It is now official: Kashmir is under occupation. For the first time, the Indian Army has acknowledged that the portions of the Valley over which India wields control are occupied territory and the inhabitants there are the subjects of India, not citizens.
The Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, has made it very clear that, henceforth, the armed forces will be treating everyone in Kashmir with extreme suspicion and the objects of such suspicion should beware of resorting to any action or expression that can be deemed suspicious because then retaliation would be swift and strong against the suspects.
In short, the Army Chief has laid down the line for the Kashmiri subjects to follow.
Just to recap and to quote Gen Rawat: “While our aim has been to conduct people-friendly operations, the manner in which the local population is preventing us from conducting the operations, at times even supporting the terrorists to escape, it is these factors which are leading to higher casualties among the security forces. We would now request the local population…local boys if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of IS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them… If they do not relent and create hurdles, then we will take tough action.”
|When the Chief of Army Staff calls a militant a terrorist, he has acknowledged the outcome of the act of militancy. Photo: The Telegraph|
The term “terrorist” has, in normal discourse, replaced “militant” so we cannot fault Gen Rawat of having used the term, but by using it he has given credence to the objectives of those who have picked up the gun to settle differences.
A terrorist is someone who spreads terror in contrast to a militant who resorts to violent means to settle the same difference.
The difference is subtle in its import and will willy-nilly be dismissed by self-styled patriots as mere semantics. But when the Chief of Army Staff calls a militant a terrorist, he has acknowledged the outcome of the act of militancy. He has, inadvertently, agreed that the man with the gun has succeeded in spreading terror. Again, since Gen Rawat is warning the local population of not helping the “terrorists”, it is logical that the local population is not terrorised by those the Army Chief calls terrorists.
Taking this logic forward, it would then mean that if the local population is not terrorised, it can only be assumed, based on Gen Rawat’s statement, that the security forces are the ones terrorised, because the men with guns are terrorists.
Keeping semantics aside, because it is not just the Chief of Army Staff or the prime minister or the various ministers but even the media that has quietly and spinelessly modified its terminology, it is now generally accepted that anyone who is in armed conflict with the state is a terrorist.
The line between bombers, suicide or remote-controlled, who set off blasts in crowded civilian locations or shooters, who blindly fire into crowds with people who carry guns and engage in war with government forces, who also carry guns, has been smudged.
When a political assassination takes place, the person who pulled the trigger is called an assassin – not a terrorist. Nathuram Godse was an assassin; Satwant Singh and Beant Singh were assassins, not terrorists. But current discourse belies this, these assassins would be called terrorists today.
Coming back to Kashmir, the tone and tenor of General Rawat’s comments make it very clear that he, like the rest of the establishment, does not consider the Kashmiri people as one of his own.
Militancy, to use the correct term, is not new to India. It was there when armed defiance against colonial masters was the norm; it has been there in the northeastern states for more than half a century; it is there in vast tracts across what is called the red corridor; it was there in the Naxal movement of Bengal; it was there in Punjab; it was there during the Gorkhaland agitation.
The success stories, in subduing militancy, amongst the examples cited would be Punjab and the original Naxal movement in Bengal. In both these conflicts, no blanket threat was ever issued to the local population by senior officials in uniform. It was not that there was no ground-level sympathy in Punjab for the Khalistani militant.
In Bengal, the cream of a young generation simply ceased to be after relentless police action culled the Naxalite elements, but the local population were not officially threatened by the very state that their children and the children of their friends and families dared challenge. This is not to say that the state, in its heavy handedness, did not inflict pain and suffering on the general population, but it was never prophesised nor treated as the official state policy.
There in lies the difference: in the northeast and, more particularly, in Kashmir, the state is treating its citizens as subjects.
The state, suffering illusions of grandeur, is not ready to show compassion, is not ready to feel the pain of not wanting to be wanted. The state mourns a death with its desire for a hundred other vengeful deaths; the state draws binaries between a craving for freedom, howsoever misbegotten it may or may not be, with the cost of its brutal suppression; the state has given up hope of integrating as it pins its hopes on rigid control to stem disintegration; the state has no desire to fight for the minds and hearts of the disenchanted when it fights the dreams of generations born into conflict.
And General Rawat’s recent comments do a disservice to the honour of the very service that he now heads. His comments show the Indian Army as the aggressor and prove how much of goodwill has been lost since the day, 70 years ago, when 17 soldiers of the Sikh Regiment were the first to land in Srinagar in the defence of Kashmir.