At a time when tourism is booming in the Kashmir valley, the statement from the army that the 'situation is alarming' has led to various conspiracy theories. While some believe that it will affect tourism, others maintain that the statement is a decoy to justify their 'colossal' presence in the valley.
Though Azim Toman, President, Houseboat Owner's Association, believes that this won't affect the tourism much but he admitted that many vested interests are out to play a spoilsport. “I don't know the army's viewpoint and there are vested interests who keep issuing such statements. Toman says, adding, “I am sure all those tourists who witnessed the situation firsthand in the valley will spread a positive message across India,” Toman said in a hopeful tone to this Citizen Journalist
General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 corps Lt Gen Om Prakash last Tuesday told reporters in Srinagar that militant leaders were desperately trying to increase their cadre base by way of local recruitment and infiltration. “It is an alarming situation...Some incidents have taken place like the shootouts at Pampore, Kulgam and Rajpora (in south Kashmir)," PTI quoted GoC Prakash as saying.
Researcher Gowhar Ahmad doubts the Army statement and maintains that the role of all the security agencies and armed forces has diminished in the current peaceful situation. “Such a situation puts them in an oblivion, therefore, army seeks greater role for themselves in order to remain relevant and visible on ground, hence these exaggerated statements,” Mr Ahmad opines.
Mr Ahmad's opinion is backed by the hue and cry made by local pro and anti-India politicians, demanding demilitarisation and the removal of archaic laws like Armed Forces Special Power's Act (AFSPA). “Such a statement by GOC of Army's 15 Corps is also a justification of the colossal presence of troops in Kashmir as also the AFSPA remaining in vogue,” Mr Ahmad adds.
Pertinent to mention here is that BBC's channel 4 recently aired nearly an hour-long documentary, 'Torture Trail in Kashmir' that accused the security forces of being responsible for widespread extra judicial executions, torture, rape and disappearance of 8000 Kashmiri civilians. The film also highlighted that more than half a million security forces are fighting few hundred militants, emphasizing that for every 17 civilians, there was one soldier.
To counter these claims, the army, according to Mr Ahmad, has come out with the 'wild guesses': “These are age-old tactics used by forces here and also the fact that a calm and a peaceful situation will only see local police having all the say. There are many agencies alongside army who want to play an equal role in the secuity set-up of the state,” Mr Ahmad adds.
Last Sunday, state chief minister Omar Abdullah
said that peace was rooting gradually in the state after a dark period of 22 years. According to Tufail Banday, a Srinagar resident, the army's statement might be a rebuff to chief minister as well, who had previously demanded a rollback of AFSPA. “Normally, infiltration takes place after the melting of snow in spring and we get to hear this statement that 500 men are waiting to cross over every year. It is just to remind the chief minister that neither we (army) nor the laws are going anywhere,” Mr Banday believes.
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