The terrorist attack on a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) camp in which three persons were killed is appalling. Why do I call it a terrorist and not a militant attack is simple. Even a child in J&K knows that GREF is in no way involved in anti- militancy operations; it is an organisation that undertakes construction and maintenance work of roads in remote areas. Barring a few army personnel from the military engineering branch in executive posts, the entire workforce of GREF comprises locals who stay in camps in proximity of their workplace.
Expectedly, those killed in this attack were innocent civilians working as labourers. GREF camps are ‘soft targets’ as they don’t have any armed security. So, these killings were nothing but cold blooded murder that can in no way be justified. No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for this dastardly attack and going by past experience it is unlikely that anyone of them would do so. In fact it would not be surprising to hear some militant outfit alleging that this is the handiwork of government forces and intelligence agencies to ‘defame’ them.
However, this excuse has been given so many times in the past that it no longer sounds convincing anymore. Moreover, wouldn’t devising attacks and killing their own people just to ‘defame’ militants be a classical example of ‘cutting the nose to spite the face’? And with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) being designated as terrorist organisations and banned by the US, UK, EU and many other countries, where is the need for the establishment to take all this trouble just to ‘defame’ these militant groups?
However, it is depressing to see how our leaders are rapidly shifting emphasis of the Kashmir movement from peaceful means to ‘armed struggle’ at a time when the ‘gun’ has totally fallen out of favour with the international community. We must not forget that even Islamabad has had to buckle under world opinion and ban armed groups like LeT and JeM even though they are fighting to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from Indian ‘occupation’.
The danger with militant groups fighting in J&K is that since they are being patronised by the military establishment of Pakistan they are obliged when it comes to (in HM chief Syed Salahuddin’s words) “Fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” And though our leaders may not accept it, this is the harsh reality that they can’t afford to wish away because it is defaming the movement for the ‘right to self determination.’ We need to expand the support base for our struggle by looking beyond Pakistan and to do this we need to rely more on the use of brain rather than brawn.
However, it is depressing to see how our leaders are rapidly shifting emphasis of the Kashmir movement from peaceful means to ‘armed struggle’ at a time when the ‘gun’ has totally fallen out of favour with the international community. We must not forget that even Islamabad has had to buckle under world opinion and ban armed groups like LeT and JeM even though they are fighting to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from Indian ‘occupation’. Not only this, while Pakistan may approve of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir but to avoid antgonising the international community, it completely disassociates from supporting it. And this is what our leaders need to take a serious note of.
As mentioned earlier, resolution of the Kashmir issue requires the wholehearted and overwhelming support of the international community. This will never come about as long as our leaders espouse the use of violence as a means to achieve the ‘right to self determination’, no matter how hard they try to project it as “justified freedom struggle.” The era when suppressed people picking up arms against their oppressors were hailed as revolutionaries are over and such romanticism is passé in today’s world. So by repeatedly praising militancy while our leaders may not be gaining anything but they are certainly losing a lot.
The writing on the wall is clear- it is time to stop living in ivory castles and get real. Though it is still not too late to make amends, our leaders need to take a call on the relevance of the gun in the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ soon because as they, time and tide wait for none!