Redeploy Army to the Border, Scrap AFSPA
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.