Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Syed Ata Hasnain  The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) land case of 2008 is well outside public memory because Kashmir is always looked at from the ‘crisis to crisis’ point of view. Yet, we have another similar case looming on Kashmir’s landscape as the winter ebbs and spring is upon the Valley in all its finery.No one took the SASB case seriously until it hit us in the face and led to all kinds of incorrect decisions taken in the vacuum of realistic information about the Valley, the aspirations of its people and the propensity for mischief which exists from time to time. This time it is all about a faraway meadow on the very same Pir Panjal range on which exists Gulmarg; the meadow is called Tosa Maidan. It has nothing to do with shrines and gods but this time it is all about the people who live around it and the Army which uses this small tract of ground as a field firing range. Tosa Maidan, as stated before, lies on the Pir Panjal Range South East of Gulmarg. Access to it lies via the same road leading from Srinagar to Gulmarg; the drive has to be diverted from Kunzar towards Beerwah and then to Gogaldhara from where a mountain track(road) maintained by the Army takes you up the winding slopes to one of the most exhilarating landscapes in Kashmir. Since 1964 the area has been leased to the Army and the Air Force for use as a field firing range and the 50 year lease runs out on 18 April 2014. For the less informed on military detail, a field firing range is a tract of ground to be used for live firearms practice depicting battle conditions. Weapons are usually fired at optimum ranges as against the restrictive ranges in cantonments and military stations. Such ranges also provide scope for conduct of restricted tactical maneuvers in realistic settings under battle conditions. All the formations of the Army in the Kashmir Valley are dependent on this tract of land at Tosa Maidan which measures approximately 3000 kanals, to conduct their annual field firing which is a compulsory part of annual training. There is no population which is allowed to reside within the...

The Men in Uniform – A Class Apart

The Men in Uniform – A Class Apart

This one for all the soldiers who live dangerously to defend the nation – what trauma they personally go through is seldom realised. Editor    Adfar Shah Abstract: Forces today are beset with certain issues and challenges around the globe. The increased political instability, social rupture, widespread chaos, increased criminality, inequality shaped by disparities, structural violence, crisis and continuing public protests have undoubtedly increased the soldier’s troubles. Men in uniform, be they army or police personnel, are installed like machines to regulate everything peacefully – that too at the eleventh hour, without actually addressing the political and public issues. The soldier turns highly vulnerable and faces the public wrath every time for no of fault of his! The very same soldier also faces a plethora of negative stereotyping by the masses, is labeled in various negative stereotypes (sometimes correctly so) by the public mainly in conflict zones, as inhuman and treated like an enemy. Despite being armed, he is helpless and merely used in a manner similar to the scarecrow, to drive the public off in turbulent times. The question is, has the State forgotten the soldier and his sensitivities? Is there a need to empower the soldier (cop, commando or jawan) in the true sense to enable him to live with emotional balance and fight the challenging fourth generation war? There were many more similar questions that set aflame the questioning process in my mind while interacting with some of the men in uniform, mostly police personnel in the Kashmir Valley. This paper is based on casual interactions with men in uniform, besides the tool of observation and field experiences have been employed to analyze the soldier’s plight in conflict zones. The case of the Kashmir Valley has been taken for the researcher himself belongs to that context. Introduction My best friend belongs to the Jammu and  Kashmir Police Force. He came to meet me while I was enjoying my summer vacations at my home in the remote village of Watlar in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal District. Since Kashmir had witnessed some of the worst summer unrests since 2008,here, I enquired of him about his perception of their fighting the public (mob control/crowd management)...

Kashmir 2014: Talk by Gen Ata Hasnain at IDSA

Kashmir 2014: Talk by Gen Ata Hasnain at IDSA

  “Kashmir 2014: A Review and Prognosis” The Internal Security Centre at IDSA conducted a talk by Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain on 06 January 2014 on the topic “Kashmir 2014: A Review and a Prognosis”. Gen Hasnain provided a strategic review of the Kashmir situation through the 1990s and 2000-2013 followed by a prognosis for the period 2014-18. This involved analyzing key concerns like the effect of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal on Kashmir, issues pertaining to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in J&K and the need to take Operation Sadbhavna to the next level. Followings are the key points brought out by the speaker in his talk: Highlighting the strategic importance of Kashmir, Gen Hasnain argued that it is important to keep in mind the October 1947 ‘Instrument of Accession’ and the 1994 joint resolution of the two houses of the Parliament, asserting the idea that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is an integral part of India. Having said that, he laid emphasis on changing the narrative for Kashmir against established narratives and then went on to analyze Kashmir’s current status and where is the situation heading. After years of antipathy and anguish, many people claim victory in Kashmir today. But the question is, can a victory be declared when there isn’t even an articulated political and military aim? Gen Hasnain felt that while a military aim existed in vague terms, a political aim in Kashmir has been eluding for long possibly because of the unclear external and internal dynamics.  Militarily, infiltration has been taken care of and every year the numbers of successful infiltrators in the valley are dwindling – all thanks to the Line of Control (LoC) fence which was constructed in 2003 -4 that changed the mathematics of terror; more terrorists being eliminated than the numbers that could successfully infiltrate. Politically, however, he stated that there is a long way to go and the Army would have to continue to be the lead agency in supporting and rebuilding efforts; this is because of the outreach that it has and the organizing will and zeal to bring normalcy in Kashmir. No other...

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