A question has often been asked if liberals are soft on terror. If liberals were to answer the same they would invariably deny that they are soft on terror. In her article ‘Are Liberals Soft on Terror’ in the Times of India dated July 20, 2016 Ms Sagarika Ghose argues that liberals are not soft on terror. They stand for zero tolerance of terror as well as for hate. No one can find any fault with this statement since it sounds correct on all counts. Willy-nilly this implies that concerned authorities must practice zero tolerance for both – terror and hate.
If the above be true then to fight terror authorities, which includes security forces, will have to use force. To be successful it will be imperative for those engaged in fighting terror, mainly Army, to use ways and means that are superior to what the terrorists bring to the table. Otherwise the authorities may be found wanting and that will not help in achieving zero tolerance for terror. It is also important that an engagement with terrorists be brought to a swift end and not allowed to linger for obvious reasons. By inference this would mean that when fighting terror or terrorists there is nothing like minimum force or optimum force since terror has to be neutralised at all costs to achieve zero tolerance. If it means swatting a fly with a hammer, then so be it. Thus there is no argument for minimum force or restraint when dealing with terrorists. The article by Ms Sagarika Ghose was written with reference to the current situation in Kashmir, so it stands to logic that the above arguments are equally valid for fighting terror in Kashmir. Liberals who advocate zero tolerance to terror should have no reservations to this line of thinking. But if they do then it is obvious that they are either practicing double standards or not clear in what is involved to achieve zero tolerance against terror.
The other aspect under discussion is zero tolerance towards hate. One presumes this is in reference to the local population of the area, in this case the Kashmir valley. In principle most liberals imply that the security forces show hate towards the local population which in turn translates into wilful atrocities like summary killings, harassment, raids, rapes etc Frankly this is a very subjective, motivated and simplified thought process. It seems to have become fashionable for liberals to make such statements to portray the security forces as villains in the whole drama in the valley. In actual practice nothing could be further from this falsehood spread by the liberals. They forget that it was the same security forces that spent sleepless nights and days to rescue local civilians in the valley from floods by putting their own lives in danger when all other fair weather sympathisers and well wishers were only looking after their own interests. Did these soldiers or para military personnel perform such rescue acts out of hatred? While a few may have done it just as part of duty, most did it as part of service to humanity and fellow countrymen. Such selfless acts can never be successfully carried out if there is hatred simmering inside.
Why do we forget that even the security force personnel are normal human beings? Why should they be engaged in thankless and dangerous law enforcement duties or counter terrorism unless there is a pressing need for the same? Surely it cannot be argued that security forces are trigger happy or baton swinging hoodlums who go on a rampage at the slightest excuse. It is time the liberals pause for a moment and think as to why a soldier from a far of place like Tamil Nadu or Assam but posted in Kashmir puts his life in danger and invites the wrath of the local population? It should not be forgotten that he too has a family back home and would rather be with them instead of spending months in the valley in uncertain and hostile environment. Once posted in Kashmir he is not sure if he will return home alive or in a coffin. Ideally an Army Jawan would be happier off manning his post at the border than be engaged in fighting invisible enemy in the form of a terrorist in Kashmir valley whose sole mission is to kill anyone who comes in his way. Similarly a CRPF or BSF man would rather be in his barracks than be engaged in mob or riot control duties on the streets of Srinagar or other such places. If the locals in the valley have lost hundreds in the struggle, the same is true for security personnel too. But while the hatred for the uniform is proudly worn on the sleeve by most locals, the soldier does not subscribe to the same line of thought since in his hearts of hearts he knows they are his own countrymen. Political and separatist leadership fans such sentiments among locals while the leadership of security forces invariably curbs such tendencies in a soldier. I hope Ms Ghose sees the difference in approach. In reality the case for hate is totally the opposite. It is the local population which hates the man in uniform, be it from Army, CRPF, BSF or even a local policeman who is from their own society. For most civilians, the man in uniform represents authority and thereby the anger and hatred for uniform. It is a pity that a soldier has to pay the price for failure of the real authorities who sit in their high offices but fail to find the right solutions for the troubled state year after year.
Given these axiomatic truths how can the liberals even think that the man in uniform hates the local population? It is more a manufactured figment of imagination of idle minds in their cosy air conditioned chambers with a view to give birth to a controversy where there is none. It is no secret that for some liberals such machinations result in flow of dollars or dinars or dirhams. Thus over time such approach to the problem in the valley becomes a profession for some and they continue to perpetuate half truths or lies to keep their bank accounts healthy. This modus operandi is not limited to just the Kashmir problem. Over the years many social activists and liberals have resorted to ‘establishment bashing’ in many other areas too in view of the very lucrative stakes involved.
Ms Sagarika Ghose states in her article that “A stone pelter in Kashmir can’t be treated differently to a rioter in Haryana. Excessive force in one case, a weak kneed approach in the other is not even handed justice”. Whenever comparisons have to be made, one is always cautioned that one must compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. Ms Ghose seems to have thrown that logic out of the window in her bid to establish the fact that security forces use excessive force in the valley since they hate the local Kashmiri. First and foremost Haryana is not Kashmir. Kashmir has been a disturbed & disputed area for decades while Haryana is not. The crowd trouble in Kashmir was against the killing of a known terrorist while the riots in Haryana were for an entirely different reason of seeking reservations. The rioters in Haryana went berserk because of the laxity and incompetence of the state administration and police. Women or children were not forced or motivated to be part of the mobs. It was only when Army was called in that law and order was restored in quick time. This was primarily because the rioters understood very well that Army means business and will not spare anyone found engaging in unlawful activities.
In Kashmir the story was entirely different. First and foremost one should not forget that any disturbance that takes place in Kashmir valley normally has a direct bearing on national security unlike the event in Haryana which had no such implications. Several thousands of people, including women and children, gathered for the funeral of the terrorist leader where they were chanting anti India slogans, raising Pakistani flags and without a doubt looking for trouble. It is also well known that some militants had spread themselves among the locals to ferment trouble in a planned manner at the behest of the separatists. Speculations are rife that even terror outfits supported by establishment across the border were involved in this with a view to gain mileage by making the situation explosive. In no time the crowd started to pelt stones at the security forces and in between even a few grenades were hurled. In such a case what were the security forces supposed to do – just stand there to let protestors have a free run? Or were they expected to stand there in the path of the stones being thrown in the midst of bursting hand grenades? May be Ms Ghose would have liked the security forces in Kashmir to follow the example of the incompetent and cowardly Haryana police by doing nothing. Surely these are not the options for a soldier in uniform. In such a situation the security forces will use all the means under their command to bring the situation under control and that is what they did. That is why Ms Ghose you are totally wrong when you compare the Haryana riots to the unrest in Kashmir.
Do liberals have a role to play in building of the nation and for the good of the society? They surely do and no one can deny that. But to assume that Indian nation today, particularly in relation to Kashmir, is following the path of militant traditionalists who want to kill all those who uphold the cause of modern civil liberties is an extreme view devoid of logic. Given Burhan Wani’s known curriculum vitae is Ms Ghose trying to say that he was someone who was upholding the cause of modern civil liberties? Can raising questions about the circumstances of his death or whether he had to be killed instead of being captured be passed off as liberal thinking in the interest of the nation or Kashmir? Insinuating that perhaps Wani was a victim of summary killing is not liberal thinking; it is instead biased and motivated thinking with an utter disregard for the real picture as it unfolded in the valley. Liberals get public or establishment support based on their pragmatic and unbiased thinking. It has to come voluntarily from the society who sees merit in their thinking. From Ms Ghose’s article it appears she wants such support as a matter of right merely on the premise that liberals have to be right. If UK upheld the cause of justice while fighting terror in Ireland, so has our nation and there are any number of examples to prove that but unfortunately Ms Ghose does not highlight those.
Most liberals in India, the likes of Ms Sagarika Ghose included, despise the word nationalist and by inference all those who are nationalistic. For them a nationalist is a hard liner who is not ‘accommodative’ and does not believe in the concept of being ‘universal’. For her the plight of liberals in India is same as that in Pakistan. Frankly such comparisons need no rebuttal since they are made by overly self righteous minds that cannot see beyond their nose. At least a nationalist is someone who believes in and works towards the good of his nation unlike these pseudo liberals who smack of selfishness in whatever they do. In a nation like India, which is akin to a continent in itself, a nationalist cannot be anything but accommodative and universal in his approach. India is a conglomerate of many ethnic groups with different religions; it is a land with diverse cultures; a country with 22 recognised languages and over 720 dialects; there are regional biases to be resolved apart from meeting the aspirations of over 1.2 billion people. In such a complex environment every nationalistic mind has no option but to be accommodative and universal in its thinking if the nation has to be held together and taken forward on a path of progress. A prudent nationalist knows that till we are successful in our endeavour to be ‘universal’ internally, we cannot hope to be ‘universal’ at the world stage. Unfortunately most liberals do not understand this logic and hence the tag of hard liners on nationalists.
It is often argued by liberals that one should not paint all Muslims or those practicing the Islam faith as terrorists. Frankly to no one does that despite the fact that most terrorists world over belong to the Islamic faith today. What most rue is the fact that the voice against terror from within Islam is rather muted which does give rise to doubts about their conviction and resolve to oppose or fight terrorism. This lack of opposition and dearth of liberal thought within Islam is what most people question the world over. Unfortunately not many liberals, Ms Ghose included, question this aspect, instead they raise baseless questions like why is the entire Muslim community treated as terrorists. A society has to fight its internal ills from within first and foremost to prevent its erosion. Regrettably there are no indications that such a movement is on the rise within Islam. Expecting others to do it from outside will imply as if the whole society has failed and fallen prey to the unwanted. If others are to correct things from outside, then there will always be a large unavoidable collateral damage and that is not a very pleasant thought.
Sagarika Ghose suggests visible inclusivity and genuine justice as tools to wean away supporters of terrorists in the valley. The nation pours in more per capita funds in J&K than in any other state despite the fact that the state contributes nothing to the national exchequer. More than 5000 youth from the state are given fully paid up scholarships in premier institutions across the nation every year, separatist leaders are tolerated and even provided security cover at government expense, fair elections are held from time to time in the state to allow people to chose their local government, travel of state citizens is not restricted to any part of the country, state land resources are protected and no non state citizen can buy land in J&K. Do these measures not show nation’s intent on inclusivity? The state has as good a judicial system as any other state in the country to provide genuine justice. Frankly the author has once again missed the moot point that is the biggest hindrance to visible inclusivity and that is Article 370. This article gives the state exclusivity and yet allows it to seek everything from the Indian nation without giving back anything in return. That is the real road block for visible inclusivity to succeed fully. Unfortunately most Kashmiri residents in the valley block its abrogation since they have got used to the one way lucrative traffic from the centre to the state. To achieve full inclusivity, people have to migrate from and to the state, free to and fro movement of goods has to take place, resources have to be shared, investment in business from outside the state encouraged and efforts to take the nation forward complimented. That is when full inclusivity will be seen and achieved. Despite this, the local leadership bats for Article 370 to keep status quo since it suits their vested interests to keep the problem alive.
Liberals have an important role to play in any society, India is no exception. Genuine liberals are a patient lot who know they will invariably be up against heavy odds but what carries them through is their selflessness, belief and devotion to what they think is right. Liberal thought has to keep ground realities in mind since no thought process can be divorced from ground realities. Liberalisation for the sake of liberalisation will invariably be counterproductive. The ground reality in Kashmir is that it is an integral part of India and any armed struggle to liberate the territory or cause damage to national interests will be viewed as an anti-national act and dealt with accordingly. Compassion and concern for local population is welcome but same should be forthcoming for security forces too who are proven patriots of the nation engaged in a very difficult mission. It is a pity that most soldiers, who lose their life in such a conflict, die as unsung heroes. In contrast a militant, who has no hesitation to even kill his own to further his misplaced cause, is eulogised by locals and some pseudo liberals and turned into a hero. Are soldiers expendable commodities who have no human rights? Are human rights only for militants and protestors? It is time the humble soldier gets his genuine due and visible recognition from the nation as whole, pro Kashmiri liberals notwithstanding.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.