Shopian Incident: Blot on the Nation

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The recent Shopian incident of an army convoy subjected to heavy stone-pelting by a 200-300 strong frenzied mob resulting in grievous injury to a JCO who the mob tried to kill, injured 7-8 soldiers, set fire to and damaged army vehicles that forced the army to open fire resulting in the death of three civilians evoked a response from the J&K State Government and the Centre that can only be described as a blot on the nation. Centre because of the deafening silence, including by the Defence Minister, notwithstanding whether the Army is considered a necessary evil or not.

There is little doubt that the Shopian incident was pre-planned. The timing was perfect since any postponement of Panchayat Elections would deflect suspicion from the State Government. Panchayats don’t matter to the State Government anyway – the very reason they have not been empowered the way they should be. But the alacrity with which Mehbooba Mufti rang up Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and got the J&K police to file FIR against the army including against a Major who was not even at the incident site, and without a single word against the stone-pelters indicates she was probably privy to the plan or may be party to it? The FIR filed by the state police does not name any accused but states that a company of 10 Garhwal Rifles led by Major Aditya was on its way for official duty when it was attacked by an unruly mob with stones. Mehbooba releasing hundreds of stone-pelters three days before Burhan Wani’s killing may not be coincidence, and so is release of some 9000 plus stone-pelters before the Shopian incident, all cases against whom have been withdrawn now.

Speaking at the Police Commemoration Day function last year, Mehbooba urged the police to try to bring back youth who have fled their homes to join militancy back to the mainstream. “I request the police to try to bring them back to their homes. Instead of their being killed in encounters, if it is possible to bring them back, make them a part of the mainstream, give them bats, balls and good education, instead of guns”, she said. According to her those who have taken up arms are local boys – didn’t she miss foreign terrorists? She stressed that ending militancy and restoring peace were a prerequisite for repealing “black laws” like AFSPA. But what is her government’s plan for de-radicalization, if any? Of course the gullible public doesn’t know that removing AFSPA is very much in her power; all she needs to do is to have the J&K Disturbed Area Act removed and the Army will happily go back to its primary task of defending the borders with AFSPA gone automatically. The catch of course is that should she have the Disturbed Area Act removed without creating conditions to do so (bring normalcy back) she and her government, largely ineffective anyway, will be at the mercy of terrorists. Little wonder that Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Saeed and Omar Abdullah also did not have the guts to remove the J&K Disturbed Area Act removed.

Mehbooba know that neither the Army drafted or asked for ASFPA, nor does the Army enjoy deployments in the hinterland against own public but yet AFSPA is essential if the Army is to control violence in better manner than police forces. But Mehbooba would prefer the Army to be stoned to death and not retaliate while she sits in her cozy office. When the NIA cracked down on the Hurriyat hardliners, arrested them with proof of terrorist links, accumulated illegal wealth including funds coming from outfits in London and Dubai, proof they were inciting youth and instigation violence, Mehbooba went on record to state that the NIA has no jurisdiction in J&K. At another event in New Delhi, Mehbooba made another bizarre statement that if Article 35-A (which deals with special status) was tinkered with, there will be no one left to hold the National Flag – a direct threat akin to an overt terrorist leader. But who was she referring to when saying there will be “no one to hold the flag”? Is it the radicalized 4-5 districts in the Valley, which is a miniscule part of the State of J&K, which both the main political parties of J&K (PDP and NC) have by design permitted to be radicalized?

The NIA has now cited a letter by a Pakistani Prime Minister that proves the nexus between the Pakistani Government, its ISI and the Hurriyat. But then various NIA reports over the years citing hundreds of crores of rupees diverted within India to funnel terrorism in J&K, including from the J&K Affectees Fund, could not have been without the NC and PDP taking their share. There is little reason for them to not enjoy the power and loot while singing the ISI tune. That is why Farooq Abdullah openly calls for azaadi, rule of Sharia and sides with the stone-pelters? This, despite his personal and his party’s role in destabilizing J&K and ethnic cleansing in the Valley. None of these political leaders ever called upon the clerics to tone down radicalization. Former militant commander, Hilal Ahmed War, claims the kidnapping of Rubaiya Saeed (Mehbooba’s sister) was stage managed by her father Mufti Mohammad Seed then Union Home Minister, through Yasin Malik (http://www.jammukashmir.com/archives/archives2005/kashmir20051114a.html). Above indicates Mehbooba’s sympathies lie with Hurriyat hardliners whose job is to destabilize J&K. Of course the PDP-HM (Hijbul Mujahideen) links are deep rooted and her father, Mufti Mohammad Saeed, after winning elections had publicly thanked Pakistan in his opening speech in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Now that the Army has lodged a counter FIR, Omar Abdullah without a word against stone-pelters is hollering for a high level special investigation team (SIT) to probe the incident while the magisterial probe ordered by State should continue separately – idea being to keep the security forces tied up in questioning, counter questioning and litigation.

No country on the world tolerates its Army to be stone-pelted as happening in India; they would be arrested, jailed or shot dead but then they don’t have the quality of politicians and judiciary that India has. No politician of PDP and NC is interested in stabilizing J&K. Does the Centre realize that after the hype of eliminating some 200 terrorists during 2017 with close coordination between the Army, Police and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), one of the aim of the Shopian incident was to create a rift between the Army and the Police. That we continue to be a banana republic is indicated by just two examples: Yasin Malik having publicly boasted he killed four IAF personnel is yet to be hanged, and; Rubiya Saeed is enjoying government hospitality in South India replete with full security – why the largesse? So where do we from here? Does the Centre want J&K to stabilize or do they want the security forces running around the mulberry tree while being stone-pelted? Will the Prime Minister take a call?

Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post retirement has published over 1300 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

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