Kashmir is burning. There is a complete chaos and mayhem everywhere, every side. No control no one; everybody has his own understating of the ongoing unrest. The one thing that is common at this point of time is pain and agony. Indiscriminate use of pellet guns as a crowd control measure has proved to be disastrous; proof of which rests in different hospitals of Kashmir. Induction of pellet guns has only invited ire, and no one at present seems to be blind enough not to see the damage done. While the matter is being looked into another matter linked with the indiscriminate firing of shells and ammunition upon civilians has also drawn flak. The buzzword called “maximum restraint”, oft repeated by both officers of armed forces and the politicos, is something that demands immediate attention. Why has “exercise of maximum restraint” become a cliché and a convenient way of dodging the inconvenient questions? The main reason behind the failure of “Standard Operating Procedures” and “Maximum Restraint” is the total absence of a deterrent. AFSPA, and its continuation in Kashmir, gives armed forces complete freedom to act in any situation when they are actively engaged. It is the sense of impunity derived from this ‘barbaric’ Act that the ‘exercise of maximum restraint’ is thrown out of the window. With zero action taken against the armed forces/paramilitary personnel who had been found to have exercised the force wrongly or indiscriminately, the sense with which the forces are engaged is sans any deterrent to curb their actions. As long as AFSPA is there, the clamor raised by politicos and armed forces on exercising restraint is mere deceit. The politicos cry about retraining action but not even once have they assured that action will be taken against those who do not follow procedures or use force unnecessarily and see it done. While there may be a correction made on the indiscriminate use of pellet guns, but is there any action on cards to bring to book the usual offenders? Under the curse of AFSPA, generations have scourged in Kashmir and an irreparable damage has been done that cannot be easily healed. Even then, the “cursed” law has become nothing more than a political device to take the sting out whenever Kashmir bleeds. If the rightful representation of the people of Kashmir is serious about their welfare then it is this sense of impunity with which armed forces engage themselves that needs to be obliterated. There needs to be a deterrent in place as mere calls cannot make armed forces/paramilitary accountable and answerable for their actions. On one side is the armed forces/paramilitary and on the other is a civilian population, the decision lies with the representation, failing which they would fail the people and cease to be their true representatives.
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