If there was any doubt that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed'sdemand for ?demilitarisation? of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was not justified, the same should stand removed by March 30 incident at village Thiriat in Rajouri district. Here, in a house, five Hindu labourers were segregated from their Muslim colleagues, lined up and shot in cold blood. The ease and confidence with which this brutal act was performed showed how strong is still the presence of terrorists in the State. They even stayed in the same house for the night, cooked and ate their food and left only in the morning. The grim ground-level reality was further reinforced by the broad-day killing of a senior Congress leader, Jan Mohammad Kakaroo, in Baramulla on April 1.
In the context of prevailing conditions and in the backdrop of the last 18 years of bloody turmoil, which has so far caused death of about 42,000 persons, the demand for demilitarisation of the State is not tenable. The sizeable presence of the Indian army is primarily to deal with the deadly forces of subversion and terrorism that have been let loose in the State by Pakistan'sISI and its outfits?the forces that have been equipped with and trained in the most lethal modern weapons designed for carrying out guerilla warfare. If the operation of these forces is brought to a halt by the ISI and if the infrastructure of terror built by it, both within and outside the Valley, is dismantled, the Indian army would go back to its barracks and restrict itself to its routine duty of guarding the borders. Clearly, for bringing about demilitarisation in the State, the network of terror and subversion has to be removed first. The cart cannot be put before the horse. Mufti'sidea of securing demilitarisation without creation of conditions that make the presence of army unnecessary is risky. It may result in spilling of more innocent blood.
In this connection, it needs to be underscored that, despite the presence of the army, the terrorist-outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahiddeen are able to terrorise the people. On October 4, 2006, for example, they mercilessly butchered a Dental Surgeon of Handwara with a barber'srazor because he was considered to have disobeyed their ?Islamic Instructions?. A day before, they killed another resident, Mohammad Shafi, for having dared to join the Territorial Army. For keeping mobile phones, hairs of the young ladies were cut in full public view. Last week, on March 23, the terrorists dragged a sixteen-year old girl, Gulshan Wani, from her house in village Harmain in South Kashmir and killed her in cold blood. Her alleged fault was that she had reported to the authorities that the two terrorists belonging to Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami had raped her. What would be the scale of terror if the army is withdrawn?
The fanatic elements represented by such organisations as Asiya Andrabi's?Dukhtaran-e-Millat? (Daughters of Faith) and Mian Abdul Qayoom's?Forum Against Social Evils? have been frequently intimidating the common Kashmiris to follow the ?true Islamic way of life?. The attempt is to fundamentalise the Kashmiri Islam, which has been traditionally liberal in outlook and synertic in practice.
The central message of Kashmir'spatron saint and the founder of the Rishi Order, Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani, was: ?There is one God/But with a hundred names/There is not a single blade of grass/ Which does not worship Him?. It was Sheikh'spreaching that kept the Kashmiri ethos within the overall cultural mainstream of India even after a very large part of the Valley'spopulation had been brought within the fold of Islam. The followers of the Rishi Order abhorred killing. Like the Jains, they were careful not to harm even to insects. Sheikh Nooruddin went to extent of refusing to walk on the grass lest it should be damaged.
It is this texture of Kashmiri Islam that is sought to be changed, radicalised and put in the extremists? mould of Wahhabism. The modus operandi for doing so is plain coercion. Under the cover of removing ?moral evils? from the society, the places of entertainment are aggressively picketed and all modes of behaviour which the demonstrators consider are not in accordance with the strict tenets of Islam are denounced. The people are virtually forced into submission.
The cool calculation is to raise the tempo of religious frenzy, expel the liberal strand of Islam from the mindscape of the common Kashmiri, fill the vacated space with the rigid and virulent form of Islam and inject the ideological virus of extremism for ever in the body-politic of the State. In case this calculation materialises, pro-Pakistan elements would achieve what they have so far failed to achieve through the techniques of terror and subversions.
If, on the other hand, anyone tries to strengthen the traditional Islam of Kashmir and show its liberal and moderate face, he is hounded out. In November 2006, Abdul Rashid Dawoodi, a preacher of comparatively liberal Brelavi sect was severely intimidated by way of a bomb explosion caused by the fanatical followers of Jamaat-e-Islami and Tablighi Jammat. In absence of army or its adequate presence, the level of this type of intimidation of liberal elements is bound to go up.
Equally unjustified is the demand for withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. By and large, the conduct of the Indian army has been commendable. As a part of the propaganda by the terrorist-outfits, a number of concocted or highly exaggerated stories about human rights violations are circulated in the media. Quite a few overzealous human rights activists also fall into the trap of the anti-national forces. The army has the mechanism to deal with the violators. Out of the 890 complaints it received, during the period January 1990-April 2006, 854 were investigated. Only 24 were found to have some substance. 47 soldiers and officers were punished, some with even rigorous imprisonment. There have, in fact, been quite a few cases in which the officers have lost their own lives in order to save innocent people from being killed in cross fire.
The individual misconduct of officers and ?jawans?, either under provocation or otherwise, cannot be avoided in any army. Even the army of one of the most democratic and civilised country of the world, the United States, had to suffer in reputation on account of what has been called ?sadistic, blatant and criminal acts? committed by some of its soldiers at Abu Gharaib in Iraq. The test of bonafides of the army lies in its mechanism of accountability. In this regard, it should also be kept in mind that if the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is withdrawn from the state of Jammu & Kashmir, similar demands are bound to be made with increased intensity in the north-eastern states.
An intriguing question that demands an answer in connection with newly acquired posture of People'sDemocratic Party is: Why a leader of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed'sstanding, who has in the past played a significant role in strengthening the bonds of Kashmir with the rest of India and who has held the high office of the Union Home Minister, should be exposing the state of Jammu & Kashmir to new dangers? The answer, in main, lies in the destructive traditions of the State'spolitics. From the very day of accession, the State'sleadership, with a few notable exceptions, has always placed personal and party interests above those of the country in general and of the State in particular. Is it not the time for Mufti to rise above this unfortunate tradition and to rethink his stand and also for the Union Government not to vacillate or yield to unjustified pressure?
(The writer is a former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and a former Union Minister. He can be contacted at E-48, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 117, E-mail: [email protected])