Winning Hearts and Minds … At What Cost?

Winning Hearts and Minds … At What Cost?

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Source : Indian Defence Reviews

By Brig Deepak Sinha

The tragic martyrdom of six soldiers, including an officer, is neither the first such loss nor is it likely to be the last in the ongoing tragedy that is Jammu and Kashmir. We are, at this point, unaware of  how the tactical situation played out in each of the encounters, leading to this tragic loss of lives.
One can speculate that it may have been due to pure happenstance, bad luck, carelessness or even deliberate sacrifice for the greater good. However, there is also the very real possibility that the reason for some of the casualties may have been, as has been suggested by some for a fairly long time now, the deliberate attempts by militant sympathizers to disrupt the Security Forces from going about their unpleasant but necessary business.
In this instance stone throwing was indulged in and attempts made to delay the evacuation of some of the wounded, who, tragically died before reaching the hospital. There is little doubt that neither those responsible for delaying their evacuation, nor the general public at large showed any compassion or humanity in their behaviour and are complicit in their murder. They should, therefore, not be surprised or irate when they get a taste of the same bitter pill.
Their interference, as the Army Chief has now clearly enunciated, is no longer acceptable, and will have serious consequences for the perpetrators. This is not only welcome, but a long overdue statement of intent that will make things easier for the units in dealing with Jihadi supporters who interfere with ongoing operations, provided the Chief’s words are allowed to be implemented in letter and spirit. It isn’t as if such tactics were not employed by the militants in the 1990’s, but these were dealt with by the Security Forces with robust and decisive measures that acted as a deterrent for such overt support to the militant cause. It was never objected to by either the political class or the local population because they were at the receiving end of terrorist violence and were happy when either terrorists or their supporters were eliminated.
Over the years that has changed dramatically as violence is now primarily directed against Security Forces and both politicians and populace are mere bystanders, who couldn’t care less when security personnel are either wounded or killed. It is good that the military brass has finally realized that winning hearts and minds is all very well but it must not be at the cost of our soldiers. By no means are they being paid to die and its high time that politicians and fellow citizens, whatever be their ideological bent, got this right.
Thus, while it is understandable that the likes of Yasin Malik and other separatist leaders would take violent objection to their apparently successful tactics being countered, but to find elements of the media and the political establishment also criticizing the Chief’s statement is unforgiveable. Take the Congress Party for example. It is common knowledge that its attempt to fix the election in 1987 in the State along with the National Conference led to the present state of affairs. Since then it has been in power for nearly two decades with its partner in crime and was unable to come up with any political solution to solve the crisis.
This, despite the fact that the Army, at great human cost, took on the mess created by the political class and had by 1996 emasculated the militant lobby and brought violence sufficiently under control for the local Police and Civil Administration to reassert themselves and tackle routine administrative and law and order issues.
Yet, we now see the likes of Chidambaram and his ilk being deliberately brought on prime- time television by some media channels to suggest that the Chief’s statement was unwarranted and the situation requires apolitical solution. This is disingenuous and hypocritical, to say the least, since he has been an important and integral leader of the Congress and its decision making body for decades and it is a clear case of the devil quoting the scriptures. It is a well-known fact that all political leaders in the State, including the separatist lot, lack complete credibility and their actions only arouse disgust and ridicule. The tragedy for the Country and the State is that millions of people who want to just get on with their lives are willy-nilly sucked into the vortex of violence caused by a small minority and the Security Forces continue to make sacrifices despite this rotten state of affairs.
Many suggestions have been made over the years for dealing with the situation and in fact in an earlier piece in the Pioneer in August 2016 (Missing the Big Stick) I had pointed out the viability of suggestions made by such eminent persons as Mr. Mohan Guruswamy and Lt Gen HS Panag (Retd) suggesting the trifurcation of the State into the State of Jammu, Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh and that the AFSPA be restricted to only 15 Kms along the LOC respectively. That such suggestions fell on deaf ears only shows up the political class for the crass and callow creatures that they are, best represented by the antics of their fellow legislators in Tamil Nadu that we have been forced to witness over the past few weeks.

The fact of the matter is that the situation cannot be allowed to carry on in similar vein interminably with only members of the Security Forces paying the price. If the political class is unwilling to take steps to sort out the issue then the Security Forces have little choice but to put in place measures that will ensure that they do not become the only ones to bear the brunt of the violence that they are not responsible for having created in the first place. We will have to wait and see if the military brass is able to follow through on its threats as actions taken by them is unlikely to go down well with the local population or the politicians of the State, but then, as the proverb from the Bible so bluntly puts it “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”