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Tag Archives | Indian army

Politicisation of armed forces to collect funds is deplorable

Recent announcement of donating Rs 5 Cr. to Army welfare fund by bollywood producer-director Karan Johar cannot be repentance for sins of commission and omission by political parties 

By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)

In one of the most brazen forms of extortion witnessed in recent times, a political party in Mumbai extracted a promise of donating Rs 5 Cr to the Indian Army from Karan Johar. The reason for asking this kind of money was for penance by Karan Johar for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in his yet to be released movie Ae dil hai Mushkil. The capitulation of Karan Johar and Maharshtra state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who brokered the deal has been one of ultimate cravenness in the face of unreasonable demands. Politicisation of the army in this manner reeks of selfishness to further the short term goals of the party in question.

There wouldn’t have been any issue if the donation was voluntary. It gained salience only because the director was threatened with violence. The scheduled release on October 28 was put on hold because the party workers of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had orchestrated protests. A party that managed to garner only a single seat in the assembly elections of 2014 in Maharashtra saw this as a perfect opportunity to capture public mindspace.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to respect the army and the sacrifice of its soldiers. To find common cause in a soldier guarding the nation’s frontier should be a matter of pride for any citizen. What runs counter to common sense logic is why to mix the issues of Pakistani artistes working in Indian movies and the army? The issue of granting visas to Pakistani artistes must have been taken only after deliberation by the central government.

Fortunately, the defence and Information and Broadcasting ministers have slammed this deal. That was to clearly demonstrate to the public that the central government does not appreciate this act of coercive donation. The army too has refused to accept this money. But the centre could have gone further. Mere condemnation is not enough. It is time to ask as to why should the rule of law be subverted? Why should any government give in to this form of thuggery? Now since the issue is deemed to be settled, should we expect the workers of the MNS to get back to their daily life? Of course, no. We can certainly expect some other kind of protest over seemingly inane issues.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Fellow in geostrategy programme at Takshashila and tweets @guruaiyar.

Featured Image: PM Modi pays homage to martyrs of Indian army at Badami Bagh in Srinagar courtesy creativecommons.org

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Repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir will need extremely deft political approach

The repeal of AFSPA from the civilian areas of Kashmir is imperative to resolve the present impasse

By Guru Aiyar(@guruaiyar)

The killing of Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani on July 8 by the security forces has once again set the cauldron of Kashmir on fire. All the gains made in Kashmir after the assembly elections last year and subsequent government formation have been completely frittered away. What more, Prime Minister Modi and Nawaz Sharif’s meet in Delhi on May 27 to improve bilateral relations is a dead letter now, especially after recent sabre rattling against Pakistan. What can surely improve the situation in Kashmir is partial revoking of the AFSPA from urban centres and keeping it alive on the areas close to the Line of Control (LoC) and northern areas bordering China.

The Act was imposed in Kashmir in July 1990 after full blown eruption of militancy in the valley. Twenty six years of the Act in force has come at a very high cost, both to the Indian forces as well as people of Kashmir. An Amnesty International report last year  detailed that AFSPA has claimed more than 43,000 lives, about half of them being militants. Slightly less than one third of total killed were civilians and the rest being security personnel. The record of prosecutions of security personnel is abysmally low against allegations of abuse and torture. No one denies that the security forces are doing a yeoman’s sacrifice. But, there is no suppressing the fact that they have been operating under near impunity  which is one of the factors for festering insurgency.

Repealing the Act is an extremely challenging task—one that needs political courage, confidence and a statesmanlike approach to problem solving. Next comes the incentive—gains that are to accrue should the act be repealed. Like any complex jigsaw, the aim should be to break it into minor solvable puzzles. There are two aspects to repealing the act—“why” should it be done, and “how” it can be done? It is easy to answer the first question. The first time time any government came closest to was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) I when it appointed a commission under a retired Supreme Court judge Justice BP Jeevan Reddy Commission. The commission, which had a retired General from the army, unanimously recommended that the act be repealed. It termed the act “too sketchy, too bald and quite inadequate in several particulars.” 

There is no need to reinvent the wheel while debating about repeal of the act. The question “how to do it” can be answered by first repealing the act from major urban centres and hinterland of Kashmir. Omar Abdullah, the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir had precisely suggested this in 2013. To assuage the concerns of the security forces, they can be made to operate under  Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 2008 with adequate safeguards. 

The situation now has got caught in a vortex of political conundrums. The politicians claim that it is the army who is objecting to the repeal of AFSPA. The army, on its part claims that the situation is not ripe to repeal the Act. But when the situation was ripe in 2010, what was it that prevented the army from acceding? Simply raising the fear of Pakistan in the minds of politicians naturally propels them to persist with the status quo.

Wajahat Habibullah, a retired bureaucrat articulated this very clearly  when he stated that there no need for the army in civilian areas of Kashmir. The AFSPA can continue in areas on the LoC with Pakistan and to counteract the menacing presence of the Chinese army on the northern areas of Kashmir. There is no need for the army to be in the civilian areas in Kashmir. It is time that political will gets asserted unequivocally. Even if the army and defence ministry is overruled, this will be a game of brinksmanship to get a political consensus by the ruling party—not only from within, but even across the spectrum. Prime Minister Modi’s acid test will be to retrieve the present situation which is on the verge of disaster. It is an extraordinarily tough call. But extraordinary situations demand completely ‘out of the box’ solutions. In all probability, the prime minister would like to be remembered as the statesman who solved Kashmir.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Fellow with Takshashila Institution, an independent think tank on strategic affairs and geopolitics and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image – Indian Soldiers in Kashmir by Barry Pousman licensed from creative commons.

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