Major Gaurav Arya: an Army man’s perspective on Kashmir and Pakistan

Amidst the growing hullabaloo about Bharat’s relation with Pakistan, in light of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence, Pakistan fueled stone pelting in Kashmir and frequent cease fire violations on the Line of control (LOC), a retired Indian Army officer, Major Gaurav Arya (veteran) has come out to vent his passionate feelings on the state of Kashmir.

Major Gaurav Arya, a brave-heart who stepped up in support of the Indian Army 17 years after leaving the services, as he felt that people of our country have been shown a false image of the Indian Army. He is an alumni of St. Stephens College Delhi, where he studied History (Hons). He joined the Indian Army in 1993 and served with 17 Kumaon Regiment in various operational areas including Kashmir. He now works for a multi-national company in New Delhi, as President.

Watch Major Gaurav Arya (17th Kumaon Regiment) speak for the common Indian Army soldier

In the existing circumstances, in the context of the pathetic conditions of Kashmir, he expounded in detail about what precisely needs to be done in his wordpress post quoted below-

Srinagar is an urban mess, accentuated by decades of neglect. Kashmir’s rulers have always abused their state, in the worst ways possible. And what they have nurtured is strife, victimhood, alienation that has little basis in fact, and a second-generation of stone pelters who know no other trade. Kashmir no longer produces poets, philosophers, artists and civil servants. It just produces progressively regressive iterations of Farooq Abdullah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

I spoke to everyday Kashmiris, weary of strife and terrorism, who wanted nothing more than to secure a future for their children. They said that sometimes, the simple act of children going to school or a son coming back from college becomes an excuse for celebration.

I spoke to Jawans of Central Police Organizations (Indian Army is not operationally deployed in Srinagar), and could sense a deep pain. They are routinely humiliated by two-penny stone pelters and not permitted to retaliate. I asked a Jawan why criminal elements continued to pelt stones on them, and not the Army. His answer was straightforward. “The last time they pelted stones on Army and tried to interfere in an operation, the Army shot three of them dead. We don’t have that luxury. Unshackle us for a few hours, just a few hours, and that will be the last day of stone pelting in Srinagar,” he said, with suppressed anger.

And then there were those CRPF officers, huddled together in front of the TV on the cold evening of 6 April, eagerly waiting for some anchor to pay respects to their 75 brothers who were martyred in Dantewada. At 11:45 pm, the senior officer got up telling his juniors, “Lets go, guys. You know its not going to happen”.

He looked at me sadly and said, “We were wrong to hope. Soldiers are expendable.”

The visit to 92 Base Hospital at Badami Bagh Cantt was flooded with memories. It was here that I was brought to, evacuated actually, from HAWS (High Altitude Warfare School) in 1996 when my breathing almost stopped. The army doctors here are miracle workers, past masters of dragging back war wounded soldiers from the brink of certain death. They performed a miracle and saved Comdt. Chetan Kumar Cheetah. “He is a soldier. Yes, he is a soldier”, said a senior army medico, repeating it so that I understood. He was giving the ultimate compliment that one Fauji can give another.

My worst fears were confirmed when I was told that Maj. Satish Dahiya breathed his last here. “Stone pelters delayed the evacuation. We could not save him”, said an army medico, fury simmering just beneath the surface. “These stone pelters need to be sorted out, nice and proper”, the good doctor said. In Indian Army parlance, “sorting out” is a wide-ranging term. It can mean any measure of pain inflicted, including death. I was not surprised. The doctors here are lifesavers. But they are also soldiers. As we stood quietly inside the ICU, I realized that all doctors were wearing combat uniform (jungle camouflage) with ranks.

One OPD ward was full of CRPF and Jammu & Kashmir police personnel. Normally, you do not see personnel from other forces in army hospitals (except Navy and Air Force), since all CPOs and police organizations have their own tie ups outside. On asking the reason, I was told that in the past, when locals found out that a CRPF jawan or a policeman was admitted in a civil hospital, they would assault him inside the hospital. There have been cases of locals assaulting jawans inside ICUs.

92 Base Hospital is an Indian Army hospital. There are serious looking men with Kalashnikovs outside. The injured are safe here.

Farooq Abdullah says that we are losing Kashmir. I don’t know if we are losing Kashmir but we are certainly losing our patience. While our soldiers are shedding blood, the Kashmiri separatists and politicians are selling whatever bits and pieces of Kashmir they can find.

Kashmir does not need a healing touch. That bus has left long back. What it requires is immediate surgery. I am not a doctor but I understand that surgery requires the spilling of blood. So be it.

As a first step, the Hurriyat must be made irrelevant, immediately. No one elected them to power. India is a democracy and the only way to power is through the people. If the Hurriyat do not represent the people, whom do they represent? Let the Central Government cut of all their funding and security. Let them roam the streets of Srinagar like normal people. Let them buy their own medicines and their own flight tickets. We spend about INR 100 crores a year on the Hurriyat and other separatists. Lets stop this now. The Central Government must also immediately stop speaking to the Hurriyat. There must be massive outreach to the common man on the street. Some of the alienation is real, while a large part of it is synthetically manufactured. Nonetheless, it must be addressed. And it must be addressed without the Hurriyat.

Declare President’s Rule in Jammu & Kashmir. The Governor will call the shots. We need someone who is ruthless, yet balanced, someone whom the people respect. He has to be a former General of the Indian Army and also someone with vast knowledge of Kashmir and its people; perhaps an ex-GOC of XV Corps. It is beyond my pay grade to recommend names. The distance between Company Commanders and Corps Commanders is as large as that between Earth and Jupiter. I will keep my peace. But those who are plugged into Kashmir know what I am speaking about.

Give back the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) its honor. They must have the right to defend themselves. This force needs urgent respite. It is forever in operations. Kashmir to Naxal Operations, North East to Election Duty, Counter Insurgency Operations to Disaster Relief there is a never-ending cycle of extreme pressure.

Hand over Srinagar to Indian Army immediately and put the entire Kashmir Valley under AFSPA. For 10 days, cut off the Valley completely – no Internet, no mobile or landline connectivity, no flights, no TV or radio, no road traffic (incoming or outgoing) and no postal service/ couriers. Then start “housekeeping”. Don’t touch the innocent. Don’t spare the guilty. You have the names and addresses of all those who waved the Pakistani flag and pelted stones. Get the boys to pay them a visit.

Send arrested stone pelters to prison for a year, but never within the state. Nagaland has 11 prisons. Send one stone pelter to each prison. In that entire prison, he will be the only Kashmiri. The language, food, climate; everything that helps identify him, as a person will be absent. Select states that have absolutely no similarity with Kashmir in any manner, where even Hindi is not frequently spoken. States like Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar must be chosen. A hundred prisons must be chosen and a hundred stone pelters must be imprisoned there, just one prisoner for one prison. They will have all the human rights they want – food, rest, recreation etc. No one will be mistreated or even touched. But a Kashmiri in a Nagaland prison may as well be on Mars.

The Kashmiri youth who humiliate soldiers do so because we permit it. They know that the CRPF will not retaliate, unless the provocation is extreme. There is also the matter of the Supreme Court ruling that make it mandatory for filing of FIRs for encounter deaths by armed forces, even in disturbed areas under AFSPA. The Central Government must somehow prevail upon the Supreme Court to overturn this ruling. You cannot fight enemies of the state constantly worrying about how you will have to stand in court, as the accused.

While the Special Operations Group of the Jammu & Kashmir police is doing a stellar job, the regular police have their own challenges. There are regular charges of harassment and fleecing of the populace. Police also stand compromised because they live in the same neighborhood as the stone thrower and the terrorist. They live in constant fear of their lives and that of their families.

India must have an “Enemy of the State Act”, that ensures, among other provisions, that once a person is declared enemy of the state, the property in the person’s name belongs to the government. Using this act, the properties of all leaders of Hurriyat Conference must be attached and then auctioned, the funds used for welfare of soldiers.

There have been talks of trifurcation of J&K into Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh. This is something that must be pursued with vigor. About Article 370, there are disparate views, each more extreme than the other. Those in defence of the article know even less about it, than those who would abrogate it. The government must put its best legal brains to come up with a solution. Pakistan has already initiated the process of declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth state, all this due to Chinese pressure and CPEC.

The point I am making is elementary. If we want to be a super power, now is the time to start acting like one. Let’s be practical. Soft states are not invited to sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council. Human Rights are important, but they are not the reason that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Lets not make these rights the cornerstone of our national philosophy. The five permanent members of the UNSC are perhaps the worst human rights violators on earth. And they are the ones who get to point fingers at India’s so-called “excesses” in Kashmir. Russia and China have murdered millions of their own citizens and sent many more to death camps. America has waged more wars than all the other nations on earth combined. England and France have the worst colonial records, marred by plunder and slavery.

To fight terrorists in Kashmir and elsewhere, we use platoon weapons. We use AK47’s, Rocket Launchers (84 mm Carl Gustaf) and Light Machine Guns. We do this so that collateral damage can be restricted. This is our ethos.

When Pakistan carried out Operation Zarb-e-Azb to eliminate terror in North Waziristan and its tribal areas, this is what Pakistani forces used – F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, 203 mm & 155 mm artillery guns and cannon-mounted armored personnel carriers.

And Pakistan brazenly accuses us of using disproportionate force in Kashmir.

We must support Balochistan. Let our embassies have annual seminars on 27 March across the world. This day, Pakistan invaded and occupied a free country and made a proud people slaves. We must educate the world on how Pakistan is indulging in genocide, mostly prodded on by China. The Indian Government must also fund infrastructure for Baloch identity, internationally. Let there be a Balochistan House in twenty major world cities, manned and operated by Baloch people. The responsibility of these Baloch “embassies” will be to educate the country’s government and local population about Pakistan’s shenanigans.

Balochistan must have a Government in Exile in New Delhi, all paid for and protected by the Indian Government. We should divert our funding of Kashmiri separatists to the Baloch. Our largesse is for our friends, and not for traitors. Once this is done, Kashmir will no longer be the raison d’etre of Pakistan’s existence. It will have just too much on its plate.

Kashmir will not find peace because we want it to. It will find peace when we start respecting ourselves.

Kashmiri separatist youth slapping and kicking a soldier is not just demeaning to the uniform. It speaks of a greater malaise, that of a nation unsure of itself. It is not important that we are right. What is important is that we act. Act with finality, precision and when required, with the heel of the soldier’s boot.

Those Kashmiri youth were not insulting our soldier. They were insulting our country. They were committing treason. And we were unable to safeguard the honor of our soldier. This is the soldier we expect will die for us. We have failed him. Let this be the last time. Let us speak together as a nation, loud and proud. Let us roar with all our might.

The punishment for treason is death.”

Major Arya feels strongly against Hurriyat and the like, and believes that they must be rooted out permanently if we are to ensure the peace and security of Kashmir and Bharat. He does not take any half measures in his open letter to Burhan Wani.

Earlier, when Pakistani artists were not allowed to work in Bollywood after the Uri attacks, Major Arya was aghast by the arguments presented in their favor. He expressed the perspective of the soldiers of Bharat demanding suspension of Indo-Pak diplomatic dialogue with immediate effect in a post on facebook titled MALA FIDE INTENT

“Our boys have just about returned from across the Line of Control after a very successful surgical strike. The entire nation is delirious with joy; the entire nation, except a few.

Today, I was part of a panel discussion in JNU, interestingly called “Intellectual Terrorism”. The term is self-explanatory, though wide ranging. I will discuss one type of intellectual terrorism here. The proponents of this type of terror are to found in every walk of life, but the roots of this disease are embedded in some institutions of higher learning. More of that some other time.

Karan Johar wants to know if asking Fawad Khan to go back to Pakistan will stop terror. Mahesh Bhatt joins the chorus by saying “stop terrorism, not talks” implying that we must continue to talk to Pakistan. The cricket board will continue to play matches with Pakistan. Certain business houses will continue to do business with Pakistan. All this, while our soldiers are dying on the border.

Will sending Pakistani artists back, stopping cricket and business with Pakistan actually end terror from Pakistan? No, it most certainly will not. But there is an emotion called solidarity. You cannot make films, play cricket and do business as if everything is fine, because it is not. It makes the soldier wonder aloud, “Why should I alone bear the weight of conflict?”

This conflict between India and Pakistan is not the soldier’s personal war. He is dying and killing for you and me. Imagine a situation in which the soldier felt, and behaved, like Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhatt? Imagine if a soldier walked up to his superior and said, “Sir, while I am dying on the Line of Control, these people are going about as if everything is absolutely fine between the two countries.”

How many of you would like it if a soldier felt that this was not his personal war, and he, like Mahesh Bhatt, should walk across the Line of Control and shake hands with a Pakistani soldier? Why should he alone sacrifice for India, when others were making merry?

A soldier will die before the thinks of such treason, but its certainly food for thought, isn’t it?
Patriotism and sacrifice is not the sole responsibility of the soldier. India is Mahesh Bhatt’s country, as much as it is the soldier’s.

The United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, and the Russians did likewise when they boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. This is what happens when national interest is held paramount. And this is what must happen now.

For 70 years, Pakistan has been killing Indian citizens. Are we so inured to the pain of our fellow brethren that making a movie or playing a cricket match takes precedence over a soldier’s mourning home? 18 families have been shattered like glass. Not a word for them by our Bollywood royalty, mind you. But the pain of Fawad Khan’s departure is too much to bear, it seems. A tweet in support of Pakistani artists is mandatory.

These directors and producers will have you believe that before Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sang for Bollywood, there was no music of significance in the Hindi film industry. The cricket board is so busy making money that a widow’s silent sob and an orphan’s scream does not matter. What actually matters are day and night matches between India and Pakistan. The most keenly contested sporting event in history, they say; even better than the Ashes.

And the soldiers? Well, as far as they are concerned, they are on another planet, far removed from the glitzy Bollywood studios, and the teak paneled walls of the stately boardrooms of the BCCI. The blood, the mud, the screams and the exploding gunpowder are just distant and inconvenient, not very different from traffic during the Mumbai monsoons. Life must go on.

Its easy to ask for peace when you are a thousand miles away from the Line of Control, and your primary concerns are which party to attend this evening and where to get financing for your next film.

Peace is not a punch line. It is the end result of war.

There is a 10-year-old girl, Aditi, who under stands the nation and its ebbs and flows far better than Mahesh Bhatt and Karan Johar. See her letter attached.

Then see the poster made by Mahesh Bhatt, which he so proudly displays.

I leave it to you to decide who speaks for you. My vote goes to Aditi. This little angel has the spirit of a soldier.
The others have mala fide intent.

Jai Hind.”

Major Gaurav Arya is not one to mince words, when it comes to matters of national security such as the issue of Kashmir and Indo-Pak ties. The need is for more of these genuine voices to come out in the public forum. The days of sugar-coated statements are now long gone. Now is the time to give complete freedom to the armed forces of Bharat and leave it on their discretion to do the needful.


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