The people of Kashmir, by and large, contest the validity of the state’s Instrument of Accession, asserting that it was never signed. Assuming, for the sake of argument, the document’s legality, its terms assign a special role for the Indian army.
Soldiers, according to its provisions, were to assume the role of peace-makers, or, to quote the text of the document, to ensure an atmosphere in the Valley where people could decide about their future through an impartial referendum. But the `peace mission’ itself was given a bloody start: soldiers killed eleven Kashmiris within a few hours of landing in Srinagar.
A group of people, believed to have been National Conference workers, had gone to Ram Bagh to greet the arriving soldiers. Ghulam Qadir Wani, a former soldier who had fought along with Allied Forces in the Second World War also accompanied them. Indian troops fired at the group, killing eleven persons, including Wani. The blood-letting evoked a severe reaction from people, but Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad prevented a demonstration.
In his book Slender Was the Thread, Lt General LP Sen says the killings took place in November, and describes them as an accident. But local historians and Wani’s elder brother say with authority that the incident took place on October 27. The bloody campaign continues to this day.
When India and Pakistan went to war in 1965, an entire locality in Batmaloo was set ablaze by Indian soldiers to flush out mujahideen who, according to them, had taken refuge in the area. Since everything is supposed to be fair in love and war, the act was justified by governments in New Delhi and Srinagar. But were the soldiers not supposed to protect the lives and property of the local population?
A group of army men, wielding hockey sticks and iron rods, appeared in Lal Chowk on July 26, 1980 and let mayhem loose, damaging taxis, private cars and government property, thrashing civilians, and resorting to loot and arson.
It is believed that an army vehicle had hit a rickshaw at Sonawar, around two kilometers from the city centre, and its driver had been taken into custody. The soldiers came out of barracks and went berserk to free the driver from lockup. Reports suggest that a senior police officer also received a sound thrashing and lost some of his teeth. The rampage, in which several groups of soldiers were seen beating people, looting shops and smashing vehicles from Sonawar to Batmaloo, lasted several hours.
As anger flamed in the city, stone-pelting broke out, going on till the late hours, and continued the next day. The police resorted to firing; killing six people, including a Pakistani national.
Demonstrations continued for several days. An army jeep was torched near the Budshah Bridge, but the driver managed to escape after firing several rounds from his gun. All activity in the city came to a halt. All educational institutions were closed indefinitely.
The Sher-e-Kashmir was the Chief Minister then, and lived at his Maulana Azad Road residence, barely a hundred yards away from the city centre where the army men had wreaked havoc. Somebody informed the protesters that he had gone to the Badami Bagh Cantonment where army officers asked him to identify the culprits. It was further said that he could not identify those responsible for the mayhem. Though this could not be confirmed immediately, it added fuel to the fire. The demonstrations intensified.
The Government finally ordered a probe to be held by a retired High Court judge. The findings have not been made public to this day.
The army was equipped with the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1990 to play the role of `saviour’ effectively. In February 1991, thirty-two women were gang raped in Kunan-Poshpora by the `peace’ brigade.’
Early in 2010, three youth were killed in a fake encounter at Machil, Kupwara. Colonel D K Pathania, Major Maurya, Major Upinder, Subedar Satbir, Hawaldar Bir Singh, Sepoys Chandra Bhan, Nagendra Singh and Narendra Singh and Abbas Hussain Shah of the Territorial Army (TA), and two civilians, Basharat Lone and Abdul Hamid Bhat, have already been charged under sections 302 (murder), 364(abduction), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intent) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) for conspiring and kidnapping three youths from Sopore on the pretext of giving them jobs, and later killing them as “terrorists” in the higher reaches of Kupwara. Their families still await justice.
A major quake caused massive devastation in Uri and elsewhere. The army rescued a few civilians, and submitted a bill to the state government for its rescue operations.
The September 7 floods wreaked havoc across Kashmir. The ‘saviors’ failed the local people yet again. Selective rescue, and air-dropping expired biscuits won them acclaim from the partisan Indian media. It was the locals who braved the rising waters to rescue their brothers and sisters.
The peace brigade is still here and kills all who seek a plebiscite – a job it had to do as per the terms and conditions of the Instrument of Accession (if at all it was signed).