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Army chief’s clarion call

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In the past one month army chief Gen Bipin Rawat has made two important statements on Kashmir situation. For being the one at the top of his job to make peace a reality, the army chief has made a candid admission of the complexity of the situation in Kashmir. Army chief’s assertions are loud and clear that the situation is no-win for all the players in the game. He warned militants that it was not possible for them to achieve the azadi they were fighting for as ‘they cannot fight the army’ but, in the same breath, he admitted that “there isn’t a military solution to this issue and wanted politicians and political representatives to talk to people”. The media and the people, who mean, in and outside the government have got it quite wrong that the army chief only militant on notice. The army chief has put forth his message to political establishment as well by articulating the point about addressing the situation politically as well.

General Rawat is not known for making statements of “peace” generally. His mantra has rather been ‘hot pursuit’ to bring peace. It is general Rawat who declared that civilian protestors near encounter sites would be treated as militants. Since then several civilians have fallen to the bullets of security forces during clashes at encounter sites in many parts of the valley. He is also known for adoring an army officer (Major Gagoi) for using as a Kashmiri boy as human shield in April last year in Budgam. So when he says that the issue cannot be resolved militarily, one should not miss the point that this feeling in him must have come after a long but failed experience. It, in all probabilities, should work as guiding factor for the government in New Delhi. But it is quite regrettable that the central government guided by some mad media outlets is deaf to quite a reasonable voice from the most powerful man in the country. The media outlets, with a fixed lot of panelists of some retired generals and canopied analysts, selectively picked just one portion of the army chief’s account and trumpeted it as ultimatum to militants to ‘behave’ or ‘face the music’.

It is no exaggeration when the army chief says that militants cannot fight the army. Some 200 odd militants, with no or poor training and some assorted guns confiscated from policemen, cannot match even home-guard stuff of police, the military and paramilitary forces not to talk about. What then makes the army chief to say that neither army nor militants can achieve anything? Army chief, in fact, made a valid point by drawing an analogy between the two and making a case for Kashmir for not being an issue between militants and security forces that could be packed down by the heavy might of armed forces. When he says “the number of militants who are killed in gun-battles with the army don’t matter to me because I know this cycle will continue. There are fresh recruitments happening”, the army chief wants to argue that the problem is rooted in some reasoning and it would recur on and on and his forces cannot not go on killing people indefinitely. “I know that the youth are angry. But attacking security forces, throwing stones at us isn’t the way,” Rawat, while making his point, said.

It is anybody’s guess that all the meaningful quarters must have understood the import of army chief’s message unmistakably but it is most unlikely that his voice could have some immediate effect. The situation in Kashmir is hostage to political compulsions of the rulers in New Delhi. Emotional and hostile politics is a key ingredient of governing politics of the BJP. It has been deriving all its political and electoral strength by whipping up passions in the name of religion and so called nationalism. Since India is slated for general elections in March-April next year, it is most unlikely to see any political initiative on Kashmir in immediate future. Till then, God save our children

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