Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?
India’s Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India’s large military presence in the state.
The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge “in the next few months.”
But can Manmohan Singh’s praise for the “tremendous restraint” of Indian forces in Kashmir be applauded considering they have been responsible for the death of over 100 separatist protesters in months of violent clashes since last summer?
“It is really unfortunate and sad that despite tremendous restraint shown by the security forces, many young people died,” Singh told a conference of state chief ministers in New Delhi on Tuesday. “As we meet today, the situation in the valley has improved.”
Such rhetoric — regularly trotted out by New Delhi and military leaders — is reviled by many in Kashmir by those who resent the perceived heavy-handed treatment by India’s security forces.
Last month, India appeared to be moving towards a reduction in ground forces in the state, while discussions roll on regarding the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act — much-maligned by Kashmiri citizens.
Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, and the neighbouring rivals have twice gone to war over the Himalayan region. In September, New Delhi announced an eight-point conciliatory package aiming to calm the violent unrest against Indian rule.
“The summer of 2010 saw a troubled period in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the form of protests, particularly by stone pelters,” Singh said, adding that there “can be no let up if we are to succeed in our fight against terrorism and communal violence.”
Barely 12 hours before the Prime Minister spoke, two teenage sisters were abducted and killed by militants close to the Kashmiri border with Pakistan late on Monday, local media reported as violence in the state took its first victims of 2011.
As the political dialogue appears to be ramping up, is it time for New Delhi’s drum-banging for security forces in Kashmir to stop?