The recent militant attack on a Police party in Chadoora main market has once illustrated the proclivity of militants for shoot-outs in crowded places. In this attack, besides a Station House Officer (SHO) being killed and two policemen suffering injuries, bullets fired by the militants also wounded three shopkeepers. While this is certainly not an unusual incident, at a time when the separatists are calling for demilitarisation and repealing the draconian Armed Forces Special Forces act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, militants choosing to convert a marketplace into a veritable battleground is inexplicable. This is because this attack has only reinforced New Delhis claim that due to terrorism in Kashmir, AFSPA cannot be removed, nor the presence of security forces reduced.
With the armed struggle having been accorded a quasi-legal status by the separatists as well as the civil society in Kashmir, one does not expect them to condemn any act of militant violence against the security forces and Police personnel. However, by maintaining a stoic silence on the issue of militants choosing crowded places for such attacks, both the separatists and civil society are abdicating their responsibilities towards the safety of their own innocent brethren as this often results in the killing or injuring of innocent civilians.
Whatever we may say, there is no gainsaying that the Kalashnikov is here to stay and as such, one has no other choice but to get used to the idea of living on the edge. Living under the fear of the security forces gun and even falling prey to it is something, over which we have no control and are thus used to. However, reconciling to the fact of being possibly killed, maimed or injured by the guns and bombs of our own freedom fighters is just not possible- simply because we consider them as our own. When the children of the three injured shopkeepers of Chadoora ask as to who fired bullets at their fathers, what will we tell them?
Ofcourse, we can always tell them that their fathers were injured by mistake, as this is the fact. We can explain to them that they should harbour no grudge against those responsible for this act, as they are noble souls fighting to get us azadi, who meant no harm to their fathers. We can also attempt to immunise the children against being terrorised by the fear of our own freedom fighters by educating them that such accidents were bound to happen in the struggle for freedom and that we must be prepared to make this sacrifice. And we could always reduce the import of what happened by telling them that the security forces were far more cruel. But, with children being more discerning today, will our explanations ever convince them?
There can be just no justification for any act of militant violence that puts the public to physical risk. If the aim of the freedom fighters is to kill security forces personnel, then there are enough of them moving around in uninhabited areas where the militants can attack them at will with bombs and guns, without endangering the lives of innocent civilians. Therefore, there is a crying need for someone who matters to atleast request the militants not to indulge in violence in crowded places and it is here that the separatists and civil society, which tacitly approves of armed resistance, must discharge its moral responsibility.
While attacks in crowded places often result in death of and injuries to innocent people, it has far greater implications. For one, it further exacerbates the already high levels of conflict induced trauma prevalent amongst the people of Kashmir, as they now feel threatened by not only the guns of the security forces, but also from the freedom fighters. Moreover, since innocent civilians are often killed or injured in such attacks, it also provides the much needed legitimacy to the security forces for imposing stringent curbs on the population under the garb of performing its constitutional responsibility of protecting innocent civilians from terrorist attacks. Thus while our leaders may shout from rooftops on issues like Kashmir being a beautiful prison and its people suffering bloodshed and oppression, the international community, obviously remains unmoved!
Then comes the issue of moral propriety. While attacks on security forces in uninhabited areas can still be defended as being an accepted practice in guerilla warfare, the international community perceives attacks in crowded places, as nothing more than blatant acts of terrorism and it is here that we lose out. It is rather unfortunate that the freedom fighters consistently fail to realise that since innocent civilians also become the target of their bullets during their attacks in crowded places, they are unwittingly promoting the erroneous image being propagated by New Delhi that the freedom fighters in Kashmir are infact terrorists who are totally unconcerned about the safety of innocent civilians.
In the Chadoora incident, the Police party, inspite of being attacked did not fire back at the militants and this may well be due to the fact that they presumably were unable to identify the attackers in the crowded marketplace. However, a Policeman, by making the statement that, I saw the militant who fired upon our SHO. I tried to hit him when he was fleeing but due to presence of people, I did not open the fire, has scored the winning goal and Kashmir watchers all over the world will surely not miss this point. Thus, while the militants may rejoice the killing of a Police Officer and injuring two Policemen, the fact of the matter is that it is not the militants but the Police that has emerged as the winner for being the only ones who showed concern about public safety!
Much has been spoken and written about the futility of armed resistance and how this has alienated the international community from the Kashmir cause. However, since we seem to have finally come to the conclusion that the gun could be one of the options for permanent solution of the Kashmir issue, those who have given the gun an entry permit into the movement for the right to self determination, must atleast lay down some rules to control the use of the gun. Let not the guns of our own freedom fighters target or terrorise those very people for whose sake they claim to be waging the armed struggle!
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