Laying bare the Indian State’s terrifying impunity in Kashmir

Sanjay Kak in The Caravan:

ScreenHunter_138 Mar. 13 16.25A young Kashmiri man is working in his father’s paddy field, bare-chested in the humid late summer, his strong body glistening with exertion. His mother and sisters work alongside, knee-deep in water. Let’s just imagine that they’re humming a tune off a nearby transistor radio.

That’s how the story, which I first heard almost exactly ten years back, begins—Soon an army jeep, closely followed by a truck, pulls up on the road next to their fields. The men inside appear to watch for some time. Then half a dozen armed soldiers step out briskly, and walk towards the family. There may have been an exchange of words, though later no one can confirm what was said.

The soldiers quickly grab the young man, and drag him off into the waiting truck. His muscular torso did not suggest strength any more, it was quietly noted afterwards, but great vulnerability. The women ran after the soldiers, shouting and screaming. One of them pulled off her headscarf, tossing it at the feet of the departing soldiers, in a final gesture of abject surrender. But there was no space for mercy here: these were men from the Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army, the much feared RR, trained for counter-insurgency, and said to be “psychologically strong”. They were not known to relent. As the olive-green truck rolled away, it was as if its engine were sucking away the very air from this landscape. For a little while longer the women could still be seen, flailing their arms in muffled, incoherent despair, and then, a heaving heap of exhausted bodies on the ground.

A week later, the young man’s father was still doing the rounds of army outposts in the area, trying to find his missing son. Dense concentric webs of barbed wire girdle these camps, with a second impenetrable ring of sandbags and metal sheets, which together buttress the nervous, edgy authority of the soldiers. Over several days the elderly man was passed on from camp to camp; after craven postures of servility and submission had been struck before soldiers and Subedars, in front of boyish Captains and Majors, he was finally ushered into the presence of “C.O. sahib”, the Commanding Officer of the unit.

Ah, that was your son, the Colonel is said to have remarked, sharp in his mint-fresh camouflage fatigues and his polished combat boots. The Colonel was almost smiling now—good-looking boy, handsome, nice strong body. He was with us, he said, but he’s gone now.

More here