Since the Army and other forces had been covering themselves with glory in Kashmir after 1990, it was necessary for you-know-who to cook up the Kunan Poshpora rape story to malign the high martial traditions of the Indian military. The case has been made again and again, and with due patriotic fervour and passionate eloquence, right to the point of giving rightful consideration to the “needs” of the men in uniform who serve the nation in stressful conditions, and “for long periods far away from family.” This was when nationalism was not beamed into homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but delivered in slow-release capsules over Doordarshan on special weekend programmes celebrating the nation’s enduring motto: satyame vijayate. Truth has since assumed added strength with corporate muscle, as have national interest and its infallible champions. Journalism and journalistic opinion of the Inder Malhotra variety have evolved immeasurably, perfectly in tune with Darwinian principles of selection, or, to coin a bad word, selectivism, defined in this case by the Pir Panjal ranges.
In contention here, however, is the obverse side of what military commanders, past and present, regaling rapt TV audiences with tales of heroism and valour, amid timely and encouraging prodding by hosts, would like the masses to believe. Common Kashmiris would gladly go along with the discourse – were it not for quiet another set of circumstances staring them in the face. Is it in anybody’s interest to know what the military, or for that matter, the Government of India, has done about the long list of “aberrations” which make a gruesome catalogue for the once Happy Valley. Aberrations, by definition, are a rarity, and few and far between, not the repetitious and recurring phenomenon seen in Kashmir. Any military force worthy of the appellations “professional and disciplined,” would act swiftly to redress an aberration when it occurs, and ensure that it is not replayed. Even when the State strongly feels that allegations are groundless, it has a duty to prove them so without leaving room for doubt. The experience in Kashmir has been quiet to the contrary. And supplemented by a tenacious resolve to find excuses and alibis for the armed forces. It wouldn’t have done the government of India any harm if, now and then, it indulged in the irregularity of handing over erring uniformed personnel, whose wrongs are documented and proven by investigation, over to public prosecution.