The Army chief, General Bipin Rawat recently issued a warning that the army would treat all those in Kashmir who do not support army operations or obstruct them during encounters “as overground workers of terrorists,” and fire upon them. His target was the lakhs of youth and women participating in mass protests against killing of innocents in fake encounters and other atrocities committed by the army and paramilitary forces.
General Rawat’s warning aptly summarizes the approach of the Indian state towards the people of Kashmir. This was confirmed by the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who came out in complete support of the Army Chief's line. It is precisely this approach pursued by successive governments at the center that has resulted in the present situation in Kashmir. The Indian state has treated the problem of Kashmir as a "law and order problem" to be dealt with through brutal repression by the armed forces.
The past year alone has witnessed repeated mass protests, of tens of thousands of people, against encounter killings and army atrocities. Hundreds of people have been killed while thousands have been arrested. Hundreds of people have suffered severe eye injuries and been blinded due to the use of pellet guns by the army. In recent times, whenever the Army tries to arrest youth as militants, masses of villagers have boldly defied the army to protect these youth or secure their release. In the course of such actions, many villagers have been killed. It is clear that the army actions in Kashmir have no support whatsoever from the people.
Why are the Kashmiri people so alienated from the Indian Union? Why is it that tens of thousands of youth come onto the streets at every instance of killing in fake encounters, firing on innocents and other atrocities, in defiance of the army and paramilitary forces, even braving death? The reason for this is the barbaric approach of the Indian state towards Kashmir and its people.
At the time of partition, the Indian state promised the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination, only to go back on this promise. Any Kashmiri who questions the relation of the state with the Indian Union is denounced as an enemy of India, incarcerated in jails, tortured and killed. Kashmiri youth who go to other states of India for education or livelihood are persecuted. Relentless propaganda is carried out against Kashmiri people amongst the rest of the Indian people, branding them as a threat to “national unity and territorial integrity of India”.
The Indian state and the monopoly capitalist media carry out incessant propaganda portraying the struggle of the people of Kashmir for their national and human rights as being “anti-national” and “Pakistan sponsored”. This is used to justify the continuation of army rule and state terrorism. Kashmir has been under army rule for nearly 27 years now, with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) granting complete immunity to armed men, to kill, rape and commit all kinds of atrocities.
It is the Indian Union which is acting as the terrorist, by treating the problems of the people of Kashmir as a “law and order” problem, to be “solved” by brutal repression. The problems facing Kashmir and its people are political problems. They demand a political solution. State terrorism and army rule must be immediately ended, AFSPA repealed and the army withdrawn to its barracks. Only then can a political solution be found, which will respect the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.