By: Kamal Baruah
They sneaked on the battlefield, packed their kits, locked travelling trunks inside barracks, and finally jumped onto Kashmir. The life of a soldier moves on, where the chaos and lawlessness took over the valley. Most of them were just 18+, nothing knew about combating terrorism, and instead planned a special celebration after Republic Day Parade. The contingent seemed to be filled with joie de vivre after the best marching trophy at Rajpath but an order shocked them as a horrid nightmare.
The Transit Camp at Race Course was spooked that night as never before. All previous postings had been cancelled by Vayu Bhawan. They had no idea about it. It was the day before the grand finale of RD Parade 1990; the Rawalpora shooting incident took place. On the morning of 25th January, motorcycle-borne terrorists fired from automatic weapons at unarmed IAF personnel killing Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna, Corporal D.B. Singh, Corporal Uday Shankar, and Aircraftman Azad Ahmad, while they were waiting at the bus stand.
The military strategy towards the valley had been reviewed. Soldiers moved with convoys at the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Men in blue became no longer friendly with the valley. Pak sponsored terrorism misguided Kashmiri youth in the name of Azadi and insurgency by JKLF escalated after the disputed assembly election in 1987 that forced 5 lakh Kashmiri pundits to leave the valley after a campaign of genocide started on 19 January 1990.
The recent movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ helped to awaken many to the horrors of genocides. I had a special connection with Kashmir valley as I had also been part of that RD Parade contingent over the timeline of Kashmir during the 90s. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was then the Home Minister during VP Singh’s government whose fame rivalled that of Chief Minister Faruq Abdullah for appointing Jagmohan as Governor. Soon the CM resigned, the Governor suggested the dissolution of the Assembly and JKLF conspired to incite riots, violence against the Kashmiri Pundits.
No one has listened and looked at them, who has the strength of over half a million. This is how human rights are reckoned as trivial Kashmir. The world has also turned a blind eye to over 1000 murders of innocent unarmed and helpless men, women, and children which had taken place in the valley throughout one and half years in the hands of trained self-styled freedom fighters of Kashmir. They were packed shoulder to shoulder on the road and became refugees in their own country. Refugees suffered, died of infection and disease in collided camps.
Kashmir belongs as much to Kashmiri Hindus as belongs to Kashmiri Muslims. The propriety of the citadel of human awakening and freedom has ignited the complete exodus of the entire race while the world civilized nations failed to respond to the barbaric uprooting of the entire race of people.
The valley also got suffering from the controversial law AFSPA at the same time; soldiers faced threats from militants for being uniform personnel. Facing QRT was beyond the dreadful wild weather of winds, rains, and cold bite. As nights were compulsory blackout, we lost our way in the dark under the covering of sudden snowfall. The rays of morning sun reflected from the thin blanket of snow trapped over the surface that blurred our eyes. The silent valley was unpredictable and catastrophically unsafe. You never know when a bullet from AK-47 or a rocket launcher could come down.
There was mortar shelling on forwarding posts along the LOC. Lives were never easy. The troops lay barbed wire at the most wonderful mountain valley road at Uri-Muzaffarabad. Normal life often came to a grinding halt amid fear and terrorism by separatists but the most unforgettable memory of Kashmir is the colours of the mountains that change at different hours of a day. We saw stunning snowfall hit the blue mountain all of a sudden. Amidst the breeze, it is dotted with olive-green military posts. Those picturesque panoramas are not just beautiful but covered by tall grass where cannabis grows abundantly. Army intensifies search for infiltrators along the three-tier border.
Over the years terrorists attacked pilgrimage and instigated the valley into a conflict zone. Yet our energy and enthusiasm for life were very high. We went beside the Jhelum and Indus, beneath the Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Ladakh in leisure despite unprovoked shelling over Jammu, Rajouri-Poonch. We also retaliate missiles befittingly at the cross borders at Kargil. We felt alive seeing the river flows abundantly. The hustle-bustle of shikaras, houseboats, and grace of the paradise suffered a major jolt. Travel & tourism failed to get a boost for ongoing unrest and uncertainty. Nevertheless, Kashmiri Muslims struggle for the basic needs of life. India being the great secular democratic country must do for Kashmiri refugees in the name of humanity. (The author is a former air warrior)