By K.N. Pandita
Some out of power politicians and sections of print media are in the habit of intentionally issuing statements that create uproar in civil society. One such occasion they recently chose was the statement issued by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat. Amusing and childlike stories were fabricated. It speaks of their churlish nature.
A statement about a very sensitive issue by a very important person like the Army chief should invoke probe into in what background the statement is given and not what is said. Unfortunately, critics lost sight of that important aspect. Dispassionate analysis of the background of the statement acquires more importance after the Defence Minister came out in support of the army chief. Obviously, the opponents and adversaries want to drag the army to the bowwow of social media and tarnish its image knowing that this is the only institution that has been struggling hard to maintain its pristine status and prestige amidst falling vital social values.
Hindsight shows that simultaneous with the escalation of anti-terrorist clashes in Kashmir — 11 soldiers of our forces were martyred since the beginning of January 2017 and six soldiers including a Major during ten days of February only — a suicide bomb attack was made at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at Sehwan in Pakistan leaving nearly 100 dead and 348 wounded.
A comparison of two situations is not actually intended. Nevertheless, focus is on terrorism, anti-terror action and the reaction of the public and media. These are common to both the countries in larger sense of the term.
What has been the reaction of the Indian and Pakistani army chiefs on respective incidents? The Dawn of 15th February wrote; “Moments after a devastating bombing at Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine in Sehwan, Sindh the Pakistan military issued a strongly worded statement to “hostile powers”, saying it will respond to such attacks.
In a short message posted to Twitter, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Maj, Gen Asif Ghafoor said, “Recent terrorist acts are being executed on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond. Recent terrorist acts are being executed on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond”. “Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be revenged and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone,” the army chief was quoted as saying.
General Bajwa, a soldier to the hilt, kept his word. Next day, Pakistan army launched a massive attack at various places and about 100 terrorists were liquidated. The General lost no time in translating his previous day’s message into practice. In Pakistan, and in Muslim dominated Kashmir valley, not a single voice was raised either by a member of civil society or the media in the name of violation of human rights by Pakistan army. Were all the one hundred persons killed by Pakistani forces terrorists? Why did not Kashmir Islamists show solidarity with the killed members of Muslim fraternity in Pakistan?
Whatever was missing in General’s message was added by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Reporting on the subject, the Express Tribune of 16 February wrote, “In an unusually strong-worded statement, the premier directed and authorized armed forces and law enforcement agencies to eliminate the enemy – whether it be inside the country or ‘coming from outside’ of it – with the full force of the state”. Kashmiri separatists should understand how Pakistan deals with the “enemies of State”.
The scenario in Pakistan within 24 hours of Sehwan massacre was officially defined and reported as this: “Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said his province’s government is acting in compliance with the instructions of federal government to step up drive against terrorists.” We have the eye-opening details of this operation but for want of space these are eschewed.
Side by side with Pakistan Army’s crackdown, General Ghafoor wrote to his counterpart in Pentagon to rein in the militant organizations in Afghanistan and handed over to Afghan authorities a list of 72 wanted terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. This reminds us of India repeatedly asking Pakistan to rein in infiltrators along LoC and also handing over a list of wanted terrorists based in Pakistan including Dawood Ibrahim, Azhar and others.
Let us now examine the situation in our country. The Times of India of `16th February wrote, “The stern message from Rawat came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipore in north Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there. The army chief was reported saying, “We would now request the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for tm. “Those who obstruct our operations during encounters and are not supportive will be treated as over ground workers of terrorists, We are giving them an opportunity, should they want to continue to then, we will continue with relentless operations may be with harsher measures.”
General Rawat is making a “request” to the people of Kashmir that the local boys (a) have picked up arms (b) continue acts of terrorism like displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, (c) working as OGWs, and (d) are obstructing army operations are given an opportunity (to return to national mainstream). But if they continue (their subversive agenda) then the army will continue its operations and may be with “harsher measures.” This statement is loaded with logic and consequences if logic is allowed to have its way.
Compare this warning appeal of General Rawat with the message of General Bajwa that says, “Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be revenged and revenged immediately, and no more restraint for anyone,” General Bajwa speaks of revenging and avenging each drop of blood while there is nothing like revenge in what Indian army chief said. General Bajwa allows no more restraint but General Rawat offers an opportunity to locals (to amend their ways.
The purport of General Bajwa’s message is simply eye for eye and tooth for tooth whereas General Rawat’s appeal to the people of Kashmir is to restrain the misguided youth. There is a world of difference in the two messages. General Bajwa warns his “enemies” but General Rawat appeals “his own people”.
Why then has the separatist leadership in Kashmir unleashed a tirade against General Rawat but kept mum on what General Bajwa said and did? Pakistani terrorists killed 88 persons in Sehwan and General Bajwa killed 100 “terrorists” within 24 hours. If gun is not the solution of terrorism as is repeatedly pontificated by Hurriyat leaders, will they raise finger on what General Bajwa says and does?
Opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly has commented on General Rawat’s comment inferring that it is indirect admission that most people in Kashmir do not want to be with India. He is third in succession to the dynastic rule in J&K after betraying the trust of the Maharaja of J&K in 1947. All these years his grandfather, father and he himself as Union Minister (on BJP ticket) and then Chief Minister of J&K swore by the Indian and the State Constitutions and stood by the State’s accession to the Indian Union. However, now out of power, Farooq has shifted allegiance to Hurriyat separatists and feels proud to don their mantle.
The problem in Kashmir lies with local leadership and not with the people. The fault of the people is that they are credulous and unable to think independently and act according to their conscience. Local leadership has always treated them like a flock of sheep. How sadistically Winston Churchill has described this phenomenon. He said, “Diplomacy is the art of sending people to hell and making them ask for the direction”.