Through an Armyman’s Eyes

We often think about the Kashmir issue or any communal riots that happen in this country,  in an objective manner. What happened? why it happened? and to whom did it happen? Recently, I got talking to an Army man on a long train journey and he shared his perspective about things he had to deal with in the 28 years of his service and how HE looked at matters this country has been struggling with since long.

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He was a very decent man, about to retire next year, with a family, including two kids, whose future was all that mattered to him now, after devoting his life to our country’s service. He got into the army, as unlike his brother who is a double M.A. and his sister, who is a govt teacher, he wasn’t interested in studies much. So much that he dropped out after his 10th class and joined the army. His son wants to become a cricketer and is a very good one, but unfortunately he cannot afford to make his dreams come true as we all know how selectors charge a colossal amount in return for even being considered to play Ranji, leave alone the national team.

Coming to his on the job experiences, he was posted in Bombay (now Mumbai) at the time of 1992-93 riots. He remembered how dozens of members of a certain community were holed up in a single chawl and while being burned to death, cried out for help from him, saying “Fauji Sahab, bachao”. How he was unable to save them all but managed to catch hold of some goons who were inciting the riots. He said, even the local police was scared of them as these people were armed with grenades and AK 47s, whileas his weapons weren’t a match for them.  He wasn’t objective in his narration of those times, but he seemed to be emotionally involved too. I could see the fleeting glimpse of a certain pain in his eyes,  that he must have felt when seeing so many men,  women and children being burnt in their own houses and being able to save only some of them. Having gone through all that, he noticed that should such an incident happen in his home town, there isn’t even a single knife that he has at home, with which his family would be able to protect themselves.

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Then he spoke about a place, which being my birthplace and the place from which our family and many others ‘like us’ were driven out of our homes, to be refugees in our own country, is close to my heart. And that place is Kashmir, which used to be heaven on earth and which may still be so for an ignorant few. He had been posted there for 4 years till last year. He said the day he landed back at home from Kashmir, he noticed that his hair had greyed in most parts and he couldn’t read as well anymore. The constant tension that he was in while he was there, had taken its toll on his health and on his opinion of the way our government functions like a groom who’s found to be impotent on his wedding night. They talk and Boy! Do they talk! But the ground reality is that AFSPA is just applicable in name.  Our army cannot even interrogate the paid pawns who pelt stones at them and shower bullets on them. They have to hand them over to the local police,  which releases them the very next day.

A young boy once held by them, confessed that they were paid 500 rs for everytime they had to pelt stones at the army,  by Geelani and his ilk. Our poor Armyman is busy protecting these dimwits, from themselves. He did not know, but I shared with him that these very same people get scholarships to study in other parts of India, and the scholarships come from the Prime Minister’s relief fund. In turn, he tells me that they get free ration from the government too and observes that maybe that’s why these people want to keep this disturbance and terrorism growing. When they will stop creating this nuisance, maybe they will not get so many benefits from the government anymore, as then Kashmir will be like any other state and we all know that free ration and subsidy has been stopped in most of the states now.

When he was in Kashmir, they lived in constant fear of being shot any time, without any provocation. A young girl whose mother was dropping her at the bus stand for school, once came to him and asked him the difference between CRPF and BSF, but her mother pulled her away and told him not to speak with the armymen ever. Would that little girl have reminded him of his daughter at home? It definitely does remind me of Tagore’s Kabuliwala. Only that this Kashmiri girls parents do not like this Kabuliwala.

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This made me think, what is our army fighting for? Why isn’t article 370 abolished, as has been promised to us in many elections,  just to fool us into casting our votes in their favor. Will they or anyone, ever actually try to solve the issue or will they just use the fire in Kashmir to cook their own political biryani? I think we all need answers and more than answers, we need action. We have had enough of this impotence.  We need action, not only is words, but in policies AND more importantly,  their IMPLEMENTATION.  Are you listening Mr. Modi? Save our armymen! Don’t victimise them for your personal gains!

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8 thoughts on “Through an Armyman’s Eyes

  1. It appears that the army old-timer has an honest bone in him. His heart may be in the right place, but things are never so black and white.

    The AFSPA is antiquated. It has not been implemented uniformly over all the states , which were recognised as ‘disturbed areas’. So, there might be basic differences between AFSPA in J&K and in the north-eastern states. But, it is a matter of public record that the act has been blatantly misused to exercise uncontrolled power. There have been incidences of stray killings, custodial rapes, and many other atrocities committed by the respected army-men. After-all, power corrupts and the army is no exception.

    The Indian military is one of the most corrupt institutions. The Armed Forces have seen many scandals in recent times, involving officers from across all ranks. Skimming of money allotted to the forces to re-selling of government properties. One can even procure liquor from them at unbelievably low prices. I wonder what is the need for tons of subsidized intoxicants in the disciplined lifestyle of a soldier.

    Moreover, reservations are available to spawns of army service man as well. They are definitely not based on any kind of merit either. And nowadays, hardly anyone join the armed forces out of overwhelming patriotism. This point has certainly slid down the list of reasons why one joins the military.

    I will not claim to know much regarding article 370, but one needs to scrutinize the accession of J&K region into the Indian dominion. Jawarharlal Nehru was given one task, and failed miserably. The people of J&K is still suffering for his failure. The status quo is not being addressed head-on, because of political and personal interests. I do agree on that.

    While concluding, you have addressed Mr. Modi. You have done that, maybe because he is the one currently in the seat of the Prime Minister. If not, then it must be taken note that the problems plaguing this country in general and of J&K in particular are not recent. They are not a year old. We, Indians should not suffer from collective amnesia when the “Indian National Congress” is in power.

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    1. AFSPA exists only in name now. But the real question is that if you impeach other people’s human rights, do you have a right to have your own?
      Recently, when an Army truck, carrying more than 20 armymen was going through outskirts of Srinagar, it’s driver, who was a local and was paid 3 lakhs for the job, stopped the truck, the terrorists pushed in their AK 47s through the gaps and massacred all of them inside the truck. But did u hear it in the media? Why?
      And I address Modi while concluding, because acting on abolishing article 370 was in his election manifesto. And what did he do about it?
      Came into coalition with a party, which supports terrorists and separatists in Kashmir, openly?

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      1. AFSPA is actively enforced in states like Manipur and Mizoram. I assume that you have read about Irom Sharmila. She has been demanding a repeal of AFSPA. There has been forced disappearances, extra-judicial executions and sexual violence and cases of mistaken identity. A person can be taken into custody on mere “suspicion” and may not face any fair trial either. There were victims who did not impeach on anyone else’s human rights.

        The ambush on the army truck is a tragedy. This only betrays India’s failure in gathering proper intelligence and making reconnaissance of the routes to be used. The driver should have been carefully vetted. The loss of life is on the hands of the military authorities who were not sincere enough. Unfortunately, it is true that I have not heard of this in the news. Sad affairs.

        Coming to the subject of article 370, technically it was not in the manifesto. But, Modi did refer to it in one of his campaign rallies. He mentioned that there is need of a debate on the article. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be abolished even if the debate were to happen.

        I am really not aware of the ground-reality in J&K. It would be unfair to put any argument based on media perception. So, honestly this is me asking you a question, not arguing. Doesn’t all of the state political parties want separation from India to varying degrees? If it were to be true, the coalition might have had resulted with one of the lesser evils and as an objective to making in-roads into the political landscape of J&K. [ Yes, I know I am being very optimistic about this 😛 ] If media reports are to be believed, then Hurriyat seems to be one of the major players pulling strings.

        I would like to say I loved reading this article of yours. It has heart. It was not my intention to refute your points, rather to highlight the fact that everything is not black and white. Shades of grey [ Ugh! That stupid book made this phrase sound corny ]. Modi has been in power for nearly one and a half year. Still, a lot of time left in his tenure. We will have time to complain. I am no supporter of any political party, but lets give him the benefit of the doubt. I think you will agree that it is quite a sensitive topic at many levels, the article 370!

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      2. No. All state political parties do not want a separation from India. I am a Kashmiri and I, or anyone I personally know, absolutely, and without a doubt want Kashmir to be retained as an integral state of India like Delhi, or M.P. Or Karnataka are.
        The truth is just because Hindus in J& K felt that Modi would have a different approach to the Kashmir issue than his predecessors. But till now, he has failed us. It isn’t very difficult to get a hold of the situation there. If it could be done in Punjab, then why not in Kashmir? What is preventing them from actually taking an action instead of sending our army to die in Kashmir, as they have their hands tied. When you talk about human right violations, you conveniently forget that our armed forces are being denied the same rights by terrorists in Kashmir. I know because I belong there and know the ground reality.
        For me, sadly there are very few shades of grey in this whole scenario. It’s pretty black and white. Three generations of our family and every Kashmiri Pandit’s family has personally suffered and childhoods, youths and lives were lost.
        What they are doing there is no different from what ISIS is doing all around the world. Would you want the Paris attackers or perpetrators of 9/11 or 26/11 to be dealt with softly, because they have “Human Rights”?
        I definitely wouldn’t!

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  2. Okay, let’s agree to disagree on some of the points. The exchange has become longer than the initial post. Haha. If we were to move on to ISIS and the western world then it would be another long thread. The perpetrators of any crime or violence should not be dealt with lightly, but I don’t think we would agree on who the real perpetrators are.

    Anyways, thanks for the discussion. It has been enlightening. I hope you continue to write and post. Will look forward to your next. Wish you all the best in all your future endeavours. 🙂

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  3. Really liked reading your article. As I come from the North-East I also heard many incidents regarding AFSPA. I will never say that the entire Army is bad. I also talked to many Armymen and learned about the hardships they go through. But then at certain points the act has been misused upon helpless people and that is what the hue and cry is all about putting an end to this act. But then everything can not be black or white. We have to live in the grey

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