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Army Has Spoken on Kashmir but is the Government Listening?

Interview with Seema Mustafa |
After Army Generals ask for dialogue with all, will the government now change track?

The Army has always said that it is not an instrument for policing. It is trained to fight external enemies. Using the armed forces against its own citizens in large scale civil action, is dangerous for morale of the army, as well as our polity. This is the message that both generals – General Dalbir Singh and Lt. Gen. DS Hooda – have given the government. But the government does not appear to be in a mood to listen. Instead, it claims that all protests are instigated by Pakistan, and it will dialogue only with those it considers fit. Denying the alienation and seething anger will not lead to either peace or reconciliation in the Valley. Seema said that instead, we need to talk to all sections in the Valley to work out our future. This is what the country and Kashmir needs.  

Rough Transcript

Prabir Purkayastha (Prabir): Hello and welcome to Newsclick, this program with The Real News. We have with us Seema Mustafa, an eminent journalist and we will be discussing the issues in Kashmir. Kashmir has been on the boil for some time which does not seem to be quietening down and we have senior army officials including the General himself, the Commander-in-Chief who has been talking about how this ca not be handled by the military or it cannot be handled through forces alone. Seema, do you think this army coming out and saying that this can not be handled by the army and it can not be handled by the use of force, we need to talk, had made a change in the Kashmir scenario?

Seema Mustafa (Seema): It would make a change in the Kashmir scenario if the government is listening and moved and took those remarks seriously and moved to bring in peace. There was a debate as soon as General Hooda spoke whether he had the sanction of the government or didn't have it . The point is that the Indian army in Kashmir has been making these statements for a long time. I remember the1990s when you had the terrorism- insurgent militancy cycle, the decade of militancy. The army then also would say that we are going to areas, we cleanse them or whatever words they use of the militants and the insurgents and they always wanted to pull out and asked the civilian government to go on with reconciliation and with other measures. Usually, the political governance of Jammu and Kashmir is reluctant to do that and they leave the army over there facing the flak. Specially in areas where there have been encounters and military confrontations with the civilians, then it becomes like a red rag to the bull and the relations between the civilian population and the army really degenerates. This is something the army has never wanted to do and it always says that we are not a soft force so if you bring in the army, violations are inherent in that.


Prabir: The armies are used to fight. They can not handle...

Seema: They are an external force. They are not police they are going to go and hold your hands. They are there to eliminate whatever is the 'enemy'. It is the political decisions that you put the army against your own people and say well, that's the enemy. Where as the army is supposed to be at the borders looking across and then dealing with the enemy. So this is a very sad situation and you made them almost like an occupying force and then you talk of nationalism. But nationalism also means that you use your institutions the way you have trained them. Army is an institution that should be used at the border, not against its own people. Every now and again if you go back to the records , senior generals, top commanders, GoCs in command in Jammu and Kashmir have made these kinds of statements, that pull us out, we don't want to be here.


Prabir: The government of India, the current government does not seem to be interested in peace. We have right now the Home Minister who has gone there and is trying to talk to various parties. Why do you think that they are not serious about peace in Kashmir?

Seema: There has to be a dialogue and it has to be an inclusive dialogue. Anger has reached a certain level. We have been warning of this since 2010 when the first round of violence involving the young people of Kashmir took place and this is a generation that has been born and brought up in violence. It might not have directly faced it because it was born after the militancy years but it is now directly facing it. Anger is intense that they have been excluded, they have been left out and they have been treated as if they are somebody else. So when you are going over there, and you know that the conditions have reached another level as you can even judge from opposition response, you have got to reach out with extra ordinary measures. You can't go in and say, well I am going to talk to you but I am not going to talk to them. Even the army commander, forget the entire opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, National Conference which has come with a delegation now, everybody is emphasizing that you should speak to the student leaders or the young people, to the separatists, to the political mainstream, to lawyers, to various shades of opinion and try and work a solution. But the government is still saying no. It's got to be the people we want. That doesn't work, not in a situation like Kashmir.


Prabir: Have you seen this kind of situation in a very long time because you think this reaches dimensions which is even beyond the 90s where you really had a lot of violent insurgency in Kashmir.?

Seema: The big difference between the 90s and today is that time there were Muslim militants. Pakistan had a real direct role. You knew it, you knew there were militants who were coming in, some got sanctuary, some didn't get sanctuary and the local population when we went in later always found itself to be hostage by one side the militants who had come in and the other side the forces that have come in with their guns and it was the 'bechara' Kashmiri who really got sandwiched between two opposing forces. Whether he was giving shelter or not giving shelter he was still hit and that is where the violations came. They came from one side and the other side. They can keep saying Pakistan and they can say whatever, but the Pakistan factor hasn't increased. One side we say we put an end to infiltration, one side we say, we have secured our borders which are statements that have come out all the time. Everybody knows in Jammu and Kashmir infiltration is minimalist and whatever the Pakistan factor was there before, it is still there. In fact, it is less because the young people are as alienated with Pakistan as much as they might be from New Delhi. So the point is that you are actually dealing with the masses now. You are dealing with your own people. If you call them an integral part of India, then you are dealing with your own people. The leadership is being taken by young boys and people are themselves shocked. Kashmiri civil society, all seniors are absolutely shocked. They say young boys come into your face, look into your eyes and literally taunt you because they are not scared of dying. There is a certain Romanticism of the rebellionas it were, of the revolution in young minds which cannot be addressed and there is this anger, this seething anger when people they know are killed.


Prabir: It is also very interesting to see that Rajnath Singh trying to talking to people, talking to different sections and Arun Jaitley saying stone pelters are paid by Pakistan. Now this at some level is absurd because you can't really be paying 12-13-14 year olds who are on the streets today.

Seema:They started this propaganda earlier and then came that 500 Rupees – 1000 Rupees to every stone pelter. So the immediate response was that why don't you pay 2000 and keep them off the streets.? Simple right? If it is all a question of money, then if they bought your guys with 500 Rupees, you can buy them with 1000 Rupees and tell them to stay indoors if it is all a money game. Everyone knows it is ridiculous and also the point that if you are speaking in so many voices and under an umbrella of 'we will not', then visits like the Home Minister are doomed to fail because there is already an umbrella, a cloak built around that visit which is of non-conciliation.


Prabir: Do you see that post Modi speech regarding Balochistan, Gilgit and so on that we are seeing externally a hardening of relations and actually this aggressive posture would also translate intotrying to really use greater force in Kashmir? Do you see that...?

Seema: I think, the link is very clear. Linkages have been made by different statements through these years and even earlier by the same people linking Pakistan and Kashmir, Kashmir and Indian Muslim and you know there is a certain narrative built around this. So you close all options. You close all options with Pakistan and make sure that you are not going to dialogue with them and at the same time, you harden with Kashmir. But the point is you know all these sound very good even say RSS ideology and they are acting according to a strategy, yes they are, there is a strategy but then what is the strategy? Where is it going to take you? I mean up to what point canyou harden it.


Prabir: That's an interesting issue because if you see what Modi started with. You started by talking about how you will really solve regional problems through dialogue and so on. The belief was that if you are 'hard aggressive' on the one hand and external hand of friendship on the other, things will actually work out because they will see you are a strong person. But it is really not the way it has gone, either with China or with Pakistan.

Seema: It doesn't work with anyone. I mean you try to do with US tomorrow it won't work. Right now, with the US we are only reaching our hand of friendship and embrace hugs and all and we are giving no riot act kind of speeches. So it's working with them. Tomorrow, you turn around and you tell Washington what you think of them on certain issues that will be the end there also. So this kind of an attitude of world governments doesn't work. But what I am bothered about is that if you are going to harden your position to this extent, then what's your next step going to be eventually. Is going to be war? That if you are following a certain path, are you prepared to take it to a logical conclusion which is war with your neighbour, then you have China also on one side because they have got interest in Gwadar and and they have got strategic interest in Balochistan.


Prabir: In any case when two nuclear powers India and Pakistan ,forget China, even the two nuclear powers at loggerheads going to war is a very very dangerous situation if it is not an absurd situation.

Seema: There have been so many discussions. Reporters have asked, journalists have also asked, you looked at the commentary. We know what you are doing today but do you know what you are going to do tomorrow? There doesn't seem to be an answer.


Prabir: Thank you very much Seema. We will continue to follow Kashmir because I think that is something which is going to be central to India Pakistan relations if not to Indian polity as well. Thank you very much. This is all we have time for Newsclick today. Keep watching Newsclick for further episodes.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for Newsclick are typed from a recording of the program. Newsclick cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. 

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