Free Press Journal

Army morale has to be protected


Security personnel take positions during an encounter with the militants in a building near a CRPF camp at Karra Nagar, in Srinagar. PTI Photo

The Supreme Court deserves to be commended for its order that no coercive action should be taken against Major Aditya Kumar of Garhwal Rifles, in connection with the death of three civilians in an Army firing in Shopian last month. This amounts to staying the FIR that had been filed against the major and his team on charges of murder under Section 302.

The army has been doing a herculean job in the face of extreme challenges from an enemy force that is in cahoots with terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish e-Mohammad. That the army contingent that Major Aditya commanded was facing a barrage of stones from subversive and misguided local youth can hardly be overlooked. It is very demoralising when the State’s chief minister, instead of acknowledging the contribution of the armed forces, chooses to endorse the filing of an FIR against the Major and almost simultaneously issues orders to release stone-pelters involved in earlier incidents directed against army personnel.

Just because unlike in Pakistan, where the army actually calls the shots in India, it is the political establishment that has been vested with decisive authority, does not mean that we can take the armed forces for granted. Defending the borders and fighting well-equipped terrorists trained by enemy troops is no mean task.

Chief Minister Mehbboba Mufti’s assertion that she had taken consent from Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman before the FIR was filed shows the Centre in poor light indeed. It reflects a cavalier attitude that is not conducive to raising the morale of the disciplined force. Even before the apex court acted, the Modi government should have put its foot down that while an inquiry could be initiated into the incident, an FIR could not be filed by the local police without taking into consideration the grave provocation that the armed forces faced due to relentless and strong stone-pelting on them.

The apex court’s stay order came after Lt Col Karamveer Singh, father of Major Aditya Kumar in his plea to the court claimed that the firing was undertaken to control “a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity”and that the FIR violated the fundamental rights of his son. For too long has the Narendra Modi government been tolerating the attitude of the Mufti government which borders on anti-national. Its sustained plea for talks with Pakistan despite the latter’s terror activities is patently absurd.

True, the electoral mandate in 2014 had thrown up a situation where Mehbooba Mufti, the leader of the principal party in the Kashmir valley the Progressive Democratic Front (PDP) needed to work with the BJP which had an overwhelming mandate in the Jammu region. But any compromise effected due to force of circumstances to respect the democratic mandate in spirit does not mean that the PDP can ride rough shod.

There has to be a ‘Lakshman Rekha’for everyone and Mehbooba Mufti tends to cross it from time to time to curry favour with the radicals both within the State and outside. This is not to say that the army’s power has to be absolute. Accountability has to be enforced in all walks of life and the armed forces cannot be above law. But we are into special circumstances where an enemy force is bent upon mischief that militates against the interests of India hugely. It cannot be anybody’s case that the army’s hands must be tied even when it is attacked by a bunch of young hoodlums who have been instigated by the foreign force.

The petitioner mentioned before the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that “the unruly behaviour of the unlawful assembly reached its peak when they got hold of a Junior Commissioned Officer and was in the process of lynching him to death. It was at this moment that warning shots were fired at the unlawful assembly which, as per the said terms of engagement, is the last resort to be taken before opening fire.”

The petition added that the unlawful assembly again refused to spare the life of the JCO and, therefore, fire was lawfully opened on the unlawful assembly with an aim to disperse the violent mob and protect government servants and property. It is all very easy for the country to hold out the olive branch to Pakistan as pacifists and apologists like Mehbooba Mufti would suggest, and sit for peace talks. But the sovereignty of the nation has to be protected and there cannot be a more disciplined and competent force to protect it than the Indian army. When you are up against an unprincipled and unscrupulous enemy, tough measures are needed.

It is heartening that every act of terror by the enemy is being met with strong reprisals. That there ought to be national consensus on that is a dire need. It is not right for politicians to seek to serve their own ends which transcend national interest. The Modi government needs to look hard at the alliance with Mehbooba Mufti and the PDP. There can be no compromise with national interest. Electoral considerations cannot be allowed to stand in its way. If the PDP-BJP government is an impediment to it, we need to think about Governor’s rule as an alternative.

The proxy war that Pakistan is fighting with India brooks no soft solutions. We are up against not only a hostile nation but also groups that get a fillip for subversive activities especially from the Pakistan army which is not under the control of the civilian administration.

The author is a political commentator and columnist. He has authored four books.