of India because exit of the Army from Kashmir also results in simultaneous collapse of the Indian Nation as it exists today.

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