By Javeed Ali
The Indian Army which claims that it is the most disciplined forces in the world has failed to prove this assertion in Kashmir. Every now and then , we see the Army breaking its rules and indulging in insalubrious acts. A fresh incident was reported from Kupwara where the ‘Munshi’ of a Police Post was reportedly beaten on Friday evening by the army near the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Kupwara. According to reports, army personnel from 41 Rashtriya Rifles caught hold of a policeman following a scuffle and then they beat him up. He was later taken to the sub district hospital in Kupwara. The scuffle ensued when the ‘Munshi’ intervened to alleged irksome behaviour of the army personnel with a civilian who was asked to come out of the vehicle he was travelling in. The army personnel reportedly loaded their guns and aimed them at the ‘Munshi’ but the Chowki officer, Tariq Ahmad, intervened in the matter. Later , the police came with the statement that it was a minor scuffle (this the routine followed after every such incident.
The incident comes less than a month after several policemen, including an officer, were injured when soldiers of 24 Rashtriya Rifles entered into a police station at Gund Ganderbal in Central Kashmir and thrashed them. The soldiers, who were in plain clothes, without showing any identification came down from the vehicles and started thrashing the on-duty officer and other officials, resulting in injuries to the ASI and other police personnel on the spot. Police later said that Army parties of Gund and Surbraw 24 RR camps entered the police station in Gund and thrashed all the police personnel present inside while also damaging some official records as well. It was followed by the statement from Police that the issue had been amicably resolved and army assured that such incidents won’t reoccur.
In year 2014 on May 23, at least six policemen were injured after a verbal brawl between police and personnel of Army’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) took place at the tourist resort of Sonamarg. A vehicle of HAWS had fled after hitting a Sumo at Sonamarg. Soon after the incident, the sumo driver had filed a complaint with local police station and the cops had swung into action to nab the vehicle. When cops had spotted the HAWS vehicle near Sonamarg, they had stopped it and started inquiring about the hit-and-run incident from the personnel travelling in it. “The cops’ questioning had irritated the HAWS personnel who had started shouting at the cops, leading to a verbal brawl.
The HAWS men then beat up, abused and attacked the cops, injuring at least six of them. At that time, HAWS men had even snatched a loaded rifle from a cop. The then SP Ganderbal, Shahid Mehraj had said,” the HAWS personnel “manhandled our men and we have taken up the investigation”. The further reports that had come at that time had revealed that Army personnel barged into police station Sonamarg and resorted to indiscriminate firing. “They fired scores of bullets and some of the bullets hit the walls of the police station,” the In-Charge Station House Officer Sonamarg, Irfan Ahmed Malik had said.
The then Sarpanch Sonamarg Nazir Ahmad had asserted that army men went berserk after coming out from police station and had started beating everyone. “I tried to stop them but they beat me to pulp,” he had added.
The Army always maintains that close liaison is being maintained with the state police and every such incident is being investigated but as we all know nothing fruitful comes out of these investigations.
Recently troops of the 2 RR forcibly entered main campus of Hussaini Public Higher Secondary School at HMT and harassed the students and staffers. The Army entered the classrooms on the pretext that the students were pelting stones on their camp at HMT. Reportedly , Army men even misbehaved with the teachers and the chairperson of the school in her office as well. Afterwards, the police led by SP West Gurinder Pal Singh calmed the situation. The incident was followed with one more incident at Pahalgam where Army men barged into Government Middle School in Yanner and manhandled students and teachers including in-charge headmaster and were asked to recite national anthem and vande mataram.
In April this year, Army Casper reportedly entered the Government Degree College at Pulwama which erupted the cycle of protests by students all over the Kashmir valley. State administration was forced to shut schools and colleges at number of times in order to curb the chain of protests by students. The students were further provoked by videos deliberately captured by Army personnel while beating and thrashing young boys and made them viral only to worsen the situation.
On April 9, Major Leetul Gogoi of 53 RR tied a Budgam youth Farooq Ahmad Dar to the bonnet of an army jeep and paraded the man through several villages. Farooq Ahmad Dar, a Kashmiri embroidery artisan was picked up on his way back from voting in the state by poll and used as a human shield. The worst part is that the Indian army awarded the officer responsible for committing what is widely considered a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Such incidents prove detrimental for students psyche and it makes them aggressive which could prove very disastrous for their future. The protests by students this year should be an eye opener for the Army how their erroneous and unprofessional approach has brought the students on the streets and compounded the already simmering situation.
There is a general perception among the people here that when Army can’t be sympathetic with local police then how could it be friendly with the common people. You should learn to respect the state police in general and the local natives in particular. We may have differences with our local police but still we cannot afford their humiliation. You may be backed by the special powers like AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) but you need to abide by the law of the land.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org