Kashmiris need to be told that they will remain in a “state of misery” as long as they “keep harping on” about azadi, a top Indian Army officer has said.
In an interview with news agency PTI, Major General BS Raju said that “a great deal of straight talking with Kashmiris is needed to tell them what can be given and what’s not on the table.”
“We need to tell people here that ‘azadi’ under no circumstances is possible. And anything is possible under the Constitution. If you keep harping on ‘azadi’ you will be in a state of misery for a long time,” Raju, the general officer commanding of Awantipora-based Victor Force, said.
He also claimed that most of the militants, pro-independence activists or even the stone- throwers have “little grasp” on the meaning of ‘azadi’, even though it has become a catchphrase. They do not necessarily want freedom from India, he said.
“But most people do want freedom from the overt presence of security forces…I understand that, but people should also know that we are here only for their protection and once militancy is stamped out of the Valley, security forces will be back in barracks,” he said.
He claimed that the back of armed militancy in Kashmir was virtually broken, and now a great deal of “political sagacity” was needed to ensure that a lasting solution to the decades-long problem is found. “There is no semblance of any space where militants or separatists are in control. Militants are in self-preservation mode,” Raju said.
According to PTI, as many as 73 militants have been killed this year in south Kashmir, more than twice the average number in previous years.
“These days they are not targeting the army directly, but are looking at softer targets. They are sometimes hitting civilians on the plea of neutralising informants,” said Raju.
He said his focus now is on ensuring that there are no new recruitment into the militant cadres and reaching out to the people to convince them that the army is there to help, for which his troops have already embarked on a series of projects in schools and colleges. “Overall, most people want a solution. They want to get out of this cycle of violence,” said Raju.
“The situation has been brought to a level where political initiative can be started. It is good to see political engagement has started,” he said.
“It depends on the political sagacity of the central government. It will depend on a great deal on the central government. You can’t police out militancy from here,” he said.
To keep the children engaged and to show them that the soldiers are on their side, Raju said the army has launched a series of outreach programmes such as sports and painting competitions, distributing stationary, taking children on treks and giving them packed meals.
Raju also emphasized the need to have a robust juvenile justice system, comprising “humane” detention centres.