I’m not writing this piece out of some admiration for Kanhaiya Kumar, and I must say that while videos showcasing him as anti-national were clearly doctored, the allegations of sexism against him must be thoroughly examined before hailing him as a hero, and I personally am not very left-leaning by economic conviction, nor do I share many leftists’ tendency to exaggerate majoritarianism and trivialize minority radicalism. However, given that a video of his, in which he says that while he respects the Indian Army, he condemns some Indian soldiers for having committed rapes in Kashmir, is doing the rounds to paint him as anti-national, I am writing this piece to defend him on this particular score.
If we, as Indians, consider Kashmiris to be a part of our nation (which I surely do and Kanhaiya, unlike some other JNU students, has said he does too), then acknowledging their genuine grievances that have fuelled their alienation from the Indian national mainstream cannot be held to be anti-national, as I have discussed at some length in this piece. Some of the rapes, like the gang-rape in Kunan Poshpora, in which even old women weren’t spared, were very heinous and are a matter of national shame, as the rapes in Balochistan and the erstwhile East Pakistan by rogue elements in the Pakistani army ought to be for Pakistanis and the Abu Gharib atrocities ought to be for Americans.
Besides, I would add that none other than Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar have accepted that sections in the army have engaged in human rights violations, as you can see here. Would the Modi-bhakts now call them anti-national too by that benchmark?
In fact, some men from our security forces have been accused of and convicted for crimes against women even outside Kashmir and the northeast, of which this is one example. Many have even been convicted in some hundreds of cases for human rights violations in Kashmir and the northeast, as you can see here and here.
This is not to suggest stereotyping in a negative fashion all our security personnel, many of whom endure the worst circumstances risking their own lives for our sovereignty and security, and Kanhaiya clearly said in that video that he, on the whole, respects our soldiers. Elsewhere, Kanhaiya has also said that many of our jawans come from families engaged in agriculture, and if we truly care for our soldiers, farmers’ issues deserve priority, something I agree with.
Indeed, the army has done much good work for Kashmiris as well, like running coaching centres that have enabled Kashmiri children to get into IITs and helping arrange jobs for Kashmiri youths across India. Kargil war martyr Capt. Vijayant Thapar sponsored the speech therapy of a Kashmiri Muslim girl who had lost her voice (in a very touching letter he wrote to his parents on the battlefield shortly before his martyrdom, he requested his parents to continue sending money to that girl), other than he and some of his colleagues having taken care of her otherwise.
That said, respect for the army doesn’t mean that army men should not be held accountable for any wrongdoings, which have, in some cases, even included corruption, as the sting operation involving Bangaru Lakshman and some senior army officers demonstrated.
And yes, I would request those suggesting that the pain of the Kashmiri Pandits displaced from their homeland should be misused to overlook, deny, condone or justify human rights violations by rogue elements in our security forces to read this article, which also counters the rather baseless rationalisations and conspiracy theories offered by many Kashmiri separatists for the Kashmiri Pandits’ exodus.
I would like to thank my friend Suvankur Sukul for his inputs.
(Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)