Letters to the editor

Violence in the Valley: 'The situation in Kashmir is a tragedy of errors'

A selection of readers' opinions over the past week.

Unrest in the Valley
The situation in Kashmir is a tragedy of errors of omission and commission by the government, the army as well as citizens (“The real tragedy: There will never be a solution to the Kashmir problem”).

As fellow-Indians, Kashmiris are our brothers and sisters. The government needs to invest in developing and strengthening human resources in the Valley alongside physical resources. Kashmiris need to be shown that they are a part of the country and have a stake in it. – Veturi Shivaprasad

***

This is one of the best articles I have read my lifetime of 42 years. Kudos to Ajaz Ashraf and Scroll.in for this brilliant piece of journalism. – Ashfaq Bhat

***

The people of Kashmir were promised a plebiscite after Raja Hari Singh agreed to accede to India to defend his state from an invasion by Pakistan.

So why has it still not been held? Year after year, the issue of the plebiscite in lost in the fight between the Indian and Pakistani governments.

So today, if you asked me if Kashmir is an integral part of India, I would say yes. But if you ask me if we have made Kashmiris feel as though they’re a part of India, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Kashmir is among the most militarised areas of the world. There are numerous allegations of rapes and use of excessive power by some armed force personnel. I am not stereotyping the Armed Forces but a few bad eggs can spoil the basket and hence, the armed forces have a bad reputation among Kashmiris.

However, taking up of arms and violence from both sides is only worsening the situation. A peaceful discussion is required between the government and Kashmiris. We need to make them feel respected and that they belong. For instance, pellets guns should not be used on protesters.

In a democracy, it is the will of the people that is paramount. – Amir Khan

***

The present situation in Kashmir is undeniably the result of vested political interests over the years.

Whenever such unrest arises, politicians, instead of studying the situation on the ground, give bytes to TV channels and interviews to mediapersons from the comfort of their homes and offices, leaving it to the security forces to deal with the problem.

Later, they blame security forces for excesses when things get out of hand.

No armed force or paramilitary force personnel are happy to be in a situation where they have to fire at their own people. The people of Kashmir should also realise that instead of hounding the security forces they should question their leaders.

And Pakistan is only interested in adding fuel to the fire.

I only wish and pray that our politicians realise the gravity of this situation bring things under control since it is the common man who suffers the most. – RC Verma

***

I agree with Ajaz Ashraf’s view that there will probably be no solution in Kashmir, just varying degrees of blood-letting. However, there are two aspects that he hasn’t quite touched upon:

The first is the idea of India as it stands now. These are Modi times, agreed. But Dadri and ghar wapsi campaigns notwithstanding, for the average Indian – across religions – not much has changed on the cultural front. Our access to our respective faiths (if we choose such a path) is absolutely unfettered. Even in the green and calm confines of Cooke Town in Bangalore, I get to hear the Azaan early in the morning followed by the chime of Church bells.

Localities come equally alive for Eid, Christmas, Diwali or Ganesh Chaturthi, among other festivals. Three decades ago, secularism was the only thing we could show to the world while 75% of the population lived in abject poverty. But today, while India retain much of the pluralism, the economy has galloped ahead. So should not the India experiment continue, with Kashmiris as part of it?

Second, if Kashmir were to secede, recent history, especially over the last two decades, shows that their journey to statehood will be anything but peaceful. The militants in Kashmir are no Dylan-strumming peace-lovers. – K Anand

Different lens
This is a wonderful list of articles and books by Kavita Krishnan (“A road to empathy and solidarity: A reading list on Kashmir”). The new imagination she is talking about stems from a new perspective

The Indian government projects itself as the protector of Kashmir and its people – one that often blunders, but has their best interests at heart. This narrative is false.

The “new imagination” needs to be on that sees the problem in Kashmir through the combined perspective of the Indian as well as the Pakistani govermment. Both need a slow-burning Kashmir crisis to fulfil their respective agendas and as a useful and tool of distraction. – Srivatsa K

People and prejudices
My heart goes out to Burhaan Kinu for having to deal with biased attitudes time and again, especially from journalists who are supposed to be well-informed. (“‘You must be sad that your brother was hanged’: A Kashmiri journalist on the bias of our press corps”).

When you come across such experiences and news reports of Kashmiris being discriminated against, it is no surprise that so many Kashmiris want their state secede from India. Reading Kinu’s article makes my blood boil. I would advise him to hang in there and keep being thick-skinned about such comments. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. – Kishore Arora

Terror talk
Is the writer of this article eulogising militants in Kashmir or writing an article on English prose (“How exactly does the Indian media define a terrorist?”)

He says: “Most definitions of the act involve attacks on civilian targets, but sections of the Indian media consistently use the term “terrorism”/”terrorists” to also describe cases of military targets being attacked.”

If someone attacks a military target with the intent to sabotage, does it not qualify as a terrorist act? Do only attacks against civilian targets qualify as terrorist acts?

Anybody who takes up terror as a tool to spread panic and fear in the minds of the people through an attack – be it on civilians or on a military establishment – is a terrorist. – V Krishnamurthy

***

Thank you, Scroll.in for publishing such an article. In just a few words, the writer has conveyed a lot. It’s a great piece of writing and a fantastic piece of research. – Amit

***

It appears as though Scroll.in can’t refrain from seeing an anti-Muslim bias in everything.

Burhan Wani's representation as a terrorist in the mainstream national media is contrasted with a news story on Manipur where the insurgents were referred to as militants in the national dailies.

But a slightly more rigorous Google search would have thrown up recent NDTV coverage of slain Bodo insurgents where they were alluded to as terrorists in the headline.

As an academic I find this hypothesis quite intriguing. However, determination of such reporting bias would entail textual analysis of news articles across national dailies over a significant period of time. – Rohit Ticku

Poll position
The cricketer does indeed have the gift of the gab but one is yet to see the kind of maturity expected from someone who will run the affairs of a state (“Will Navjot Singh Sidhu be AAP’s CM candidate in Punjab?”). The Aam Aadmi Party though, in my opinion, will get a boost from Navjot Singh Sidhhu’s entry into it as Bhagwant Mann has not proved to be too impressive. – Kulbir Singh

HIV support
I found this article to be upsetting (“Don't spend money looking for an HIV cure – help the infected live instead, say the AIDS affected”). As an American living with HIV, I believe we should pursue a cure precisely because it is the only way to truly help the affected live.

Unique among developed countries, the US has no guaranteed healthcare and has only recently made strides to offer basic healthcare for all. Americans with HIV can testify to the tenuous link between antiretrovirals and so-called living.

The period immediately following my diagnosis was the financial crisis, in which people lost their jobs and the health insurance that comes with employment. While there are programs like Ryan White that purport to assist Americans with HIV, these safety nets had many holes which I personally seen people fall through when state and local governments experienced funding shortfalls.

So long as we place our faith in indefinite access to antiretrovirals, we force people with HIV to gamble on the indefinite and full funding of governmental and NGO programs that are, by design, temporary and heavily affected by political whim and the ebb and flow of the economy.

While I won't pretend that what I saw compares to the horrors of those who've never had access to antiretrovirals, there is something spectacularly frustrating about watching your friends die, grow seriously ill or become bankrupt every time the economy hiccups, and knowing that you could be next.

Instead of asking why relatively wealthy Americans are increasingly demanding a cure that will disproportionately benefit relatively wealthy Americans, you should be asking why India is not turning its considerable scientific strength towards a cure that will free it and its people from the caprice of a pharmaceutical system that has proven itself inclined to enslave people with HIV at public expense, or hang us out to dry altogether.

Perhaps also instead of creating a false dichotomy between treatment and funding for a cure, you should ask why the two are being pitted against one another, when we would never dare to suggest that minor increases in funding for, say, space programs (worthless pet programs in the US and India) are not diverted to fully fund gaps in healthcare for all while we continue to focus our scientific priorities on things that will provide tangible benefits to humanity.

Lastly, I hope that you realise asking HIV health bureaucrats for their opinion on whether we should fund treatment instead of a cure is like asking the oil industry whether it thinks we should be spending money on alternative fuels when so few people have access to private transportation. Understand that these people are going to give you an answer that increases their bureaucracy, but does not necessarily serve the public good. – Andy

Poor sport
India doesn’t care about its sportspersons and don’t have a sports culture (“India's apathy with sport: Even a blockbuster Vijender Singh could not sell out the Thyagraj Stadium”).

The infrastructure in our schools is very poor and parents don’t encourage their children to take up a sport seriously.

Apart from cricket, there is no other sport that the country is passionate about.

Vijender Singh is a part of that rare trailblazing breed of sportspersons in India. I sincerely hope he goes on to win many titles, but even that is unlikely to open the eyes of this moribund society that is more occupied with its past (misplaced) glory and jingoism. – Vishal Jindal

Imperfect freedom
It’s a shame that 69 years after Independence we are still witnessing heinous and degrading treatment of Dalits (“An assault on Dalits may have triggered the biggest lower-caste uprising in Gujarat in 30 years”).

Casteism should be condemned in the strongest possible way. We need to rise above party politics and show solidarity with the weaker and neglected sections of society. – Paramjit Basi

Power nap
Unnecessary and unwarranted attention has been given to Rahul Gandhi falling asleep during a Lok Sabha debate on atrocities against Dalits (“Was up all night searching for Pokemon': Rahul Gandhi caught snoozing (again) in Parliament”). In this war of words, attention is diverted from vital that need to be debated in the Parliament.

Due to fatigue, stress, lack of sleep and several such reasons, we often need to take forty winks. After all, the politicians are also human. It is immature to make such a mountain out of a molehill. – KB Dessai

Star power
It’s puzzling, the length to which Rajini lovers will go (“Where there is Rajinikanth, there is punch dialogue”).

It’s one thing to watch his movies as a guilty pleasure and a whole other thing to publish a good-for-nothing article for the national audience who just known Rajinikanth for his jokes.

I know that many would have loved this article, but I personally don’t feel for any artist who has not been able to mentally invigorate and bring about a social impact.

The Rajinis, Suryas, NTRs, Bachchans and Khans need to do a lot more than just be muses for filmmakers who want to show their artistic prowess and get rich while at it. – Darshan Kaarki

Memory lane
What a heart-warming article – it made me nostalgic (“The Sikhs of Kolkata: A dhaba’s closure reminds the city of its warm bond with the community”)!

One dhaba you missed here is Amritsar hotel at Gopalnagar crossing near Alipore. What a fascinating torka they used to make! I would take a tram from the Kalighat fire brigade and come back with roti and torka.

Sikh taxi drivers were considered to be the most trustworthy and reliable ones. And many Sikhs living in Kolkata would speak better Bengali than many natives.

Those days are long gone – we miss Calcutta of the old. – Partha

Stale tale
What is the need for digging up the past when it has lost its relevance to India of today (“Three facts about BJP founder SP Mookerjee that a recent exhibition in Delhi did not show”)? The motive behind publishing such articles is questionable.

Do we want to confuse readers by giving them outdated information that paints the BJP in bad light? Let us accept the fact that the NDA was voted into power by an overwhelming majority of the electorate of this great country. – Hemang M

The right to choose
I thank the writer for such candid expression and logical thinking (“Why motherhood is a choice I decided not to make”). This something I have brooded over for the last 10 years of my married life. I feel overwhelmingly encouraged to stick to my decision of not becoming a biological mother.

Helping those who are already born in this rough and tough world seems meaningful to me. Bringing a child to a world that is gradually becoming numb to morality, ethics and basic principles like honesty seems ridiculous to me. – Kaushiki

***

I relate to everything the writer said as I too am a married and child-free woman – yes, that’s the term that I use. The world “childless” implies some loss or something lacking, which is not always the case.

I’m a perfectly healthy woman aged 30 and have been married for three-and-a-half years now, but I don’t want a child, simply because I don’t.

This neither makes me less of a woman, nor selfish. And children are not meant to save marriages or rekindle love – so that’s certainly the wrong reason to have them.

It’s high time our society recognise that a woman has the right to decide whether she wants her eggs fertilised or not! – Trisha

Doctor who
It’s quite conceivable for something like this to happen in India there is so much inequality (“WHO report finds 57% of 'allopathic doctors' in India did not have medical qualifications”). There needs to be some kind of socio-economic balance in the country for proper implementation of any system. When there is such an imbalance, quacks can flourish. Interestingly, this is not limited to the field of medicine alone. – Vaidya Prasad

Religious sentiment
I’m from the other backward classes and a spiritual man and condemn violence (“Lesson from Gujarat: Cow protection vigilante groups need to be banned”). However, the cow is the most pious animal on earth, is second to our mother and helps us live sustainably through its contribution to agriculture, dairy and economy.

You need to adopt a balanced view, especially when it comes to animal rights, as they don’t have a voice.

If India is a secular country, then all religious sentiments must be respected.

We have two options: either ban all the religions in india or live peacefully and respect all religious sentiments. – Naresh

Caste and psychology
I wish to congratulate Narendra Jadhav for his succinct analysis and four action points (“Beyond Una: Narendra Jadhav'sond four action points to deal with atrocities against Dalits”).

I’d like to add what, in my opinion, is another vital action point.

This relates to a more nuanced cultural and psychological intervention for various strata of society, including primary and secondary schooling, and through texts that are part of the curricula. Such interventions might also be offered to both perpetrators and victims through State legislated institutions, on line courses, and social media but only after such interventions are piloted and tested.

For such interventions to succeed, it will be necessary for caste and its inter-sectionality with social class, gender and religion to be incorporated into training of mental health professionals, social scientists, and activists. This proposal calls for a radical revision of existing texts and theory, including research and culturally sensitive training for mental health professionals.

Unfortunately, contemporary and fashionable global mental health bandwagons advocate superficial and intellectually hollow paradigms to address mental health, consequences of casteism and other forms of social suffering. For example, those who have been at the receiving end of a casteist mindset and suffer from humiliation and deep-seated anxieties need to understand that they have internalised the projections of their perpetrators.

They may be able to unlearn and disown these dehumanising experiences and to throw such toxic emotions back onto their enemies. Similarly, perpetrators of casteism, individuals as well as institutions, need to be deliberately stigmatised as these are deeply rooted social pathologies.

Unless both perpetrators and victims are viewed as an asymmetrical dyad, it would be unethical to pathologise victims of casteism and absolve the perpetrators of social crimes. An inter-disciplinary project sponsored by the British Academy and involving mental health professionals, medical anthropologists, economists, and other social scientists is currently in the process of developing innovative culturally valid concepts and mechanisms for interventions. – Sushrut Jadhav

***

This article is well-written, analyses the problem thoroughly and the course of action is worth considering and implementing. This is the need of the hour. – Bachan.

Drink debate
How can you tell your readers that there’s nothing bad about having beer (“Does a sanskari BCCI now want India's cricketers never to be seen with a glass of beer?”)?

Young lives are lost to incidents of drunken driving every other day.

Don’t you agree that cricketers inspire people? If they didn’t, companies wouldn’t be stupid to pay crores to them for endorsements. – Venu Gopal

Religion and responsibility
Like the author of this article, I too, being a so-called moderate Muslim, celebrate Diwali, Rakhi and Holi (“It is not enough for Muslims to say that terrorists misinterpret Islam. Here is what they must do”).

But nowadays, we see any Tom, Dick or Harry coming on television and debating Islam and its interpretations at great lengths. The ones who speak against Islam are perceived as liberal and those who follow its path are fanatic and orthodox.

Now let’s look at terms such as Islamic terrorism, jihad, Wahabism etc. The modern usage of jihad was unheard of till the turn of the century. Also, who nurtured these terror outfits when they were just starting out? Further, who attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya?

As a Muslim, why am I being made accountable for events taking place thousands of miles away – something that is no way connected to me and on which I have no control?

If someone from any other religion commits a crime, will his or her entire community be held responsible, or asked to prove their innocence by denouncing the act?

Why do some people, just because well-educated, consider themselves an authority on Islam and its followers when they, like me, have been brought up in air-conditioned rooms and have no knowledge of the ground realities of the community? Please think before you speak. – SM Ali

Ad blip
Firstly, thanks much for publishing this (“We’re all raving about the Nike ad, but not all the sportswomen in it are named Deepika Padukone”)!

The irony of it all is that Scroll.in also needs to use the following tags – Nike and Deepika Padukone – for users to find it.

In fact, if all the sportswomen in this ad are worthy of the applause why do we need Deepika in it! If the argument is that they need a familiar face then why not use Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal or Mark Kom? These are (I hope) known to all Indians.

Why feature a former national-level shuttler known more for her career as a model and actor when we have Nehwal and PV Sindhu both breaking records and winning medals year on year!

It's a pity and definitely not expected from a brand like Nike! – Tanushree Goyal

Make what in India?
This is a very interesting and different take on India after liberalisation (“How the success of 1991 reforms arrested India’s development”). But why does the author assume manufacturing to be the end goal?

India is not China, nor will it ever be. Local factors have helped China capitalised on manufacturing and those are not at play in India. Even if a structured approach to boosting manufacturing is implemented tomorrow the question we need to ask is: is it required? And if not, what is the alternative to the ideology of manufacturing?

A look at Indian exports shows that it is not manufacturing but services that account for the bulk – that is where our expertise lies.

Be it engineering, medicine, law or other professional services, Indians are renowned for their skills and ability to work hard to achieve the desired results.

So, even if we can come close to China in terms of manufacturing output, at what cost will that happen? Will it be more favourable to the country as a whole? Most importantly, will it lead to a more sustainable form of development – especially when the resources channelised in the services sector can reap greater returns? – Shikhar Garg

Past imperfect
Your claim that “horses were brought in by the Eurasian populace (or the “Aryans”) that started migrating to the subcontinent from 1500 BC onwards” is woefully off target (“From horses to headgear, everything the ‘Mohenjo Daro’ trailer has got wrong”).

This claim by the European historians and Romila Thapar and the like in India has been denounced by world historians. Many have also said that there never was any so-called Aryan Invasion.

Indian history goes back countless years and mythology even further. The Battle of Mahabharata happened sometime around 3000 BC – where did those horses come from? – Rajiv Narayanan

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.

Play

The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.