AS backpedaling goes, it is unconvincing. Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat waded deep into controversy last month when he vigorously defended the army’s violent suppression of legitimate dissent in India-held Kashmir.
While Gen Rawat’s outrageous claims were hailed by hardliners in India, sensible, right-minded Indians have expressed unease at the militarised approach to the people of IHK.
Now, perhaps recognising that whatever the benefits of appealing to hardliners across India, in IHK itself the general’s remarks caused further anger and alienation, Gen Rawat has been quoted in the Indian media as saying that the army respects human rights and cares about the lives of the people.
It is a measure of how far the Indian army has slid down the scale of acceptable conduct and public standing that the army chief has to try and convince the people of IHK that it cares about their lives.
What the people of IHK need is a real, verifiable and manifestly obvious adherence to the law and human dignity, and not just the words of an army chief.
However, Gen Rawat’s full comments suggest that the Indian army only intends to pay lip service to human rights while continuing with its oppressive tactics.
He did not rule out further instances of Indian soldiers using human shields in IHK.
He claimed that the Indian army is doing a good job in the region. He accused elements among the people of IHK of spreading misinformation and disinformation. And he talked of the Indian army continuing to take what he termed as necessary action in the region.
Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence at all, in reports from IHK and in the claims of the people there, that the Indian army is concerned about human rights, and that it respects the people.
Indeed, the Indian army seems to consider every man in parts of IHK as a potential fighter and every woman and child as a collaborator. Gen Rawat’s words are utterly unconvincing.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2017