Soldiers are meant to die, but protesters are meant to be victims. The narrative surrounding the Kashmir crisis reminds me of the Shakespearean play ‘Coriolanus’. The story revolves around a Roman general banished by the citizens after years of service. As he walks away after the decree of the senate, he delivers an angry yet prophetic speech,
I banish you!
And here remain with your uncertainty,
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts,
Your enemies with nodding of their caps, fan you into despair,
Have the power still to banish your defenders,
Still your own foes deliver you,
As most abated captives to some nation,
That won you without blows.
The armed forces which defend the valley comprise people from across the nation. Citizens from every state fill the ranks of the Army, the CRPF and the Border Security Force, protecting citizens in the valley from violent protests and terrorists.
The armed forces also support crucial social services in the education and health sector, serving the valley beyond just pulling the trigger. However, when Kashmir is plunged into chaos by the evil and reckless, the dominant narrative paints the protector as the ‘aggressor’ and the ‘violator’, a thought that’s the product of decades of Kashmiri politics that has always flirted with treason.
Since when have we become comfortable labeling terrorists as symbols of the anger of the common citizenry? Since when have we become comfortable with labeling miscreants who attack army and police posts, murder and threaten police personnel as ‘misguided’? Since when has it become fashionable to label soldiers in the valley as ‘Instruments of Indian Occupation?’ There are funerals, political rhetoric and debates over the deaths of ‘civilians’, those who want to spread havoc in Jammu and Kashmir, but no outrage, no social upheaval when a soldier committed to defend India perishes in the line of duty.
When we read the news that a truck full of soldiers was bombed by terrorists, we shrug it off as if soldiers are meant to die. When a boy with a petrol bomb is subdued before he strikes security personnel, human rights takes centre stage, a thought always missing when the tricolour is laid over the coffin of a fallen hero. As his kin gather to honour his supreme sacrifice, there are parents in the valley committing atrocities against their own children, choosing to stir their destiny to the streets rather than the school.
The Kashmir narrative should wake up to this social malaise that threatens to wipe out one whole generation of the valley, taking away the chance at a meaningful existence. No books or computers in their hands, but a generation nurtured to be angry and armed.
It takes a special level of devotion for a person to be vigilant and fearless while standing over a powder keg. The oath to serve and defend penetrates deep into the soul, where the soldier’s training ensures his survival. The troop does not care about the evening news narratives and politicking, but his service ensures that luxury for citizens. Yet many among those who abuse, rebuke and challenge those in uniform do not have the courage or the gumption to lay down their lives to serve the state - but they have the audacity to call their defenders ‘aggressors’.
Kashmiri politicians, armchair intellectuals, separatists or their goons do not have the strength to stand armed at the LoC and face down the enemy, or defend the citizens when threats emerge from every direction. How can the same soldier be a saviour when natural calamities strike, when politicians scurry into their burrows and not be given the same honour when he protects the state from forces who want to carve it out of the nation?
Distinguishing Between the Assailant and Defender
Be it a political or law and order crisis, there is no remorse or moral justification for those who take up arms against the state. No sympathy for those who willingly become human shields in an unending struggle which history has never allowed to succeed and the future never will. There cannot be political cover for those who want to wreak havoc in the valley, and there is no doubt over who is the assailant and who is the defender.
As the Roman General Coriolanus was banished by those he protected, he left the city in disgust saying - ‘I turn my back’, and the city plunges into chaos. This will never be the reality of Kashmir, for the soldier’s sense of duty can never make him turn his back, even to those who bay for his blood.
(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. He can be reached at @Jamwalthefirst. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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