Prolonged War Demoralized Indian Troops in IOK

(Syed Sajjad Shaukat, )

The decades-long deployment of hundred and thousands troops in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir has demoralized the Indian security forces, who have unleashed a nonstop reign of terror against the innocent people of Kashmir, especially the youth and women. The cause of demoralization is not only the failure in crushing the freedom movement, but also the administrative, economic, social and moral issues relating to the troops’ life in the camps and back at their respective homes.

Since 1989, when the Kashmiri people accelerated the movement for freedom, the Indian military and paramilitary have killed tens of thousands of Kashmiris through ruthless tactics such as extrajudicial killings, rapes and molestations and use of pallet guns. Despite employing brute tactics like curfew and torture, rape and arson, illegal detentions and kidnappings, massacre and fake encounter killings, and despite the recent more than a year-long lockdown, the Kashmiris have been protesting and fighting for their inalienable right to self-determination as guaranteed by the UN SC resolutions.

In fact, the ongoing different war between the Indian occupying forces and Kashmiri freedom fighters is simply a ‘clash of wills’. Military thinkers agree that though the physical force will determine the type and scale of war, yet it is the ‘will to fight’ or ‘moral force’ that will determine the outcome of war. Clausewitz puts it this way, “One might say that the physical force seems little more than the wooden hilt, while moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon”.

In his book, “Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945”, Creveld identifies the elements of moral force, whom he calls “fighting power, the willingness to fight and the readiness, if necessary, to die.” The greater these elements, the less vulnerable an armed force will be to demoralization. Moral force, then, is the crucial factor in determining the combat power of any belligerent.”

The ongoing war between the Indian state terrorists and Kashmiri people proves that the ‘will to fight’ and ‘moral force’ have been noted more in the latter who have exerted psychological impact of causing fear, shock, mental depression and stress, resulting into demoralization of Indian military and paramilitary troops. Numerous cases of suicide in the Indian troops, opening fire on themselves or on their colleagues with service rifles and several other tense reactions have been reported in connection with the Indian security forces in the controlled territories of Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Here are some of the examples:

In the current year, quoting officials, Indian media reported that a Central Reserve Police Force Inspector M Damodar was critically injured on August 12, after he shot himself with his service rifle in the Shergari area. A CRPF man on August 13 committed suicide in Awantipura, Pulwama district. On May 12, two CRPF personnel committed suicide by shooting themselves in two separate incidents in Anantnag. The same day, a CRPF ASI Bengali Babu committed suicide by shooting himself. On March 21, a CRPF man posted in Srinagar committed suicide by shooting himself. On July 18, following an altercation, a soldier Thapa pumped five bullets into Major Shikhar Thapa, close to LoC in Uri sector. In May this year, a soldier committed suicide by shooting himself in the Laam sector along the LoC. In January this year, a CRPF soldier shot himself while on duty inside a camp at Tral town in the Pulwama district.

According to Indian media: “In 2018, 80 army personnel committed suicide. In 2017, the number of army men who committed suicide was 75 while in 2016 this number was 104”. Similarly, in 2013 eight people from the armed forces committed suicide in J&K and four personnel were killed in fratricide incidents. In 2012, nine forces personnel committed suicide and one was killed in a fratricide incident. In 2011, Lt Col Pankaj Jha shot himself, while Maj Sobha Rani, Capt Sunit Kohli, Lt Sushmita Chatterjee and a number of other officers also did the same. In recent past, a Major told BBC that “many soldiers are growing uncomfortable with their role in Kashmir, even fearing that they are effectively becoming an army of occupation”.

Indian defence analysts and psychologists have indicated various causes of suicides and fratricides, found in the Indian military, paramilitary troops and police, stationed in the IOK. They have attributed these trends to “continuous work under extreme hostile conditions, perpetual threat to life and of course; the home sickness due to long separation from families.” While other experts have opined that the growing stress in the Indian armed forces is owing to “low morale, bad service conditions, low pay and a communication gap with superiors.” Maj Gen (r) Afsar Karim, who has fought three wars, remarks, “The stress may be high among soldiers. The army is involved in a tough long running internal security environment. There is lack of rest. They get angry when they are denied leave and their officers themselves take time off. It triggers a reaction, while they are well armed and they take their own lives or those of their colleagues”.

In this connection, the Indian Col SK Sakhuja stated, “Soldiers kill each other when one of them perceives that they are being harassed by superiors or when they have heated arguments among themselves.” Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had remarked in its 31st report on “Stress Management in the Armed Forces” in 2011 that the military establishment is not taking reports of suicides and fratricides seriously…the “alarming trend is attributable to increased stress environment leading to psychological imbalance in the soldiers”. Nevertheless, India has also hired the services of counselors and stationed psychiatrists close to its troops especially in IOK to combat stress which has driven many soldiers to kill themselves or fellow soldiers.

Exactly a year after New Delhi announced the abrogation of Article 370 as well as the bifurcation of state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories, J&K Lt Governor Girish Chandra Murmu resigned from his post. He discussed the prevailing security scenario with J&K GOC-in-Chief Northern Command Lt Gen Y K Joshi. Nonetheless, the tendencies of suicide and fratricide are increasing in the Indian security forces in IOK, who have been demoralized by fighting a prolonged war with the freedom fighters. They completely lack ‘will to fight’ or ‘moral force.’

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