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Think beyond pellets and bullets

National English newspaper Hindustan Times, last week, ran a report that central government was looking for arming CRPF with alternative weapons for the dreaded pellets guns. Quoting officials the report says that much-maligned pellet guns will give way to chilli bombs and ‘soft-nosed’ tear gas shells to avoid collateral losses during the paramilitary action. Around 18000 people, majority of them youth, have been wounded by the pellets used by CRPF to control street protests in the valley since the death of Hizbul Mujahisdeen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. Hundreds have attained permanent injuries and dozens have lost eye-sight. The blatant use of pellets caused international concern with human rights and social activists censuring the Indian government. This caused embarrassment for India internationally. Supreme Court of India also urged the central government to consider alternative to pellets guns. It is quite flabbergasting that government of India has come with the answer of Chilli bombs and “soft-nosed” tear gas shells. One wonders that isn’t there any other answer to the peoples’ anger. Is the weaponry only answer to the problem in Kashmir? Can’t the government think beyond killing or wounding people? The people in and outside the government are not tired of calling people of Kashmir as “our people” Do “our people” deserve to be treated with weapons of mass or less destruction? Government of India needs to come out of this power-driven mindset. It is only but adding to the ire of the people. The anger and alienation of the people is increasing in proportion to the force the security forces are using against the local population. This gives the sense that the government has not learned anything from its past experience. Military methods have been a rule to tackle Kashmir situation right from 1990 when the first militant entered here and shot his first bullet. Almost seven lakh soldiers of regular army and paramilitary forces have been deployed in Kashmir to counter the insurgency. Though the militancy was curtailed to certain extent but it could not completely curb it. Many army commanders (former and present) are on record to have said that army can contain militancy but it cannot end it up. Only a few days back army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said that gun is not a solution to the Kashmir situation. He said that neither militants nor army could achieve anything from the gun. He, instead, pleaded for political approach. It is sad that the political establishment has bitterly failed in its responsibility towards its ‘own people’. Kashmir, in essence, is a political problem. Militancy and military approach are the outcome of delay in resolving the issue politically. Government of India should have learnt from the past experience where military action not only failed to restore peace but worked as igniting force to add to the trouble. The tension in Kashmir rose to new horizons after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July last year. For the soldiers, it was a routine operation and killing of a militant commander a common thing. But how it proved counter-productive could be understood from the fact that even chief minister Mahbooba Mufti lamented his killing and said that Burhan Wani could have been captured alive. Burhan was not the first militant leader to have been killed. But his death was indeed first to provoke such a public convulsion. What makes things worse is the arbitrary use of power by the men in uniform while dealing with common people. It is not going overboard to say that armed forces have public approval from the government to use any method to deal with common people. Entire political and security establishment rose in one voice in favor of Major Nitin Gogoi, who violated all laws of humanity and civility by using a Kashmiri boy as human shield on April 9. The Major was not only rewarded for his action that should have otherwise invited punishment for him but was praised for his what was called “innovative idea”. Also came a series of statements from the defence minister to home minister to army chief saying army has been given free hand to deal with the situation in Kashmir. There is a thinking in the political establishment in Delhi that if India exercises power, then Pakistan and the Kashmiris will fall in line. Ajit Doval, the national security advisor (NSA) of Modi is the author and architect of this theory of power. It is perhaps against this backdrop that central government is not ready to talk either to Pakistan or to Kashmiri leadership. This has already caused untold damage to Kashmir. Persisting with it can generate severe militant blowback within the Valley. It is a violent experiment that is destined not only to fail but complicate the matters further. It was expected of the Prime Minister recognize the real problem in Kashmir and reach out to the people with political initiative. But by treading the extremist path, he is not doing any good either to Kashmir or to the country.