Militarised Land Grab

On August 13 and 14, this newspaper carried reports related to land in the Valley being given to the Indian army for use as firing ranges and areas being ‘identified’ for a residential colony for retired soldiers. In the first report, the army was quoted as saying that it could not disclose the location of ‘a couple of places’ now being used as firing ranges after it was forced to vacate the Tosamaidan meadow (after 50 years – with scores of dead and hundreds injured in the interim). This lack of disclosure, mirrored by the state administration, on where (and how much) land has now been given to the army is, obviously, related to apprehensions of protests over the issue. The second report had to do with land for an ex-armymen’s colony not being a mere proposal, but a site (near Srinagar airport) as well as size (173 kanals) having already been ‘identified’, and a plan to that effect sent to the state government by a panel headed by Governor NN Vohra. That this is another potentially explosive issue, and yet seemingly okayed by sections in New Delhi, shows that there is either sheer malevolence involved in stoking the fires in Kashmir, or plain stupidity (given the rhetoric that the State wants ‘peace’ in Kashmir) or actually a contradictory combination of both.

Then, let’s not forget the other ‘proposal’ for enclaves in the Valley for Kashmiri Hindus, which periodically raises its head. That proposal has been vociferously opposed by vast sections of Kashmiri society as being akin to the Israeli ‘settler policy’. And it would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that settling ex-Indian armymen and their families on Kashmiri land would be construed as an even more glaring example of such policy intent. So, just why – apart from that oxymoronic stupidity-malevolence ‘logic’ – would such measures even be considered in a volatile situation, even as more undisclosed firing ranges are handed over to the army, in addition to the vast expanses of land already under its control in Jammu and Kashmir?

One answer would be the simple fact that Kashmir is a virtual cantonment, and it seems the policy to forever treat it like a ‘frontier region’ where the military paradigm always reigns supreme. The ‘Israeli settler-style’ plans would, then, just be add-ons to that policy decision. What is moot, however, is when it would dawn on the Indian state that militarisation is a key part of the problem, not the solution.