Arshid Malik

The cost of “war” in Kashmir has been “intense” for all the parties involved. I am using the term “war” in the conceptual notion wherein it is and maybe described as “an active struggle between competing entities”. There have been assessments of the costs but the approach has not been holistic. There are certain factors that have been left out or ignored all along. Some factors concern the armed insurgents of Kashmir, some the common people and some the “other force”. The “other force” I mention here is/are the Indian military, reserve and armed forces stationed in Kashmir. The collective hatred of Kashmiri people against the security forces stationed by India here leaves no scope for a civil assessment of the losses that these forces have suffered. The man in uniform wielding the gun symbolizes India and thus Kashmiri people have “every right” to hate them since he is the “instigator” but at the same time he is human and no matter how hard his brain has been washed, he is as culpable as every one of us out here. The hatred we have against these men is justified as per our emotional calculations but these people sure have stories to tell like the rest of us, stories of pain, agony, distress, irony, love and hope.

Before going ahead with this I would like to bring up a very squarely debated topic here. The topic is that of truth and the necessity to express it. I express myself through my writings whenever I feel there is need to write and I write about a plethora of subjects but my focus is always the truth. I don’t beat about the bush and like to be very direct which leads people, readers to frame assumptions about me, the writer. Not long back I was “accused” of being a paid writer writing for a certain “camp”. There have been other such accusations but I do not care about what people think as long as I write the truth and it somehow gets published and eventually finds a reader. I figure that the “fault” does not lie with the reader since he/she is bound to judge based on his/her experience(s).As for me, I write out of my own heart’s desire to express the truth, howsoever bitter the writer may find it and whatever way he/she may judge me.

So, coming back to the topic of concern here, reports of Indian security forces committing suicides inside the “camps” in Jammu and Kashmir have been “frequently” carried by the local and New Delhi based news agencies. Such cases have also been reported elsewhere in India, particularly in regions which are prone to Low Intensity Conflicts (I assume it is safe to categorize Kashmir as belonging to this category). Men in uniform have also been reported to have shot their seniors point blank. Reports have also indicated high level alcohol and even drug abuse in the security forces stationed in Kashmir. Now, why would a soldier, committed to the patriotic cause of his country, shoot himself dead with his own service rifle? Our general notion is that he is “having a great time getting the better of us”. But that eventually is not the case. Soldiers in low intensity conflict zones like Kashmir are riddled with lots of stress. The fear of the unknown, as is the case in Kashmir, cripples them inside and this has been psychologically assessed in other parts of India where such conflicts rage or have raged. The fear of the helter grenade being lobbed, or the point blank shooting by an unassuming stranger instils a deep sense of insecurity among the “security” forces since they are as susceptible to fear as any other human being except for the fact that their line of duty expects or rather demands of them to maintain composure all the time. The interplay of these three elements confuses the soldier overtly since he is always in doubt and has to push his senses to attain some order out of the disdain and uncertainty that surrounds him. The civilian to be protected turns out to shoot point blank, is an instance where the man in uniform is subjected to maintain high levels of alertness all the time which lead to the factor of “little or no rest” eventuating fatigue and thus breakdowns and psycho-somatic “seizures” and sometimes cases of suicides or “murder” of officers and “compatriots”.

Armed forces are generally trained, in a very what I would call an “in-elaborate” manner, to fight the “war” against a common, often national enemy, which naturally earns the fighting men the support of the civilian population and general consent to “kill”. Besides, wars are well mapped and elaborate with consequent morale boosting mechanism and adequate rest, food and drink. When such a person is inducted to “wage a war” against an “unknown enemy” whose goals are not at all clear to him, except for the information extracted from the briefings that the “other” group is “anti-national”, the fight becomes irrational and elusive in the context that the Indian soldier is born and brought up somewhere else where patriotism is an not a complex reality. Thus the soldier is caught up in a jinxed situation of ambiguity which renders the whole atmosphere “psychotic”.

The man in uniform is therefore cornered into an atmosphere of extreme stress down here in Kashmir where he starts doubting the aims of the country he serves while feeling uncertain “fighting a futile war with no benefits to the country”, fear of ever-present danger while having to deal with the over-too much bitterness of the locals. So these men in uniform assigned a duty which they often don’t make head or tails of, far away from their loved ones serving the interests of the diabolical “bear traps” of the Indian political elite, end up shooting themselves point-blank with their own weapons.

I am not trying to paint an appealing picture of the man in uniform or attempting to garner local empathy for them but just trying to “humanize” an all too much “dehumanized” section of an “alien” population in Kashmir. And while I am conveying a message to the local population here I am pointedly accusing the Indian state of “misusing” and “misusing” their very own men dedicated to the country’s cause. The “procedures” exacted by the Indian state on these men in uniform are somehow reticently remindful of what the state has done to innocent Kashmiri people.

If the Indian state is cruel to the people who are dressed up to sacrifice their lives for the cause of the state, how empathic and caring can they turn out to be towards a population which hates its very core?


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