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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

TOI online-The Spine and the state

The Times of India -

The spine and the state
6 Jun, 2007 l 0913 hrs ISTl
Tarun Vijay

If you have it, keep it straight. One can choose to live like a barnacle but to claim leadership needs a different mettle. Bangladesh sent back our jawan's dead body on bamboo poles, a dreaded terrorist was flown out of the country with more than state honours - a minister accompanied him to ensure his safe escape, the Chinese have refused a visa to one of our IAS officers and claim Arunachal Pradesh in spite of keeping the farce of negotiations on border disputes on, and now the Army, which protects the Kashmiri people, has been slapped with a fatwa by a nondescript petty mullah who thought that the people couldn’t accept the force's benevolence. This is an insult that the Army has been made to swallow in the name of secularism, which means kowtowing before Muslim separatism and arrogance. Recently, Afzal's hanging was postponed to make strange quarters happy and now a Muslim cleric's fatwa against the Army's efforts to renovate and repair mosques in Jammu & Kashmir has been taken with a silent acceptance which means simple and straight cowardice. The Army represents the state power, people's faith and the nation's honour. Soldiers give their blood and life for the cause of the motherland and since the British times they have been maintaining a number of shrines and places of worship belonging to all faiths without any discrimination. They are the best icons of religious brotherhood and amity. In Ladakh, I have seen the Army help restore many a Buddhist monasteries. In fact, a fabulous gurudwara on the Indus banks came up because of the Army, and is still meticulously maintained by them. It has always been a matter of pride for the faithful that the Army is behind them and is taking care of their shrines. That the mullah in the Valley chose to rebuff the Army's benevolence is a slap on the face of the Indian state, as these are the same mullahs who never ever complained or issued fatwas when the dreaded terrorists took shelter inside their mosques, stayed put in their shrines and even charred them, like Charar-e-Sharif to malign the Army or create further communal strife. The mullahs were silent when the terrorists formed violent outfits in the name of Islam like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and killed innocent men women and children. No fatwa was ever issued against such heinous criminal acts done in the name of Islam.
When the blood thirsty gun totters were holed up in the Hazratbal, the stress was not on killing the traitors but to safeguard the shrine at 'any cost' and none, repeat none of the Mullahs from the Valley or the mainland issued a strong statement against the 'boys' who, to the reasonable, desecrated a place of faith. Now, when the Indian Army took it upon itself, under a false impression that their good work will get some nice return gifts in the form of loyalty to the nation and social harmony, plus a positive attitude towards the sentinels of our frontier, the mullah issued a fatwa against its helping hand. Such acts, which have not been condemned by any Muslim cleric from the mainland, also help expose the separatist tendencies grown on poisonous minds against India in the Valley. A couple of years back I was the guest of GOC, 15 th corps in Srinagar and saw the wonderful work they were doing under Operation Sadbhavna (meaning goodwill). The Army, under great stress facing a guerilla war of the Islamists in the Valley, decided to win the hearts of the local populace by helping them in their day-to-day life. They built schools, dispensaries, co-operatives, bus stands and veterinary hospitals. They also distributed free medicines and started special sewing and embroidery training centres for the womenfolk to earn extra. It was an unbelievable sight. Muslim men and women were all praise for the Army's noble intentions and a gesture unheard of so far. This kind of goodwill in a state where all the terrorists are Muslims, where Hindus have been forced to leave their homes and hearth and take shelter in Jammu as refugees, where the other minorities, the Buddhists, have been bitterly complaining about the discrimination being practiced by the Srinagar regime against them based on religion, also posed a question. Can you win the hearts of a people fed on separatism and hate through simple gestures of goodwill, without bothering to see the problem in its holistic form? Is the reason of separatism in the Valley economic backwardness or hate based on some ideology of the Islamists? Can a few hospitals and schools change the attitude? Or the firmness of the state with a commitment to spread and propagate Indian values and education and extension of all the laws and constitutional provisions to the Valley will give a better message helping national integration? When I had toured many a remote place in the Valley where Op Sadbhavna was in full swing, it showed a real genuine urge by the military top brass to win the hearts of the people through providing economic and educational infrastructure. Hundreds of girls were being imparted a composite training package in vocational training centres within a schedule of one year which included various skills like tailoring, knitting, carpet weaving, computer training and a comprehensive education package for the enhancement of their qualification.
The Army undertook a massive adult education drive to set up one Adult Education centre in each Army unit's area of responsibility, thus aiming at educating at least a batch of 3,600 non-literate women between the age of 18 and 35 in an 8-month cycle. Rural electrification in selective areas was undertaken including the village irrigation and anti-drought schemes. Village cooperatives in poultry farming, vocational training for unemployed youths, resources centres for mentally and physically challenged, orphanages, hostels for boys, cultural fusion by mass community participation and the revival of local culture, traditions including horse polo and archery was initiated under the guidance of the Army. Did it give positive results anywhere? See a press report about Operation Goodwill ( Sadbhavna ) released by AFP a few years before. It reported, ' nowhere in the world any army has ever done so much of development and social integration work that was done by jawans in Kashmir. But somehow, Kashmir continues to remain in the clutches of a 20-year-old Pakistan supported anti-Indian insurgency that has left 65,000 people dead by the official count, Separatists put the count at between 80,000 and 100,000. [Agency France Press, September 14, 2003] Misplaced benevolence is as meaningless as misplaced anger. The Indian army must be having better things to accomplish than to help an unwilling mullah's mosque or spend money like water in the sand dunes. At the same time it's the total failure of the Muslim intelligentsia to address this factor amongst the Muslims in the Valley that has further weakened the position of those who advocate a rational approach based on love and understanding. The best goodwill gesture that the Army can present is to ensure safe and honourable return of the Kashmiri Hindus back to their homes, which still are deserted and mostly have been illegally occupied by the Muslims thinking that the Pandits will never come back. Such embarrassments, like a fatwa on Operation Sadbhavna , also show the failure of the politicians who control the movements and actions of the Army and force its ill-considered decisions to be implemented by an obedient and disciplined force. The Indian state can't be left at the mercy of those who value their term in office more important than the long-term interest of the nation. If a state can't force corrections on the dishonest and unrepentant aggressor and protect the self-pride of its loyal citizens, it loses the moral authority to rule.

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