Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Monday, Army chief General Bikram Singh expressed clearly how the Army reckons situation in Jammu and Kashmir regarding security and stability. The chief’s statements about special powers act (AFSPA) that it will not be tampered with and that army forces need to stay in Kashmir ‘under present circumstances’ are typical recitals that have described Army’s position from time to time. This year, however, the chief has put ceasefire violations of 2013 to build a strong case to justify presence of soldiers in Kashmir as well as their immunity.
The army chief said that ‘we should wait for conditions to improve’ – when and how that is going to happen no one has a clue. On performance and when it is time to receive medals of honor, statements are made that situation in JK has changed, a couple of hundred militants are all that is left, peace has returned to scores of villages away from cities and towns, etc. Within the state, similar statements are issued by politicos to take a piece of the peace pie. Still, when it is about reduction of troops, presence of Army in Kashmir, or getting rid of the much despised act AFSPA, governments and the Army have been presenting another grim picture. This picture is sans peace, insecure because of ceasefire violations and ‘infiltration bids’ that as a matter of fact have even been questionable like ‘Keran operation’. Such contradictory statements and stances are meant to befuddle the people of Kashmir. The ground situation in the Valley, which is the most sensitive region in the state so far as security is concerned, has changed a lot in the past decade. Along borders, many villages where residents deserted their homes due to heavy shelling by Indian and Pakistani soldiers, the people have returned and guns did go silent after ceasefire agreements. In cities and towns, again the situation is far better than it was 10 years ago and far far better than 20 years ago, whether Army or security agencies would agree or not does not matter as people can see the change. In this backdrop, what time or conditions are we waiting for so that Army would acknowledge that peace has returned? It has been argued that Army and security agencies believe and fear that once they would withdraw from the Valley and from the state the situation would deteriorate and would revert back to how it had been 10 or 20 years ago. If this is the case, what they have achieved so far has no merit. What has been more worrying is how political narratives have been used for such issues like security, peace, AFSPA, presence of Army in Kashmir, etc. Only recently there has been this fuss about presence of Army, referendum and political gimmickry. Political leadership as such seems to mislead the people as well. They acknowledge that Army and AFSPA have to stay to ‘maintain peace’ now. But on many occasions they coax the people of Kashmir to believe that they would end their grievances.
(Rising Kashmir)

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