General rushes in

Army chief’s remarks on human shield, on the force’s role in J&K, obfuscate distinctions, are unbecoming of his high office

By: Editorial | Published: May 30, 2017 12:12 am
sachin tendulkar, tendulkar biopic, sachin biopic, sachin a billion dreams, sachin movie, india news, indian express news General Rawat’s responsibility is to guard the nation’s physical frontiers from enemies; it is not to draw red lines for political actors in the system.

In an interview, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has defended and praised Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi for his decision to tie a Kashmiri artisan to an army jeep as a human shield and parade him through several villages, as a warning to stone-pelters. By doing this, and by his implied support for the short-circuiting of the army’s internal due process vis a vis Major Gogoi’s actions — the army commended the major even as a court of inquiry was finalising its probe into the incident — General Rawat risks hurting the enormous institutional credibility of the force that he heads. It bears reiteration that Major Gogoi’s conduct was a violation of the constitutional promise of due process, and of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution for every citizen, and that it is the army’s duty to uphold both. But the army chief treads even further on dangerous ground.

“This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war… You fight a dirty war with innovations”, the general said. He went on to suggest that it would have been easier for the armed forces if the protestors were firing weapons instead of throwing stones: “Then I could do what I [want to do]”. General Rawat is understandably concerned about the difficult challenges that confront his men in Kashmir. But can he afford to lose sight of a fundamental distinction — between armed militants and civilian protestors? By not acknowledging or respecting the difference between the two, or suggesting that there is none, General Rawat could be accused of potentially redefining the army’s role and mandate in troubling ways, which could end up reducing the political space for manoeuvre in the Valley. Unwisely, he dismisses the possibilities of political engagement in Kashmir: “Has political initiative not been taken in the past? What was the result, you had Kargil…”. This last statement could also be read as a transgression into territory outside the army chief’s domain. General Rawat’s responsibility is to guard the nation’s physical frontiers from enemies; it is not to draw red lines for political actors in the system.

It is undeniable that the army has been thrust into a crisis in Kashmir not of its making, one that the political leadership should have taken the lead to resolve. In these circumstances, General Rawat must arguably aim to limit the fallout of the army’s exposure to what is primarily a political problem. His ill-judged statements, however, send out the impression that the army is fighting the people of Kashmir. This is particularly unfortunate given the fact that the Indian Army has done stellar work in its effort to build bonds with the people of Kashmir, through schools, sports activities and rescue operations during the 2014 flood, as well as this April, when the waters rose dangerously in some parts of the Valley. The chief of the Indian Army cannot sound like an angry retired prime time warrior. He must, at all times, acknowledge the responsibility — and the constraint — of his high office.

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    S.P.Chakravarty
    May 31, 2017 at 1:46 am
    The general has done a great service by raising, unwittingly or not is irrelevant, awareness of the unwise decision by successive governments in India to deploy the army to quell internal uprisings. Law and order requires policing by consent with minimum force by winning over the population. Armies are not trained in that task. They are trained to regard opponents as enemies. Use of the army to maintain law and order for an indefinite period is counter-productive. Protectors can come to be perceived as oppressors, as the British government discovered in Northrrn Ireland.
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      R K
      May 30, 2017 at 2:17 pm
      IE is nowadays run by confused people....who ume that all the people of kashmir are throwing stones at the army....general rawat is absolutely right in his stand and he knows the situation and the solution of the problem in hand... fact if such a tough stand had been taken since the very start, instead of pampering these separatists, the problem would have been solved by now....
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        Ob_Server
        May 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm
        Gen Rawat has made it plain why Modi selected him su ding two other highly qualified senior officers. Rawat has proven himself a shameless toady to his political master. He will leave the army more damaged than ever.
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        1. Shoeb Hamid
          May 30, 2017 at 1:45 pm
          chasti t of Kashmiris. Earlier the cry in Kashmir was on AFSPA removal, but now everything has changed. The government of India admits it is at war in Kashmir. It does not say it directly but it has described the stone pelters as an armed combatant whom Indian army is fighting in Kashmir. The IE editorial is right in pointing out that the Army Chief and Indian Govt has removed the distinction between an unarmed dissenter and an armed combatant, meaning that new War in Kashmir is Indian Army versus the stone pelters. Would it be taken as a just war or simply the Occupation of Indian Army in Kashmir is not hard to reason out. Modi may have his second innings, but India has lost its credibility and claim that Kashmir is its part. Even if a referendum is held today the Indian government will have all its doubts cleared. Next time, it might be a Dalit tied to a jeep and a just war against Dalits, then a Christian, then a non-Brahmin, non BJP, Non Sanghi. That is new Indian nationalism
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          1. Shoeb Hamid
            May 30, 2017 at 1:35 pm
            owing to its skewed policies and the atrocities it actually had committed on people of Kashmir with pellets and bullets. It once again took the refuge of Pak sponsored troubles. The same govt said to the people of India that only few percent of troublemakers were creating problem in Kashmir. But the fact is that only few percent less than 8 came out to vote and believed that govt can solve their problems. To mask the g failure as 2016 havoc in Kashmir had been widely reported, the Indian government has gone a step further. It plans to arrest the dissenters which includes all secessionists, students protesting, almost anyone who says No to state or Indian govt. At the same time it keeps Indian audience busy with popular consumption like blowing up bases, surgical strikes, be ing replies etc etc. After 3 years of Modi govt, the Indian government desperately needs an agenda for second innings of Modi. Crackdown on Kashmiri separatists, m arrests -- basically the
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