In an interview with journalist Vir Sanghvi on New 18, former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, took apart the wave of praise that is being showered on CRPF jawans in Budgam for showing restraint in spite of being heckled by a group of youth.
The incident is believed to have taken place on 9 April, on the day Budgam went into a by-poll, though the video footage of it emerged only recently. It shows armed CRPF personnel walking away, pursued by men hitting them, abusing them and raising slogans asking India to "go back".
In spite of the provocation, the army men didn't react, earning them rapturous admiration on social media for not retaliating at the men. Crickets Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir condemned the youth in the strongest possible words, threatening severe consequences to those who oppose the Indian army and asking those who demand azadi to leave India immediately. The CRPF added that the behaviour of its personnel was exemplary, deserving of an award for such exceptional show of patience and self-control.
While admitting that the scene was disturbing and not condoning the behaviour of the youth, Abdullah demolished the hyperbolic praise in a few well-chosen words.
Taking on those who recommended an award to the jawan for showing restraint, Abdullah asked, "How else should he have reacted?" While admiring the behaviour of the soldiers, he added, "The last I checked, our security forces didn't have the permission to shoot people just because they were being heckled."
But this was not all. Abdullah, who represents Beerwah seat in the state assembly, also said, "As a politician I get heckled from time to time. Does that mean my response should be to pull out a gun and shoot somebody?"
Abdullah pointed out that the approval lavished on the CRPF only goes on to show how the Centre is "mishandling" the crisis in Jammu & Kashmir.
Hours later, another video surfaced of a man tied to an army jeep, in Beerwah, sparking outrage that he was allegedly being used as a human shield against stone-pelters. The authenticity of the video is not yet confirmed, but there's already fresh anger at the Indian Army in the Valley, accused of using excessive force on the population for decades now.
Abdullah reacted to the video, saying that while he understands the outrage generated across the country by the video of the heckling of CRPF personnel, he is angered that the other video — of the youth tied to a jeep — has not led to a similar reaction.
"Let's see channels going ballistic and having discussions with outraged panelists now. Probably not since 'Kashmir is ours' hell with Kashmiris," the former chief minister said, according to PTI.
In spite of the unrest in the Valley, which is under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for years now, the Centre has filed a curative petition with the Supreme Court recently, demanding immunity for the armed forces in "disturbed areas".
In July last year, the apex court had made it mandatory for first information reports to be filed in the case of an "encounter death", which is a common occurrence under AFSPA, a contentious legislation that gives sweeping powers to security personnel in India's restive border states to search, detain, and even shoot at sight.
The Centre has argued that taking away the immunity from the CRPF would make them hesitant before using force and jeopardise peace and stability in the affected regions.
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