The response to my Facebook post “Open Letter to Burhan Wani” has been overwhelming. I received responses from all over the world. And Kashmir.
There were the usual threats of violence, many accused me of glorifying the armed forces and some shared horrifying stories of human rights abuses. Interestingly, there were some very intelligent and well thought through opinions and voices from Kashmir, who while condemning the violence by state agencies, also condemned the violence perpetrated by the Hurriyat and local leaders, including militants.
These young men and women spoke about conflict fatigue and post-traumatic stress of having to spend an entire life in an operational zone. I can only imagine.
I also received letters from the rest of India, some extremely unflattering. Many left leaning opinions pointed out that the Indian Army was an occupation force and was murdering Kashmiris. Karl Marx was dragged out of his grave and made to bear witness.
The vast majority of Indians have been absolutely supportive. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
I wish to share my point of view and in many ways, it is the view of many brother officers of the Indian Army. What I am writing is not the official Indian Army line. This is just what many faujis think privately.
It is important for young Kashmiris to know what we think, too. Communication needs to be both ways.
The army is a blunt instrument. Think of it as a broadsword, not a scalpel. It functions on the basic premise of massive disproportionate force. We do not particularly enjoy laying a cordon at 0300 hrs and doing a house-to-house search. It gives us absolutely no pleasure to search cars of civilians or do public pat downs. The army is an armed force of the union and is trained in defense and attack, amongst a million other things. We would rather train, defend the borders and fight wars. Dealing with civilians in the counter insurgency grid is a pain.
Then why is the army there in Kashmir? Well, the answer is fairly simple. The militant dimensions of the entire Kashmir problem are artificially manufactured by Pakistan and its “deep state” agencies. The Kashmir issue was and remains primarily a political problem, but Pakistan has left no stone unturned in making it a military flashpoint. Four wars and two insurgencies have proved beyond doubt that Pakistan is militarily inferior to India. In 1971, they lost half their country. In the next 20 years, they are likely to lose 44% of their landmass. I am referring specifically to Balochistan.
I am sure you would have heard of Pakistan’s Don Quixote-like obsession with strategic depth. That is why Punjab burned when the masters of strategy at Rawalpindi launched the Khalistan movement. And that is why Kashmir still burns. Pakistan is geographically narrow. Too narrow to sustain a lightning armour thrust through Punjab, onwards to Lahore. And too narrow to sustain an infantry assault through Muzzafarabad (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Hence, the need to create artificial depth so that our fifth columns within India bog down our own forces during war.
You, my Kashmiri brothers and sisters, are part of the strategic depth plan of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan went about this plan in a systematic manner. In the late eighties they introduced armed militancy in Kashmir. Young men were taken to Pakistan to be trained and were then sent back into India. That was not a resounding success because Kashmiris did not fight with the ruthless abandon of the Afghans and they still thought of the Kashmir issue as a political dispute. Look at the history of Pakistan. The army has resolved all political disputes. They do that by simply sending the 111 Brigade stationed at Islamabad to take over the country. Yes, they have a dedicated Infantry Brigade just for this.
As a next step, Pakistan sent in Afghan and Punjabi fighters into Kashmir. These were battle-hardened warriors who had fought the Soviet army during the Afghan jihad and who were unemployed, staying in putrid refugee camps in Peshawar or in non-descript towns of South Punjab (Pakistan).
And into this toxic mix Pakistan introduced Islam. Not the gentle Sufi Islam of Kashmir, but the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. Those fighting against the Indian Army became Mujahideen (holy warriors) and the fight itself became Jihad (holy war).
A lot of images have been circulated on social media by a few Kashmiris, which have shocked Indians. Images of kids being shot with pellet guns and women being manhandled. These images are not the complete truth. They are meant to convey a message to Indians and tell them, “Look at your forces. They are murdering Kashmiris and killing innocent children”.
Let me tell you the truth.
These protestors and stone throwers never target a large cantonment or large presence of security forces. They pick a BSF or CRPF picket, which may have ten to 15 people or more. Then they get a mob of hundreds of people to surround the picket and start pelting stones. Women and children are placed in front. As the mob advances, the pressure inside the picket grows. Firing starts and in the smoke, sound, pressure and confusion a bullet or rubber pellet hits a child, because the child is placed right in front of the soldiers. The child dies.
Why would a mob deliberately take a 5-year-old child to throw stones at a security force picket? Why would they place women in front when the firing starts? Because the dead body of a child makes for a perfect photo op for the Hurriyat leaders and adds fuel to the fire. The Hurriyat is not responsible for law and order, development, roads and electricity, education or any of those things that “leaders” are supposed to do all over the world. They accept money from Pakistan’s ISI to foment trouble in Kashmir. That’s all they do.
With all the moral authority at my disposal, I wish to tell my countrymen one thing – a soldier is also a father and a son. No soldier deliberately shoots at a child. And in the rare case that there is a bad apple amongst us, the Army Act ensures immediate, severe and deliberate action. Hundreds of cases have been disposed off in typical army fashion – “fast and ruthless”. We are not only a powerful army. We are a moral army.
Why do the security forces use rubber pellets to disperse crowds? Why do the “bloodthirsty security forces” not use real bullets? Because the intent is to stop, not kill. Do you really think that Kashmiris would have been out on the road throwing stones if they knew that the BSF had 3 mounted Light Machine Guns in the alley? I think not.
Most of the stone throwers are not political activists. They are daily wage laborers who are paid to do this work.
The Hurriyat is a sickness typical to Kashmir. They do politics on the dead body of children. How are they different from ISIS?
Who funds the lavish lifestyle of the Hurriyat leaders? Who buys the convoys of SUVs and who pays their office bearers? What is the source of funds of the Hurriyat? Who has elected them? Once you have the answers, you will understand why the Indian Army is involved. And that is why the military solution to the Kashmir problem (otherwise political) lies in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Someone from Kashmir wrote a response to my article and mentioned about how he was slapped by the security forces when he was just ten. This is condemnable and in the strongest possible terms. My article was about Burhan Wani only, and not about security forces violations. And if every ten year old who is slapped, picks up a gun, we are going to have a lot of dead 23 year olds.
Kashmir’s “azaadi” sponsors, Pakistan, have very low international credibility. By extension, the so-called Kashmir issue has very low international credibility. Think about it for a while. The primary (and only) supporter of Kashmir’s secession from India is a nuclear proliferator, a global leader in exporting terrorism and an international migraine. All these fine words from Pakistan’s chief ally in the war on terror, the US of A.
Pakistan wants a referendum in Kashmir. If it weren’t so tragic, it would have been funny. A country that has murdered three of its elected prime ministers (I am including Benazir Bhutto here), had four military coups and recently celebrated its first democratic transfer of power in 70 years (because most of the earlier prime ministers were killed, exiled or both) has a view on democracy and referendum.
Think of Pakistan as an Urdu speaking North Korea.
Are Kashmiris really so naïve as to believe that if Kashmir achieves this so-called “azaadi”, Pakistan will quietly step back and allow Kashmir to be independent? Has Pakistan crushed the aspirations of Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pashtun, Hazaras and other citizens of Pakistan for 70 years so that Kashmiris can walk into the sunset with music playing in the background? No Sir. For Pakistan,this is the biggest property deal in living memory, Kashmiris be damned.
The primary solution of the Kashmir issue is political. The day Kashmiris try to find salvation within the pages of the Constitution of India, they will find true “azaadi”. Over 1.2 billion Indians find solace in those pages, and so will the Kashmiris.
Burhan Wani’s successor has a code name – Mehmood Ghaznavi. They could have named him Changez Khan and he would still have a remarkably short shelf life. A 7.62 mm full metal jacket round does not respect fancy historical names. The 7.9 g (122 gr) projectile flies at 2350 feet per second and destroys whatever it comes into contact with. Mehmood Ghaznavi, the moment you were declared successor, you were a dead man. They have started hunting you. They will kill you. Soon.
By Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)