Published On: Mon, Jul 30th, 2012

Defence Minister’s assurances?

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Defence Minister A. K. AntonyDr. Syed Nazir Gilani,
Secretary General – JKCHR.

Political and military leadership in India has to accept that suffering of the people of Kashmir is not distant or academic

Defence Minister A K Antony, during his two-day visit to the State has assured the government of army’s support in maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir. He said efforts should be made to reduce visibility of armed forces as much as possible.

These two major issues should have been a rigorous demand from the mainstream politicians, Hurriyat, other politicians and various opinions in Kashmir. The death and the circumstances of the death of Hilal Ahmad Dar in Bandipora which is reported to have been engineered by an “army informer” does not sit well with the principal role of the army in Jammu and Kashmir.

Although armies all over the world are known for a killing instinct, yet over the years armies have grown out of this psychology and are involved in peace keeping, development and enforcing a humanitarian regime during national and international disasters. Many young soldiers in many countries have refused to kill for reasons of ‘conscience’. Israeli soldiers have refused to shoot at innocent Palestinians and many Americans refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indian soldiers are engaged in peace keeping and in humanitarian causes in various parts of the world.

In Jammu and Kashmir they have not only a choice for reasons of conscience not to kill but a duty to “protect the lives, property and honour of Kashmiri people”. Governor General of India on 27 October 1947 took action “to send troops of the Indian army to Kashmir to help Kashmiri forces to defend the territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of Kashmiri people”. It is therefore a supplement to the Kashmir forces and remains subordinate to the State administration. The provisional agreement of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India is consequent upon these duties of the Indian army and vice versa.

Indian military leadership owes a 64 year old debt of gratitude to Kashmiri leadership which went out of the way to defend its role as ‘peace keepers’ in Kashmir.  On February 5, 1948 at the 241st Meeting of the UN Security Council, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as part of the Indian delegation in his address on the question of Indian army stated that “The Prime Minister of India long ago declared that the Government of India has no intention of keeping its army permanently stationed in Kashmir. He stated, “We are there only as long as the country is in turmoil. Once law and order are established, once the marauders and the tribesmen leave the country we will withdraw our army. That pledge is already there.”

In regard to the Pakistani objections on the role and influence of Indian army in Kashmir Sheikh further submitted that, “There need be no fear, since the Indian army is there, that this army will interfere in the exercise of a free vote. After all, a commission of the Security Council will be there in order to watch. The Indian army does not have to go into every village. It will be stationed at certain strategic points, so that in the event of danger from any border, the army will be there to protect that border. The army is there to curb disorders anywhere in the State; that is all. The army will not be in each and every village in order to watch each and every vote.” (UN SC official record Nos. 16-35, 5 February–2 March 1948).

India as a member nation of UN has submitted itself to an international discipline for its armies in Jammu and Kashmir. There is a strict discipline in regard to the behaviour, number, and location of Indian troops in Kashmir. Under UNSC Resolution S/726 of April 21, 1948 Indian forces in Kashmir are subject to the following three principles:

(i) That the presence of troops should not afford any intimidation or appearance of intimidation to the inhabitants of the State

(ii) That as small a number as possible should be retained in forward areas

(iii) That any reserve of troops which may be included in the total strength should be located within their present base area.

It is unfortunate that Indian forces have lost course in Kashmir and have given up on their duty to keep questioning themselves as to ‘what we ought to do to help Kashmiri people.” Defence Minister has highlighted the role of army in Kashmir and at the same time has pointed to the need to reduce visibility of armed forces as much as possible.

In fact Indian troops have a significant role to play to support peace in Kashmir and in promoting the process during which the people of the State are able to exercise the freedom of their choice. Indian army would not be able to discharge its higher and defined burden of responsibilities, if it is not educated in the jurisprudence of the Kashmir dispute, distribution of the people, three administrations, State Subject rule and the full volume of other described roles.

The defence minister had a note of caution for the forces. “In a democratic set up, like ours, there can be no justification for violation of human rights. Efforts should be made to reduce the visibility of the Armed Forces as much as possible without compromising efficacy.”  In general terms the statement has a merit and needs to be appreciated. However, it has to be admitted that the general sense of this statement does not apply to Kashmir, which has a provisional accession (conditional) with India and has not merged with the Union. The role of an Indian soldier in any other State of India is not defined in the manner as in Kashmir. The number, behaviour and location of the Indian soldiers in Kashmir have also been defined by the United Nations in its Resolution of April 21, 1948.

Political and military leadership in India has to accept that suffering of the people of Kashmir is not distant or academic.  It is far more than real. The common man and woman has a serious grievance at the loss of a generation and for enduring a humiliation never witnessed in 144 years from 1846-1990. Indian soldier has entered Kashmir to “help Kashmiri forces to defend the territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of Kashmiri people”.

The State is not only divided into three administration but we find that even the life, property and honour of Kashmiri people could not be protected by the Indian forces. There could be nothing more disheartening than to see that the Indian soldier lost his compass of duty and engaged himself in a war with the man and woman in Kashmir. One may sympathise with the Defence Minister on the merits of his statement that “Enemies from across the border will continue their efforts. However, if security and intelligence agencies understand each other better, the efforts of the enemies will not succeed.” It does not add up to the engagement of Indian forces with the people of Kashmir within the territory of Kashmir.

Defence Minister has very rightly assured the State Government of army’s support in maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir and has hoped for an early reduction of their number. India is not at war with Pakistan and to be at war with the people of Kashmir is unfortunate and unacceptable. It is time that political and military leadership revisit the role of Indian army in Kashmir.  The role of army in Kashmir is defined and every soldier needs to be educated in this role before he is assigned any duty in Kashmir. Recruiting ‘informers’ and becoming instruments of a corrupt culture, which encourages the ‘informers’ to lure the army into unlawful engagement is a serious situation.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He can be mailed at dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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