Re­de­ploy Army to the Bor­der, Scrap AFSPA

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Four peo­ple have died in Kash­mir in fir­ing by se­cu­rity forces over protests against a mo­lesta­tion at­tempt by a sol­dier that has later been de­nied. This is pre­cisely the kind of de­vel­op­ment In­dia does not want, in its long quest for nor­malcy in the state. Kash­miris are also out­raged at Kash­miri stu­dents study­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of In­dia be­ing set upon by non-Kash­miri stu­dents. Only po­lit­i­cal will at the high­est lev­els of the govern­ment can make any tan­gi­ble cor­rec­tive to the deep­en­ing of alien­ation by such events.

From the point of view of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion, it mat­ters a great deal if a sol­dier did or did not try to mo­lest a girl in Hand­wara, north­ern Kash­mir, and that is the sub­ject of an in­quiry. But for the larger pol­i­tics of Kash­mir, that in­di­vid­ual de­tail mat­ters lit­tle. The in­sti­tu­tional free­dom to mis­be­have that armed forces per­son­nel have in Kash­mir, thanks to the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act, has re­sulted in rapes and cold­blooded mur­der that the Army it­self has taken cog­nizance of. Kash­miris firmly be­lieve nu­mer­ous other rapes and killings that the Army does not ac­knowl­edge have oc­curred as well. In the back­ground of such a com­mon sense, the Army’s very pres­ence amidst civil­ians, dom­i­nat­ing their lives and in­ter­fer­ing with rou­tine lib­er­ties, gives pub­lic cre­dence to a charge of a mo­lesta­tion at­tempt by a se­cu­rity per­son­nel. This aids not In­dia but the cause of Kash­miri sep­a­ratism and the takeover of its lead­er­ship by Is­lamists. To deny them le­git­i­macy and to pre­pare the ground for end­ing alien­ation, the Army has to be re­de­ployed to the bor­der and stripped of its right to mis­be­have un­der AFSPA. Kash­miris who pur­sue stud­ies in dif­fer­ent parts of In­dia ef­fec­tively strengthen in­te­gra­tion and weaken alien­ation. To at­tack them is to at­tack In­dia.

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