Sultan M Hali
SINCE July 8, 2016, the inhuman slaughter of popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani at the hands of Indian security forces, the upsurge in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is causing major ripples. On the one hand, life in the Kashmir Valley is crippled owing to extended curfews and crackdowns on protesters, while on the other; there have been heightened attacks by the Mujahideen. The false flag operations by Indian forces are also taking their toll.
More than 120 Kashmiri youth have been martyred owing to the brutality of Indian Army wreaked on the protesters. Worse still, according to UK’s Daily “The Guardian”: “Most shocking of all has been the breaking up of demonstrations with “non-lethal” pellet ammunition, which has blinded hundreds of Kashmiri civilians. In four months, 17,000 adults and children have been injured, nearly five thousand have been arrested, and an entire population spent the summer under the longest curfew in the history of curfews in Kashmir.” The British daily questions whether this is the world’s first mass blinding? Indeed it is the most inhuman and gruesome act by an Armed Force on a people, who for the last 69 years have been subjugated, raped, killed and maimed for demanding their just right for freedom. The other repercussion is that since the uprising in IOK and a number of attacks by Mujahedeen, Indian Army personnel are under enormous mental stress and are demoralized. The situation is traumatic for soldiers deployed particularly in forward location on the Line of Control (LOC).
The stress is resulting in a number of suicides and fratricides cases by Indian soldier. In a similar incident on 28 Oct 2016 at Machil sector District Kupwara, an Indian soldier while arguing with a Sikh soldier (Mandeep Singh) over Khalistan issue killed and later beheaded him. The matter was reported to DG BSF, who directed the commanding officer to cover up the issue and claim that Mujahedeen with Pakistan’s backing from across the LoC had carried out the attack. The information was subsequently leaked to Indian media, which went berserk.
This scribe participated in a number of hot debates on Indian TV Channels, where four or five Indian hawks would pounce upon yours truly, hurling accusations of the alleged barbarism of Pakistan’s Armed forces in beheading and mutilating the body of the Indian soldier. This scribe reminded the Indian participants that this was a case of self inflicted wounds, which the Indian Army caused on its own soldier. Real barbarism is what the Indian armed forces have unleashed in IOK. Since 1989, when the original uprising began, they have martyred nearly 100,000 innocent Kashmiris, raped thousands of Kashmiri women and incarcerated thousands of young Kashmiris without charging them of any wrong doing. During the 2010 Intifada, hundreds of Kashmiris were martyred. In 2016, Indian security agencies are blinding and maiming the Kashmiri youth with their pellet guns. The Indian TV participants were reminded that the execution of false flag operations has become a matter of habit with the Indian Army and must be stopped, because invariably Pakistan is blamed for them.
Pressure felt by Indian troops in IOK and the LoC is resulting in the surfacing of ethnic and religious fault lines. Reportedly the Sikh soldiers often argue or scuffle over the Khalistan and Independence Kashmir issues and the incidents are later covered up. This is not the first time that Indians have indulged in brutally slaughtering their own men in uniform. In January 2013, Indian Army’s Lance Naiks Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh were cruelly killed by their own comrades and their bodies were mutilated but Pakistan was blamed for the atrocity. In February 2000, another false flag operation at the “Ashok Listening Post” in the Nowshera Sector, seven Indian soldiers were slaughtered but the disinformation campaign by India blamed Pakistan for the brutality. In June 2008, a soldier of the 2/8 Gorkha Rifles was murdered by his compatriots in the Kel Sector but the culpability was fixed at Pakistan.
This year alone, the Pathankot, Udhampur, Gurdaspur and now Uri false flag operations have taken a heavy toll of lives of Indian soldiers. All these incidents have badly affected the morale of the Indian Army. Factors contributing to this alarming state of affairs in its soldiers are varied but are a cause of serious worry to the Indian defence planners. Resultantly, the instances of suicide, desertion, murder, rape and fragging have risen to frightening proportions. By one count, four times as many soldiers die by their own hand as those killed in combat. In the past 10 years, more than 1,000 Indian soldiers have committed suicide, while another 73 have died of “fragging,” a Vietnam War term born of the practice of disaffected US enlisted men killing their superiors with fragmentation grenades.
Statistical evidence of suicides and fragging in the Indian army points to growing levels of frustration among the jawans. Specialists have pointed out that there is a gross gap between Indian soldiers and officers with respect to treatment in service and the soldiers blame officers for discrimination and injustice. They opine that attitude of army officers is the main cause of increasing suicide incidents of soldiers in Indian army. Soldiers also commit suicide because of the mental torture by their senior officers. As many as about 700 military personnel committed suicide between 2009 and 2014; there were 69 cases of suicide in the Indian Army in 2015 besides an incident of fratricide.
In fact, the Indian army is losing more soldiers in these incidents than in action against the enemy. The army has lost 72 soldiers to alleged enemy attacks so far this year. But over 100 soldiers have already taken their lives. In addition, another 32 have been killed by their colleagues. The Indian Army is clearly under tremendous stress. Though it has not fought a full-blown war in decades, the force is bogged down in fighting domestic insurgencies, guarding restive borders and sometimes quelling civilian rioting. Most experts attribute the growing stress to low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate home leave, unattractive pay and a communication gap with superiors.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.