Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't defame the armed forces


How many men in khaki die defending India every day?
Major killed, Col injured in encounter with LeT in Poonch
Jammu, July 13: An Army Major was killed and six other personnel including a Colonel injured in Mandhar sector of Poonch in an encounter tonight with Lashkar-e- Tayyeba terrorists. Major Amit Phunge was killed in the operation while Col.Ajay Katoch of 47 Rashtriya Rifles was injured when the terrorists resorted to heavy fire and lobbed grenades, official sources said. The Army team had gone to the spot following information that about 15 Pakistan-based terrorists had sneaked in. The Army cordoned off the area and launched a search operation. The injured included Dinesh Kumar and Satinder Kumar, both Signalmen, Naik Jasbir Singh, Sepoy Samir Kumar and Rifleman Dasharat.
It’s now considered fashionable and politically correct to berate the security forces and accuse them of violating human rights. The Delhi commentariat, whose ill-informed members are often indistinguishable from jholawallahs with a certain fondness for candles, having run out of abuse to heap on Hindus and organisations that speak up for Hindu rights, has now decided to pour its bile on our men in khaki. Real and imagined instances of alleged ‘encounter killings’ are being recalled, professional human rights activists are being interviewed, separatist leaders are being flown down to Delhi and panel discussions are being organised with the sole purpose of painting the security forces in the bleakest of colours. It would seem suddenly the Army has become a four-letter dirty word and there’s no crime that jawans cannot be held guilty of having committed.

Last Sunday I was invited to a popular television show in which participants were supposed to discuss whether the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 — subsequently amended in 1972 — requires amendments to make the security forces operating under this law accountable for their actions. We need not go into the specifics of who said what — much of it was predictable: The politician from Jammu & Kashmir described the law as “draconian”; the Kashmiri separatist accused the ‘Indian’ Army of “killing Kashmiri children”; the human rights activist said the colour khaki makes boys (she meant militants) see red and hence should be banned; and, the person representing Delhi’s exalted commentariat pompously demanded that “the law must go”. Two retired Generals of the Army and a Brigadier valiantly fought back. As usual, I was in a minority of one.

The point to note was that none of the critics of the Army and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act had a clue about the specifics of the law, nor did anyone offer to validate sweeping allegations of rights violations. Instead, what we heard were bizarre figures being cited and implausible charges being levelled. To be fair, the host repeatedly made it clear that the purpose of the show was not to attack or belittle the Army, but to debate the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. But that served little purpose because the critics were either not interested in this particular issue or they were keen to push their own agenda. In the process, nothing of substance could be discussed and debated.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, I ventured to suggest, was not meant to place the Army or the security forces above the law of the land but to empower them to function effectively while dealing with situations that have defied resolution through normal means — intervention by civilian authorities, action by the police and call for calm by the political class. The Army cannot be expected to function in a vacuum and requires to be given autonomy of decision and action, I argued, hence the need for the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

This fetched a volley of furious reactions: The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the Army and security forces the licence to kill; it militates against the spirit of democracy; its provisions fly in the face of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Kashmiri separatist thought he was being profound when he said, “The right to life is inalienable, it cannot be violated,” and then went on to allege that “thousands are being killed by the Indian Army”. For a moment I was tempted to point out that having repudiated his allegiance to the Republic of India he had also forfeited the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. But I desisted from doing so because it would be meaningless trying to engage him in a debate on the provisions of the very Constitution which separatists like him find sufficiently repelling to want to secede from the Union of India.

I had taken with me some notes, which proved to be of no use when the discussion drifted into irrelevant issues and bogus allegations. But some of the details, culled from data sheets hosted on the South Asia Terrorism Portal, need to be placed on record, if only to nail the lies of those who seek to defame the Army and other security forces drafted for counter-insurgency operations. These essentially deal with fatalities suffered by our men in uniform.

For instance, 5,962 security forces personnel have been killed by terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir between 1988 and July 5, 2010. This year alone 45 security forces personnel have died in the State fighting militants. There are other insurgencies being fought by the security forces. Since 1992, as many as 939 officers and jawans have lost their lives in Manipur; 783 in Assam; 81 in Meghalaya and 22 in Mizoram. There’s more: 1,226 security forces personnel have died fighting Maoists between 2005 and 2010; this year, till July 5, we have lost 204 men in uniform to Maoist bullets.

Don't these lives count for anything? Do men who don khaki automatically surrender their right to life guaranteed by the Constitution? Are young men and women who join paramilitary forces and the Army no more than cannon fodder? And, more importantly, what about their human rights? Their right to dignity? Are these meant to be scoffed at? To be spat upon? To be violated with impunity?

The parents of a young Army Captain who went down fighting terrorists in Kashmir Valley earlier this year recounted during the show how their son was not felled by the militants’ bullets, but by a bullet fired from a nearby house. His mother, wiping her tears, said in a firm voice: “I have no more sons. If I had any, I would have sent them to join the Army. Since I have none, I am willing to offer my services.” The Kashmiri separatist slyly retorted, “We have heard thousands of such stories.”

There are two points that merit mention. First, contrary to propaganda, despite the so-called ‘sweeping provisions’ of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the security forces virtually operate in terrorist and insurgent-infested areas with both arms tied behind their backs. Or else the fatalities would not have been so high. That’s commonsense. Second, nobody, least of all the Army, condones wilful violation of human rights. But allegations cannot be deemed to be actionable unless proven to be true. Since 1990, the security forces have faced 1,511 cases of human rights abuse. These were investigated by various agencies, including the National Human Rights Commission, and 1,473 were found to be false. In the remaining cases where culpability was established, 104 men have been punished.

A last point. There’s nothing called a pretty war fought with roses and daisies. Collateral damage is inevitable in counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations. It’s an asymmetrical war being fought out there by men who have dedicated their lives to the service of the nation; we must get real and learn to live with the consequences. Stuff happens.

[This appeared as my Sunday column Coffee Break in The Pioneer on July 11, 2010]

13 comments:

No Mist said...

I would like to raise only one issue. Why do want kashmir valley to stay in India ?

The ungrateful kashmiris do not deserve to be called Indians. They must be shown the door of hell that they so fervently wish for.

Manik Ghoshal said...

I would say that anyone who criticises the Indian Armed forces is not Indian, and needs to be deported to some neighbouring countries, be it Pakistan in most cases or China in some (I cannot name Russia – it is no longer communist). Kashmir has been a part of India for thousands of years, and needs to be defended by every patriotic Indian. Goa was a Portuguese colony and is a part of India. Similarly Kashmir may have been ruled by foreigners but is an integral part of India. I also believe that Omar Abdulla is a proud Kashmiri and would never call the army if it was a rogue force for his people.
I can understand Indians don’t learn about the true history of Kashmir ( named after Rishi Kashyap, first millennium BCE) in our schools for pseudo-secular reasons. The Pandits and other Hindus of Kashmir have undergone untold sufferings during the rule of Taliban style rulers from Swat, from 14th century onwards. But In independent India Pandits must be provided full protection and allowed to return to their state with full honour and religious freedom. Anyone who tries to stop this from happening must be exterminated by our armed forces.
Here is an excerpt from the history of Kashmir which explains atrocities on Hindus who were killed or convert to Islam through genocide and outrageous intolerance:
“ It was during Sikander's reign that a wave of sufi saints and scholars headed by Mir Muhammad Hamadani (1372-1450) arrived in Kashmir in 1393.[1] Sikunder issued orders proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmir. He insisted on all golden and silver images being broken and melted down, and the metal coined into money. Many of the Brahmins, rather than abandon their religion or their country, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mohamedans. After the emigration of the Brahmins, Sikunder ordered all the temples in Kashmir to be thrown down; among which was one dedicated to Maha Dew, in the district of Punjhuzara, which they were unable to destroy, in consequence of its foundation being below the surface of the neighboring water. But the temple dedicated to Jug Dew was levelled with the ground; (...) but Sikunder (...) did not desist till the building was entirely razed to the ground, and its foundations dug up. In another place in Kashmir was a temple built by Raja Bulnat, the destruction of which was attended with a remarkable incident. (....) Having broken all the images in Kashmir, he acquired the title of the Iconoclast, ‘Destroyer of Idols’." [2] (Muhammad Qãsim Hindû Shãh Firishta : Tãrîkh-i-Firishta – translated by John Briggs)
Those wishing to read more history can go to the following website:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir
Manik Ghoshal

Shan said...

It's so easy to pontificate with a pipe in your mouth about collateral damage and brush aside the impact that laws like AFSPA have on people affected by them. Do you even know how life under AFSPA is? Have you ever stayed in a state where you have no power to protest or recourse to redress of the army breaks your door in and takes away your first born child under mere suspicion.
Can you imagine a law that allows that army to kill your son without trial and then protects that killer from any judicial or punitive measures. Obviously not, because otherwise you would not have defended AFSPA so blithely.
I have a suggestion. Since you support the army so much, why not agree to have the entire nation under AFSPA, for a year and then see how you like it?
The arguments you provide are the same provided by the police after every encounter killing - that they need extra-judicial methods to deal with criminals. is our judiciary so weak that the mighty state has to get special powers to act?

Why would the state and the army need a license to imprison without trial or kill someone? Why can't the army get a warrant to arrest someone? Why would the army shy away from accountability, unless it has something to hide. Unless it knows it is abusing those powers?

I'm sorry, I respect the army and the brave soldiers. I just believe that it's a sign of a failure of democracy if we need a fascist law like AFSPA to defeat militants. It's a national shame - a blot on democracy, just as Guantanamo was a blot on the US. If you support AFSPA,you have to support Guantanamo, and Tiananmen and government sponsored terror everywhere.

Anonymous said...

@No Mist Not all Kashmiris want to secede. Besides, Kashmir is our land. We should not give it up, just because the terrorists have forced Kashmiri Pandits and Indian nationalist Muslims out of the land.

gtoosphere said...

Yeah, what Barkha Dutt is doing in her misplaced sense of "fairness" is very insulting. Its just a war between the news channels to attract attention. The way I see it, it is no different from yelling, "look at me, I have bigger tits"

No country dares to say bad things about their Army. We should be thankful that no one is putting a bullet through our brains and the news media is making it fashionable to be not.

@No Mist: You give them an inch, they will demand a mile. I am sure there are enough number of grateful Kashmiris worth protecting.

Manik Ghoshal said...

I wonder about the sanity of Shan. Do all Indians have to bother about how difficult it is in an Indian jail by being imprisoned in one for a year. A jail is meant to be hellish for the criminal/ offenfers, just as AFSPA is meant to be like a rod up your backside. If you don't want to experience it stop being anti-Indian.

Manik Ghoshal

M. Patil said...

Shan,

You are talking non sense. The Army is there to protect the borders and be lethal. They are not in Kashmir on their own free will. They are there because the CIVILIAN(politicians) authorities want them.

b.t.w, there is no need for AFSPA in other parts of the country because there is no organized violence there. Telugus, Tamils and etc have not taken guns and started killing minorities in our midst for imaginary reasons.

The Kashmiri sunnis have blood of Kashmiri Hindus on their hands and they have the nerve to talk about Human rights?

M. Patil said...

Kanchan,

You attribute too much credit or atleast good intentions to media mafia. Media is corrupt to the core. Infact they act as Establishments henchmen. Haven't you noticed that all the stings have stopped?

B.t.w, trust is media is going down,where as faith in the blogs is going up. A good sign indeed.

Anonymous said...

Shan

You guys are religious fanatics who have killed and raped Kashmiri Hindus. Don't talk about human rights. You people don't even fit the definition of humans. Army is much more civil than you guys. Don't give those made up stories. We all know what is the truth.

Anonymous said...

We the people have absolutely no rights to inquisition our Army. I am always for our Army , period.

Force the nitpickers like barkha dutts etc to don the uniform & face the adversaries. This would ensure our stressed out Armymen also get some much needed respite.

Seriously our Army should be plucky enough to give it a shot. Ask the human rightswallahs & nautanki purveyors to sort out all the mess.

Anonymous said...

It has become fashionable to do a postmortem with a view to finding fault with our Army.

Best is to to tell the people including sanjoy hazarikas & their cheerleaders like barkha dutts behave in such a way that there is no NEED for Army to be called to restore Peace.

If you cannot (which is so obvious), you forfeit all rights to sit upon judgement & pontificate to Indian Army.

ravinder said...

shan,

I volunteer to live under AFSPA for as long as it takes. I know our army is to protect us.

Can you volunteer to live with Rashtriya rifles for one encounter?

ravinder said...

And old man,

do keep up with the pipe.

also dont forget to push the embers up the back side of people like........, every once in a while.