SOURCE: DNA INDIA
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. This is the impossible situation that our Forces find themselves in today. As the encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district revealed yet again, our Forces had to flush out the terrorists and ensure the civilians attacking them were kept safe and at bay – an almost impossible task. But despite this ‘impossible task’, they saved a child at the encounter site itself, an action that has not been much commented upon. But it needs to be.
Despite the provocation, despite the fact that our Forces are facing angry civilians — many of whom are hurling potentially lethal stones at them — this is a gesture that shows that they are doing whatever they can to win over the hearts of Kashmiris. Such an action should make us stop to think. While we all have the right to criticise our Forces, we also need to highlight their humanitarian gestures.
This is important not only to boost their morale but also to show Kashmiris that our Forces, contrary to what some of them may think, are not against them. They are doing a job in tough conditions and they are trying to minimise casualties and save lives wherever possible. We also need to understand here that our Forces are not trained to deal with civilians. Their mandate is to fight terrorists and safeguard our borders, not to quell angry crowds, which is the police’s role. But because the nature of warfare has changed, because terrorists, whether it is in Iraq or the Valley, are pushing civilians into the frontline, Forces everywhere have to deal with conditions that they are completely unfamiliar with. We do need to pull them up when they use extreme force, but we also need to understand that they are trying their best to save innocent lives and that too in conditions which they are completely unused to. This is where the state needs to step in to support them.
Last year in December, Army officials stated that they would organise cricket and football matches across the state in a bid to connect with the people. Such incentives need to be especially highlighted and encouraged by the government in a bid to create another ‘healing touch.’ Kashmiri officers who have joined the Forces must be pushed forward to help quell propaganda spread by terrorist groups and most importantly, actions such as saving lives – especially the life of this young child in Kulgam – need to be showcased on various social media platforms, that too in local languages.
The Army and the state need to fight the cyber-war more aggressively if they are to quell the terrorists’ propaganda. Such actions are not easy and will not change attitudes overnight. But the fact that our Forces are willing to save lives, even at the cost of their own, is something that needs to be told especially to young Kashmiris who have been fed on a diet of LeT propaganda. Soft power is the need of the hour and every bid must be made to show the Army’s human face. Otherwise, the growing mistrust and anger will only escalate.