Published On: Mon, Mar 11th, 2013

‘Counter-agitation strategy’ and Army

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

On Saturday 9 March 2013 General Officer Commanding (15 Corps) Lt General Om Prakash has said that that Government may request Army to help contain protests in Kashmir. He told reporters that a ‘counter-agitation strategy’ involving Army besides Police and CRPF can be put in place to deal with the prevailing situation. Army held this year’s first Core Group meeting at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar to review the overall security situation in Kashmir and to draw the roadmap for sustaining peace in the Valley.

On the other hand Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has taken a suo moto cognizance of the killing of a youth, Tahir Rasool Sofi, by Army in Baramulla. It has sought a separate report from Director General of Police and Deputy Commissioner Baramulla on the incident. Army is carrying out its own time bound investigation into the death and it would be interesting to wait and see the results of a joint investigation involving Army, civil administration and police.

This year’s first Core Group meeting was co-chaired by Lt Gen Om Prakash, GOC 15 Corps and Director General of Police Ashok Prasad. Senior officers of Army, Police, CRPF, BSF, Intelligence Agencies and Civil Administration participated in the meeting. One would not dispute the wisdom of military science and intelligence strategy that would have been discussed for sustaining peace and harmony through the summer of 2013, yet it would be a matter of great interest to find out the input from the elected representatives of the people.
State Human Rights Commission has part addressed its wisdom on the question of violation of human rights. There is a second and most important factor which overtakes in importance and has to be considered simultaneously.

Army may have its own Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) developed over the years but it may have been making a serious error in judgment and in action in the Valley. Army in Jammu and Kashmir has a contractual and a constitutional role unlike its role defined in any other State of Indian union. The role of Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir is recorded in the letter of 27 October 1947 from the Governor General of India to Maharaja of Kashmir. It states, “Meanwhile, in response to Your Highness’s appeal for military aid, action has been taken today to send troops of the Indian Army to Kashmir, to help your own forces to defend your territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of your people”.

The role of the Indian army is defined in the bilateral agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been explained by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah at the UN Security Council in February 1948. The UN Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) of 21 April 1948 defines the ‘behaviour’, ‘number’ and ‘location’ of these forces in Kashmir.

As a matter of fact these are Peace Keeping Forces and have been charged under the Bilateral Agreement between the two Governments to “defend territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of the people” and have an International Obligations to assist in the process of implementation of UN Resolutions in all the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian Army has entered the State at the request of the State Government and has a role against any external aggression threatening the ‘territory’, ‘lives’, ‘property’ and ‘honour’ of the people. It has a support role and has to remain sub-ordinate to the State Government.

Unfortunately, the role of the Army discussed at the Core Group Meeting to put in place a ‘counter agitation strategy’ is outside the scope of its admission into the State. Army has a higher burden of duties in Jammu and Kashmir and the roles are in relation to any external threat. It has no role in the day to day administration and the assumption of any such role remains extraneous to its legitimacy.

The manner in which Police and CRPF have used force and ammunition against the civilian population and the evidence of violation of human rights that has surfaced over the weeks in the print and social media constitutes a serious situation of human rights violation. It would be a great mistake and error of judgment if army allows itself to be sucked into an administrative strategy to use brute force to supress the people from exercising their right of assembly, right of expression and their right to make a peaceful protest.

The death of Tahir Rasool Sofi in Baramulla or any other deaths at the hands of Army personnel would not be considered a result of a consequence in the discharge of their lawful duty. Any variation in their duties defined in the bilateral agreement of 27 October 1947 and any action at variance to the international obligations set out in the UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948 has a serious implication, at the individual, institutional and Governmental level. The two Governments of India and Jammu and Kashmir accrue a direct and immediate liability for any breach in these terms of agreement accepted at the national and international level.

The State Human Rights Commission, while considering the violation of human rights in Baramulla killing, may very well consider the other very important aspect that Army has a support and well defined role to play in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir. It may be that the State Government has been misdirecting itself and calling upon the Army to assist it in violation of its contractual duties and international obligations.

Army need not any reminder that it has not been able to defend the ‘territory’ of the State. The State remains fragmented into three administrations and people are equally divided and distributed. There is no visible external threat to ‘life’, ‘property’ and ‘honour’ of people in the State. The unrest is a civilian unrest and it is being manifested peacefully. Internal civil unrest does not warrant the present active role of the Army and the use of AFSPA is at variance with its legitimate role.

It is important that Army keeps to its fundamental contractual obligations and international commitments. Its leadership should revisit the two roles and refuse to be sucked into a strategy of containment and hurting the people. It may be an easy way out for the State Government to twist the arm of the Army leadership and draft its strengths to curb the civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir, but longer the Army interference is encouraged, it is likely to divide the civil society right in the middle on the merits of Army’s role.

As a natural consequence a common citizen of the State would have a legitimate grievance against the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India for failing to adhere to the agreed principles laid down for the admission of Army into the State and another grievance against the Army for failing to honour the restraints on the ‘behaviour’, ‘number’ and ‘location’ set out in the UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948. India is a lead democracy in the world and has to address its international obligations in respect of the use of its Army in Jammu and Kashmir.

Army should not fail in its role against any external aggression threatening the ‘territory’, ‘lives’, ‘property’ and ‘honour’ of the people and should honour the restraints defined in UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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