Brigadier (Retired) Manjit Singh
Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an unprecedented period of peace during the summer months of this year. The credit goes, in no small measure, to the State government, the JK Police ably supported by the Indian Army and Par-military forces who have collectively cashed in on the mandate of peace and prosperity given unequivocally by the people of the State. Under the circumstances, generation of a debate towards modifying the security paradigm in concert with the changed conditions is quite understandable. However, this is an issue which has to be dealt with utmost sensitivity. The people have suffered terrible trauma and it has to be ensured that a revisit of the awful period of terrorism is not permitted under any circumstances.
One relatively uneventful summer down the line cannot be taken as a model to go for a complete overhaul of the system which has been created with a great deal of sweat and blood. Differences on the subject of internal security between the two main parties of the coalition government in J&K are now being exploited by separatist and divisive elements. The first attack came from the terrorists in the form of a spate of grenade attacks on CRPF posts in and around Srinagar. Not to be left behind, the separatists also launched an agitation for complete removal of AFSPA from the State.
It has become very evident that any changes in the security policy have to be planned very deliberately and only after taking all stake holders in J&K on board. This is, by itself, a herculean task since the list of stakeholders in J&K is very long and very diverse. Perceptions range to diagrammatic extremes. Only a seasoned statesman who enjoys wide ranging respect can think of embarking on this perilous path and that also after some very detailed groundwork which establishes the broad parameters of the solution.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah cannot be castigated for attempting to change the status quo with respect to security. He gave this commitment during the elections and now he has to stand by it; at least make an honest attempt to do so. He is being hindered because the time to walk o this path has, as yet, not arrived. What the Chief Minister can do for the moment is to launch the process which will pave the way for change and pursue it diligently to its logical conclusion.
One most unfortunate aspect is that, with peace becoming a reality, instead of appreciating the sacrifices made by selfless soldiers of all security forces functioning in the State they are being hounded by self serving politicians. This will definitely not reap positive results. It would be better to carry the security forces along in all decision making processes with the clear understanding that they have nothing but the good of the people in their hearts and minds. To this extent, belligerent statements like the one made by Mustafa Kamal recently will backfire with devastating repercussions as has been seen in this instance also.
Not only political establishments, even institutions like the J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) need to refrain from weakening the goodwill that the security forces, especially the Army, enjoy with the people of the valley. Two such instances are reopening cases of unmarked graves and the alleged mass rape said to have taken place in Kunan Poshpora village in Kupwara district some twenty years in 1991, have resulted in increasing the tension between the Government and the Army authorities, in case this goes on the latter will have no option but to harden their stand with respect to revocation of AFSPA. Undoubtedly, instances of rape, torture and murder during the period of conflict haunt the collective Kashmiri psyche and also that of the nation, yet, reopening such cases which are more than two decades old is unlikely to reap any tangible benefits.
While there is no denying that perpetrating a gang rape is probably the most heinous of all crimes but justice demands that the identity of the rapists be established beyond doubt. If this could not be done so close to the event despite all efforts, not once but twice, how can it be accomplished now two decades later? Will it not be an exercise in futility that would result in reopening old wounds of the victims who may have moved on in life?
This brings us to another question. What has been done to assuage the hurt psyche and sentiments of the victims till now? The SHRC should be ordering an enquiry to establish what has been done in the past twenty years to ensure the rehabilitation and well-being of the women who were alleged to have been subjected to the gang rape. Were these women gainfully employed so that their self-respect and feeling of self-worth was, to some degree, restored? Were they adequately rehabilitated within the social system?
It is actions of this nature that will pave the way for complete normalcy and realise the dream of permanent peace and prosperity The requirement of the moment is to ensure that all possible measures be taken to ensure that the pain, indignity and humiliation suffered by the victims of terrorism be alleviated in some manner.
The strife torn Kashmir of two decades was no example of a civil society and now is the time to bring about change. In case the chief minister manages to bring about this change and in the process lay down the ground work for the revocation of laws like the Disturbed Area Act, he will ensure for himself a place in history as a statesman. It is now up to Omar to take the call.