J&K: Citizens aren’t the enemy; paramilitary jawans victims too

Susan Visvanathan

Delhi gets its political climate, and its seasons from its northwestern and northeastern borders. The British built the capital in 1912 in order to establish their sovereignty all over India, and to be closer to Shimla, the summer capital of the Raj. Yet the people of Delhi, inheriting all the venom of the past, have always remained loyal to the city, with its duststorms from Rajasthan’s Thar desert, and the cold winds that blow in from the Himalayas, and the view of the Terai as a silver line in the clouds, that greets them when they fly back from the Northeast.
Delhites are least sympathetic to or intimidated by terrorists. The call to arms made to college students and to the unemployed, whether in Jammu and Kashmir, or in Assam, or in Jharkhand, or in the various states of the Northeast leaves the migrant worker in Delhi baffled. The rural population moves to Delhi for work, and in slum settlements and instant housing prefabricated by noveau riche magnates, they quickly make their living, for the wages are better than where they lived earlier. When luck runs out, they return to their villages for brief periods to recuperate, but they are back as soon as they get employment in the city.
The paramilitary forces who risk their lives in the border areas are people who see serving their country as an honorable profession. They are not mercenaries. They come from farming families, and thousands compete for one post, which also represents gainful employment. It involves repayment of debts, education for their children, and the hardwon gains of having gone to the courts to settle the pensions payable to them. The paramilitary is part of the grid operations of the Army, police and state and Central representatives, who discuss the mode of operation, in places where civil war is imminent.
Needless to say, citizens’ forums are always active on behalf of the people who are being monitored. Wherever rape or injury has been committed, there is immediate reporting by journalists. The documentation of war crimes are part of the occupational obligations of many human rights outfits who make this data available. The military and police represent the coercive arms of the State, and is under the jurisdiction of Parliament and the judiciary. The idea of democracy is therefore legally represented by the constitutional impetus of keeping institutions alive.
Each of the 44-plus men who were killed in the IED blast in Pulwama on February 14 had obligations to their families, which they had set aside to return to duty. What were their thoughts as they set out on a new assignment? Was it a job like any other, to drive out into the cold and lose their lives in a fraction of a moment? The tragedy was something the nation experienced sorrowfully, so soon after Republic Day. One of the soldiers killed came from Lakkidi village in Wayanad, Kerala. It’s an obscure village where there is a Sita temple for it is believed it was here that Luv and Kush were born, and that she was absorbed into the earth. These legends are what the Indian subcontinent is always composed of, where extra-terrestrial time and local time converge. The soldier had hoped to retire from the CRPF in two years, and focus on his children. His brother told a journalist that they were sorry to lose him, but proud that he had died for his country. In these deaths, the nation comes together, because the sacrifice that soldiers make for their country are expressions of how they represent their love for the country as being the sole goal, in their possible martyrdom.
Kashmiris have presented themselves as scapegoats in the confrontation between the military and their dream of a promised homeland. The pellet injuries that Kashmiri children have been blinded with become the most terrible evidence of how the nation state sees certain forms of warfare as legitimate in the context of civil war. How can human rights activists deal with the infiltration of terrorists among Kashmiri civilians? India has a political sensibility which while not trying to get back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, will not give up Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley. There is no possibility of any further severance of the subcontinent.
Kashmiri schoolchildren doing the Central board exams know that the idea of the homeland is tied inextricably with the nation. Pakistan becomes an ally of Saudi Arabia, and of China, when it requires aid. Kashmiris are to be found in every nook and corner of India, either as merchants or as refugees. The problem of borders cannot be solved by expressing enmity with neighbouring countries, whether it is China or Pakistan. The first step towards healing is for the presentation of occupational rights to defence personnel, along with the line of duty which premises that citizens cannot be treated as if they are enemies. The unholy alliance that militants have with anybody who provides them with guns and money is something that cannot be condoned.