The way things are, the most crucial thing is for our government to become more proactive. From the current crisis situation prevailing on our frontiers, my understanding is that nothing happens unless prodded. It was rather alarming for me to realize that the Government had a “hmmmm… okay” kind of response to the news about Chinese moving missiles closer to our border with them till the BJP raised a ruckus and two days later we hear that two squadrons of the Air Force are being sent with our own missiles being positioned. Two more days later, the missiles are suddenly specified in the media as nuclear capable. It is as though the government waits for someone to prompt them.
In the Kashmir scenario, the first mistake was to assume ‘out of sight and out of mind’. With years of relative peace, the apparent attitude was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ totally forgetting that an unresolved Kashmir is broke by default. The army continued its merry way with no one interested till the state made any waves that hit the rest of the country. It was as though since no one had an answer for Kashmir, it was simply ignored. Naturally, the people took some drastic measures to get much needed attention. Unfortunately, the government remained paralysed till the group got really radicalized.
Their accepting of payment to pelt stones or are being instigated from across the border is not as important as the fact that they have suffered from the carte blanche given to the army and subsequent neglect. If it were a relatively satisfied population, no one would have had the time to stand protesting endlessly on roads, because they would have interesting lives to get back to, however oppressed. Try radicalizing Mumbai. Even the mighty Shiv Sena failed simply because people had better things to do than get angry endlessly. Radicalization takes hold in Kashmir because they are ‘on hold’. There is no flow.
The army needs to get some counselling/coaching/training on human rights. There needs to be a method to address grievances. Any army in the world among a population has always caused misery to the population. They are on edge, and their enemy is on the people. This doesn’t create Mahatmas. However, it is important to be alert to this and create a system to ensure human rights. Much as people blame the army, I see this as a governance thing.
Also, India is pathetically passive. We entered the war with China saying “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai”. Today, we still have no coherent response to anything they do. This needs to change.
The Army needs to have teeth. It was totally unacceptable for the army to not be equipped for a full out war when 26/11 happened or for that matter, at any time. I doubt if attackers are going to send out memos. I think, with the US in the region, we are fairly complacent that no one will create a mess. We still need to have a handle on our own defense. If Pakistan goes rogue, the first people to be nuked is the US and India. That is as good a reason as any to have a dazzling conventional deterrent if you aren’t going to lift the ‘no first strike’.
Another front India is clueless on is communication. Publicity. Influencing opinion. If they are catching so many infiltrators, don’t just announce numbers and areas. Publish photos. Publish ration cards, photos of ammunition, dead bodies, names, locations in Pakistan. Then, the claims of infiltration take on a whole new meaning. Worldwide.
If intercepts and information on bribery in the stone pelting is found, make it known to the media. Provide quotes. Play selected audio clips on TV News. Question claims of peaceful protests including stone pelting. Show photos of cops injured in stone pelting. Provide quotes from doctors. Mount surveillance cameras on police vehicles to show the kind of attacks they face when they have to fire. Today, much of the war is won on media. Frankly, the separatists have a better publicity department.
Most of all, the government needs to decide what they want to do as opposed to what demands are. Whether it is granting freedom, maintaining status quo or outright capturing Kashmir. They need to be acting to achieve their objectives and factoring in demands rather than being only reactive and even avoiding reaction if possible.
I think it is time we stopped letting shame paralyze us as a country. Secessionist struggles have been a part of the history of almost every country at some point or the other. I think no matter how things unfold, there are two parties going to end up disappointed. However, if no action is taken, the chances are that the ‘winners’ are going to be those emerging as most brutal in an anarchy, which is going to lead to no good.
Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tbnpf/4689898515/sizes/m/in/photostream/ via license at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en
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