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.
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.
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.
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!