Winning Hearts In Kashmir Not An Easy Task
2 March 2004
The Times of India
Jammu: Everyone knows that winning hearts and minds is the key to defeating an insurgency. But the Kashmir experience shows this is easier said than done. Now that the security forces are taking a steady toll of militants in the state, allegations of rights violation are again surfacing, as are the problems of separating fact from fiction and disinformation. Additional director-general of police (CID) Ashok Bhan maintains that the forces must continue to mount pressure on the militants. 'The only way that you will get no complaints is if we do nothing.' He concedes that things go wrong at times, 'but they should not be blown out of proportion'. With hundreds of search operations every day, it will be surprising indeed if there were no excesses, deliberate or otherwise. Actually the situation has improved considerably from the days in 1993-1995 when 'counter insurgents' or Ikhwanis openly used terror tactics to hem in the militants. Police chief Gopal Sharma confirms that the ground situation is much better than before. 'The year 2003 has seen the lowest civilian toll - 836 - since militancy began in 1990,' he pointed out. Violent incidents in the Valley had declined and the runaway violence in the Poonch region has been contained. Yet read the papers in the state and it appears that human rights excesses are the norm. The insurgency is being fought in full media glare.