A 22 year old sepoy, Rajendra Singh, succumbed to his injuries after a mob of violent protestors pelted stones on a military convoy in South Kashmir’s Anantnag. This was one of the several instances wherein military personnel are losing their lives and unfortunately we see no flag bearers of the soldiers’ right to life and their human rights. On the contrary, we come across politicians who, instead of condemning the act of violent extremism, outwardly support the terrorism in Kashmir and coin the terrorists as ‘Shaheeds’ (Martyrs).
The recently published 49 page report of the United Nation in June 2018, on the violation of human rights in Kashmir highlights the death of violent protestors by security forces and condemns the forces for excessive use of force via pellet guns. The report has also suggested the Indian government initiate an international investigation in the areas where gross human rights violation have been taking place since 2016.
This article seeks to justify the use of pellet guns by the armed forces as a tool of defence to protect their lives and also to maintain internal peace in the valley.
Security forces in Kashmir are often accused of using disproportionate forces while countering terrorist forces and their accomplices. The use of pellet guns by the security forces is one such measure that came under the scanner of various human rights watchdogs in India and at an international level too. The use of pellet guns has increased since 2016 when the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, was eliminated by the security forces in the Anantnag district of Kashmir. A massive protest was launched by unidentified groups all over the area in support of the terrorist and against the actions taken by the security forces. This protest turned violent with time and the incidences of stone pelting and mob lynching of police personnel and attack on security forces vehicles became very common.
On 22 June 2017, a senior police official Ayub Pandit (DSP) was lynched by the mob outside the Jama Masjid where congregational prayers were being organised that was led by senior separatist Huriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Another incident that drew the attention of media housed was when Colonel Gogoi tied a civilian on his jeep who was involved in stone pelting, as a human shield. The Army and the Central government defended such action claiming it as essential to deal with the violent mob.
All these incidences have triggered a new debate about the necessity and validity of using excessive forces by the armed forces to curb violence in the valley. The important thing to be kept in mind here is that the use of soft power and political deliberations to bring in harmony in the valley has turned out to be futile since any kind of political consensus is unachievable, distinct ideologies of different political parties and other non-state actors in Kashmir has rendered it impossible for any kind of peace accord to properly function.
The current change of events in political dynamics of Kashmir is one such example of it. The PDP-BJP alliance broke off due to major ideological differences, wherein the PDP led by former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, is known to be a separatist sympathiser, whereas, on the other hand, the BJP holds an aggressive outlook against the separatists leaders. Such a disconnect between the alliance partners resulted in policy paralysis that consequently ruled out all the possibilities of a peaceful resolution between the protestors and the government and because of such fractured administration, the valley suffered a lot form the hands of the separatist leaders and the violent protestors.
The use of pellet guns to control mobs is justified on the account of securing peace and giving a befitting reply to the secessionist leaders who incite hatred within the Kashmiri youth and radicalise the youth to use them as weapon against the armed forces while their (secessionist leaders) children and associates live a life of luxury. The armed forces has managed the matter diplomatically and due advantage has been taken of this soft standby the secessionists. One should not forget that the armed forces are deployed to protect the integrity and sovereignty of our country and to maintain peace all along the borders and also within the territory and any attempt to disrupt the harmony shall be dealt by the armed forces stringently and with measures that can be extreme if the situation so demands
Legally, the armed forces in Kashmir are authorised under AFSPA (Armed forces Special protection Act) to use necessary measures in order to control the disturbances in the state and the Hobbesian (nasty and brutish) state of affairs perpetuating in Jammu and Kashmir since past 2 to 3 years after the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani is common knowledge.
In 2016 alone, 4,000 security men were injured in stone pelting incidents after which the pellet guns were used against the demonstrators as a retaliatory measure that caused injuries to the stone pelters.
The Pakistani foreign diplomats took this issue before the UN by showing a fake photo of a child whose eyes were injured, and claimed that the child belonged to Kashmir and was the victim of the pellet guns used by the Indian armed forces against the protestors, this propaganda of the Pakistani diplomat was however countered by the Indian diplomat before the UN by telling the truth of the photograph that was shown as a victim of pellet guns in Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association filed a plea in Supreme court challenging the rampant use of pellet guns by the security forces. The Apex court in this matter told the association to ask various stake holders in Kashmir to stop incidences stone pelting and only then can it order the government to ban the use of pellet guns. The apex court also accepted the Centre’s explanation as to the use of pellet guns to control the mob of thousands of men charging towards the army convoy and attempting to lynch them. From the Honourable Supreme court’s observation in the matter, it can be concluded that in desperate times one needs to use desperate measures especially when national security and lives of innocent soldiers like Harinder Singh and other civilians is at stake.