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Demilitarization – the only way out

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 11, 2009


And minus that incidents like Shopian are bound to happen, writes Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

November 1991 Chak Saidapora, a hamlet of about fifty families, four kilometers from Shopian is subjected to a crackdown in the evening. All adult males brought out of the village. Forty to fifty women along with equal number of children remain in the village. All the women are molested throughout the night. Same type of hue and cry is raised as is seen at present on Shopian tragedy. Government promised to initiate an enquiry. People do not trust and start their efforts to highlight the problem. NGOs, civil society, media and political parties collect information on their own and dispatch it to international human rights groups. The Bar Association of Shopian manages to bring three victims to Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court in order to record their statements under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code.

One of the victims is 68 years of age. Another victim is 42 years old and the third one 22 years old. They represent three generations of an unfortunate family which had to undergo this trauma of sexual abuse and humiliation. The public response was overtaken by other events and people forgot about the issue. Only thing that emerged out of the official enquiry was a two column news item in one the issues of Indian Express that the probe has found allegations to be baseless and simply a part of militant campaign to malign our troops, the report related to a press release issued by some spokesman of Northern Command from Udhampur.
The official enquiry thus gave a clean chit to the perpetrators of crime. The incident like a similar episode of Kunanposhpora of Kupwara district didn’t find even a reference within the Indian narratives of Kashmir resistance like that of David Devdas (In search of future). These narratives do contain graphic description of such stray incidents involving even a single militant. What happened in Chak Saidapora left a traumatic impact upon the psyche of Shopian youth. Failing to get justice they contributed and got involved in militancy for years. Shopian remained hot bed of insurgency for two decades. Whole of the area remained focused on the demand of Azadi and indifferent towards everything else. When memories started to fade and people proceeded to vote for roads, water and electricity this voting was interpreted to be a vote of confidence in the system which failed to bring culprits of Chak Saidapora to justice. This interpretation to voter turnout was given by no less a person than Sonia Gandhi on inauguration of Varmul Srinagar Railway line. Emboldened by the fading memory of people Shopian was subjected to a similar traumatic experience on the night of May 30th, 2009. 17 years Asiya and Neelofar of Bungam, Shopian proceeded to their orchards in Degam, Bhatpora across Rambi ara Nala. Both were allegedly raped by custodians of law and dead bodies thrown into the Nallah. The whole of Kashmir is again on fire.
This was followed by a complete botching up of the whole situation. Government announced an enquiry while pronouncing results of the enquiry in advance. Authorities want people to trust them and give them time till the enquiry is complete. How does state administration expect people to trust an enquiry results which have been disclosed much earlier. And how people are going to rely on these enquiries when they have seen the fate of enquiries made previously like the one relating to incidents of Chak Saidapora. By the way people are not only demanding punishment of culprits but demanding demilitarization. Excessive militarization of Kashmir is the root cause of the problem. It has made life, property, dignity and chastity of Kashmir insecure. Previously out of fear of militants it was not easy for men in uniform to venture out of their camps. They had to secure themselves even while going for purchase of cigarettes. Now when you have eight hundred thousand troops to counter five hundred militants (Army estimates) they are relaxed and chances of their indulgence in such acts remain more. After all those who can do it in Congo and get internationally defamed to the extent of being asked to leave that country (The Times of India, March 18th, 2008), why cannot they do it in Kashmir. If Army Officers of the rank of Lt. Colonel can put their country into a major embarrassment what one can expect of juniors. You sent a relatively educated lot to international peace missions. If such a lot gets involved in rape why cannot a rough lot do the same in inaccessible terrain of Kashmir. We have Ghulam Nabi Azad, the former Chief Minister of J&K and present cabinet minister of India on record that only four percent rapes in Kashmir are committed by security forces (Azad’s statement in J&K Legislative Assembly of July 21st, 2007).
A former Deputy Inspector General of Border Security Force involved in notorious sex scandal of 2006 has termed such acts as part and parcel of counter insurgency operations. Some pseudo intellectuals and Moulvis call Kashmiri reaction to such events as cynical and compare these with individual criminal acts like the one committed against Romana. Such individuals who survive on crumbs of the status quo overlook the fact that the system is there to protect not to molest. And the system instead of protecting its population has been shielding the culprits, what more can be said. Individual criminals involved in such acts do get punished but those associated with the system most often remain shielded. People can wait for outcome of the enquiry provided it is credible. Having lost its credibility all the state managed enquiries remain unacceptable for Kashmiri leaders. People thus demand involvement of international groups like Amnesty International.
If State has nothing to hide why it is scared of presence of International NGOs in Kashmir. Shopian type happenings are indispensable consequences of excessive militarization and trust deficit within any area in the world. The only recourse to evade such happenings is demilitarization. Being in global focus this demand has to be responded and Omar Abdullah if sincere to his community must support this demand. It is easy to defend the status quo on international forums as you did during your association with Indian Foreign Ministry. Defending status quo against mounting mass upsurge is not an easy task. It has consumed so many and may take toll of many others.
Isn’t it a fact that war fatigue and continuous presence in hostile terrain is becoming exceedingly stressful for your army. Don’t we come across frequent reports of suicides and killing of collogues by soldiers. Why can’t those who kill themselves and their colleagues target members of a hostile population.  So crimes like these will continue to happen as long as there is concentration of troops. It’s not a single case of rape or murder that need be solved, it’s actually a much bigger problem which this one is a natural outcome of. We hope that bigger problem is addressed to let Kashmir and Kashmiris live a life of dignity.

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