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Crisis Of 4GW In Kashmir: The Soldier’s Side

By Adfar Shah

29 July, 2013

“Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough”.


This write up is in continuation, to my earlier article titled, ‘Are Armed Forces Really Winning the 4GW (Fourth Generation War) In Kashmir’, because the article evoked a quick response from readers that further motivated me to highlight some hidden themes further especially of the soldier’s side to balance the argument.

Pertaining to the recent mishandling of the Ramban crisis by BSF, local Police and the civil administration that received a widespread condemnation of security forces from all corners, still reality seems in black and white. In spite of the furore, apart from routine procedures of shielding the culprits, the efforts to actually analyse the issue leading to unfortunate loss of civilian lives was missing. To solve the riddle, we need to understand the perspectives of both Awaam (public) and Fouj (security forces); but avoiding a bias and corruption of thoughts is a big challenge. Specific to the case of Ramban killings, the case appears to be more of ‘security forces bashing’ rather than against the failed system that actually is responsible for the continuing crisis mishandlings. Notwithstanding, investigation and identification of ‘what went wrong’ and ‘why it did go wrong’, needs to be done and errors highlighted.

There is a serious need to assess the impact of such actions on the overall security scenario, Awaam’s psyche, impact on alienation of the Awaam, and finally on the operational efficacy of security forces in the State, especially in the Valley. This would require that, we begin by appreciating the cerebral capability of each soldier in the field and evaluating the circumstances prevalent around a soldier, including his processes and systems to manage his duty in a highly vulnerable combination of demography and geography?

We need to examine whether the ‘soldier bashing’ by the Centre, the State, Politicians of all hue, the Separatist camp, Awaam, intellectuals and above all by their own organisation, is actually resulting in isolating or alienating the soldier further and increasing to his vulnerability rather than any improvement in operation handling or crowd management? Is s/he (the soldier) supposed to fight the fourth generation war (4GW) alone? We need to understand that, s/he is trying to win any war for the nation and hence needs to be not only regulated but, simultaneously guided, empowered and properly trained/professionalised as well (seems missing). When the soldier takes bullets in his chest, yet do not retaliate to prevent hurting someone, and who under extreme climatic conditions, prefer to help civilian citizens in distress, over their injured comrade in arms, do we fully appreciate his keen sense of duty and his sacrifice? Is he the Awaams’ enemy purely because of his responsibility to control a political problem? Also in case he does not know how to fight 4GW, who is actually responsible for that and who is responsible to train him, and what is being done about his limitations is a curious question? Also can we as a nation wait for him to learn 4GW concepts first, and then deploy him to the India’s conflict zones to deliver peace or can there be any different way to tackle the situation? Being a civilised democracy, does the citizen/nation treat the soldier as a human, do we praise him enough when he does well, do we condole his death when he gets killed, and are we as a nation, really concerned about both empowering and regulating him? Are our soldieries killing civilians deliberately under the pretext of self defence or inflicting unwanted collateral casualties to keep the lamp of instability burning? Are they efficiently trained in self defence and collateral free operations? Is there adequate infrastructure to train the armed forces for 4GW? Are we as a nation training them to serve the citizens, unconditionally and simultaneously, how are we protecting both the soldier and the citizens? Is such an untrained and unprofessional soldier really safeguarding Kashmir or sabotaging the very idea of peace (that is manufactured with great difficulty every year by the state’s political and defence leadership) in Kashmir?

The important question that arises is that, who is responsible for a soldier's inability to relate to psychological/sociological aspects of 4GW? If the system is not efficient enough to train or equip him fully with requisite soft and hard skills to win peace, then why blame the individual foot soldier? Perhaps, the system needs to evolve so that, the soldier alone is not targeted and crisis are not mishandled, time and again.

Military leadership needs to transform itself and more specifically there has emerged the need for the internal transformation of the various security agencies especially army. Also the nation needs to reorient itself given the challenges beset to it in its vulnerable conflict zones. Also, the media has to become impartial, and not a party to the conflict, as is currently the hallmark of our media. Fact is that, if people have suffered due to conflict, soldiers/policemen and their families too have suffered alike, that needs to be realised by one and all.

Of all the queries raised, we need an objective interpretation of incidents like Ramban, or for that matter, the entire chain of previous mishandled incidents, with a bipartisan view. Now if the chief minister is to be believed, the incident was a mere provocation and it was the cleric who actually provoked people against the forces. However when the same CM wants AFSPA to go and justice to be delivered in Pathribal (25 March, 2000), Kunan Poshpora (February 23, 1991) like incidents however, nothing impressive has been done both by the Centre or the armed forces leadership.

We as the nation need to develop a just system, where the victim gets justice, the culprit gets punishment, the system gets a jolt and power to rethink, and the organisation gets a lesson to learn from. For this, both ends of the spectrum (Public and Forces/Police) must be investigated and the aim must be to find the protagonists who, if at all, ordain incidents like Ramban for their personal benefits, or otherwise, and the actual trigger.

Security forces or police, it appears do not know their areas of operation and thus, fail to care about local sensitivities (context & ethos) and historical record of incidents. Reason says that the ‘Ramban like incidents’ could not be the result of a spur of the moment incident but followed with a well orchestrated crescendo; the reality could be anything between the two poles but it leaves a lesson for armed forces to learn to tackle amid vulnerabilities. The facts must be further dug out (beyond CM’s theory) in order to avoid the trust deficit (dichotomy graph already high) between citizens and the security forces. The biggest problem that the nation faces in Kashmir is disbelief in the system that needs to be restored.

The other point is purely of ‘crowd management’. Not many can rationally debate a point with an individual who has a weapon in his or her hand. What was required in ‘Ramban’ was presence of a sufficiently mature person to deal with the situation and the parties to the incident. In such a scenario, one wonders what were the police/ bureaucrats-SDM/ADM doing to diffuse the situation.

Unfortunately, when routine district level administrative decisions are politically driven, the chances of throwing up quality leadership amongst the bureaucrats are remote. I believe both Awaam and Fouj are indeed in unfortunate times; between an abyss and the deep blue sea. Seeing this, military and Para-Military leadership should deliver justice both to its men and Awaam rather than shielding its men every time. Fact remains that, we only remain sympathising, and the incidents of human rights violence continue happening.

The question remains, how will India as a democratic state address people’s alienation, and how will it safeguard the common man in Kashmir? Simultaneously, we need to answer, how will the nation address the psychological and self defence crisis in its soldiers and how will military leadership improve and transform the armed forces, learning from past mistakes? At the moment, the need is to balance between ‘zero collateral damage’ and ‘soldier’s safety’ and develop effective crisis handling skills in the security forces. Armed forces apart from just bashing its men also need to understand the dynamics of 4GW and learn to handle the situations amid instigators of all kinds. They need a scholarly understanding of every crisis and its sponsorship. They need to understand the Kashmiri youth as cannon fodder and also need to conceptualise the political brinkmanship, the plethora of rumour mills and above all the sacred lies and sentiments both exact and bogus.

Last Word

Lastly, armed forces need to study Kashmir issue in the historical perspective as well as the plight of common man who is suppressed by every party in the conflict. They need to understand that Kashmir issue being political in nature is in itself, a big hurdle for final peace to settle, and the armed forces are carrying this great burden well, beyond doubt. Kashmir’s political solution has fallen prey to a plethora of the dilemmas in the minds of the intelligentsia, defence leadership, common man and the state. While some treat Kashmir issue merely as a tussle between the Ummah and nationalism, some others treat it as a mere secessionist tendency, many others treat it as an Islamist attempt to foster Shariah rule, and some maroons even treat it a communal fight, and more some treat it as an ego clash between India and Pakistan. Some even paint the unfortunate Pandit migration (due to threat of life) as a struggle between the Secularists and Islamists (disregarding the age old ethos of Kashmiriyat). Amid all these so called perspectives, everybody seems to have ignored the common suppressed Kashmiri who has never been heard and who despite carrying this whole burden of the prolonged conflict, is never cared for but given a general abstract label–‘The Kashmir Problem’, forgetting that Kashmir is not a problem, but Kashmir means its people with consciousness who are not communal, who love peace, who are suppressed by force and who want nothing, but an honourable existence. Kashmir also means its intellectually fertile youth, who have always been wrongly stereotyped and seen as a threat, rather than an opportunity. Kashmir today means a disturbed and troubled common man, who just observes the delaying politics on Kashmir issue and listens to ideological clashes between India’s Atoot Ang (integral part) and Pakistan’s Shah Rag (jugular vein). This has actually confused and alienated the common Kashmiri who feels insecure from all, even his fellows. The common suppressed Kashmiri’s plight reminds me of noted poet Sudarshan Fakir, who says,

“Mera Qatil Hi Mera Munsib Hai
Kya Mere Haq Main Faisla Dega”

(Adfar Shah, a New Delhi Based Kashmiri Sociologist belongs to Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women Studies (SNCWS) at Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, New Delhi. The views expressed by author are personal. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com).






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