Kashmir: Use pellet guns more, not less – Punarvasu Parekh

Narendra Modi & Mehbooba Mufti

JournalistPellet guns are sought to be played down precisely because they worked well and put the fear of God in the heart of troublemakers. … When our country is engaged in a fierce battle to preserve its unity, we cannot allow the adversaries to decide which weapon we should use to fight it. Find out alternatives to pellet guns by all means, place them at the disposal of the armed forces and give them the freedom to choose their option. – Punarvasu Parekh

Modi government’s decisions to use pellet guns only sparingly against perpetrators of violence in Jammu & Kashmir is disappointing. It is symptomatic of the intellectual confusion, moral cowardice and political pusillanimity that have characterized New Delhi’s attitude to this essentially Islamic problem: even when it is winning, it chooses to buckle under the pressure of adversaries who want some respite to regroup and strike again. This follows an old and ominous pattern: every time the security forces manage to gain an upper hand in the beleaguered state, an invisible hand from Delhi reins them in.

Ironically but not surprisingly, pellet guns are sought to be played down precisely because they worked well and put the fear of God in the heart of troublemakers. Poke-marked bodies and blinded eyes suggest that at long last security forces had a weapon that would enhance their confidence while facing the stone pelters and grenade throwers. That is the reason to use the gun more, not less. When our country is engaged in a fierce battle to preserve its unity, we cannot allow the adversaries to decide which weapon we should use to fight it. Find out alternatives to pellet guns by all means, place them at the disposal of the armed forces and give them the freedom to choose their option.

“But why are you so harsh on our own people?” Because they do not behave as our own. Narendra Modi erred when he said that every life lost in J&K—be it an army jawan or a local youth—is a loss to the nation. That may be politically correct rhetoric, but it wrongly equates a soldier making ultimate sacrifice for the motherland with an upstart who has declared a war on the country.

The privilege of soft treatment as citizens and the “Azadi” to attack and kill Indian soldiers, waive Pakistani and IS flags and wish India death cannot be enjoyed simultaneously, even if you happen to be Kashmiri Muslims. If you behave as enemies of India, how do you expect to be treated with kid gloves?

It is no use shying away from the real nature of the current trouble in the valley. What we are up against is not resentment over some local grievances, but a well-orchestrated violent campaign to dismember the J&K Policecountry and create a Muslim state governed by Shariah. In the separatists’ reckoning, this may be the final stage of the battle in which Allah has guaranteed them victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have realized it when he reportedly remarked that the problem is political in nature and could not be solved by ‘development’. Omar Abdullah, the perfidious politician, has seized upon these remarks as a vindication of the stand of all separatists. But he could be in for a nasty surprise. Mr. Modi may have something very different in his mind—let us hope so.

All the calls for “winning the hearts and minds of the people of J&K” have to be viewed against this backdrop. It is a blind alley from which there is no way out. The more you bend, the more will you be asked to bend. Modi government should learn from the experience of Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhiji when it sought to win cooperation of Muslims in the struggle for independence. The price of the cooperation went on increasing in direct proportion to the effort mounted to secure it. We all know what it led to.

Modi government is needlessly defensive about the extent of violence in the valley. For one, we are fighting a proxy war to preserve the unity and integrity of our country. Nothing less. We have not courted that war; it has been imposed on us. Preservation of territorial integrity is the birthright of any nation. There is no need to be defensive about it. The world understands it. That is why this time there has been no hectoring from the habitual offenders. As the IS is educating the world about what Islam has in store for non-Muslims and even for Muslim dissidents, the international community positively dislikes the prospect of creation of one more Islamic country in the world.

Yes, the spate of violence in the valley is heartrending. But security forces cannot be blamed for it. The blame must be laid squarely and properly at the doors of those who instigate the impressionable young minds to further their own nefarious designs on the state. If A instigates B to put his hand in fire and B burns his hand, you do not blame fire for it. It is time Modi government provides the necessary political backing to the security forces and takes on those who are out to demoralize them.

Does it mean we should never hold talks with anyone about the problem? No, that is not the argument. Do negotiate, but only when you are in a position to have your way. Guided by Chanakya Chandragupta Maurya did negotiate with Seleucus Nicator, but only when he could demand and secure the territories he wanted. Sardar Patel travelled to Hyderabad to meet the Nizam, but only after the Indian army had put paid to his ambitions of heading an independent state within India. We should discuss new political arrangements with Kashmiri leaders when we are in a position to abrogate Article 370 and fully integrate the state with the rest of India. Till such a situation comes about, we should work for it.

Before this is dismissed as hate mongering and war-mongering, spare a moment to ask what has been achieved by the wise, sagacious, statesmanlike souls who have sought to broker a solution to this vexed problem over the decades. The current conflagration in Kashmir is a blazing testimony to the intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy of homegrown peaceniks of all hues as also of foreign busybodies.

» Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Kashmir Security Man 2016

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