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Life of an Indian "Jawan"

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    Life of an Indian "Jawan"

    From: The Indian Express

    They say they can finish militants but not militancy. Tired of fighting an invisible enemy, that too within the boundaries of their own country, the security forces want a political solution to end the decade-long militancy in Kashmir. They feel that fighting the symptom the militants will not achieve anything; it is the actual disease of militancy, which needs to be rooted out.

    The protracted war, fought with one hand perpetually tied behind the back, is now telling on the nerves of the jawans. Day in, day out, they pursue a shadowy foe. The long and difficult duty hours, the strain of postings in a strife-torn area and months of separation from their families has led to an increase in stress-related disorders among the men. Momentary lapses of reason are increasingly common; jawans are losing their cool over trivial issues and even shooting their colleagues and officers.

    They seem to have lost all interest in life. “For the last nine years, I have been living in small sandbag bunkers, virtually withmy boots on and my finger always on the trigger. From Assam to Punjab to Manipur to Kashmir, it is the same story for us. If there is a brief break from insurgency, we are in Bihar fighting poll violence,” said Suresh Kumar, a jawan, requesting that his battalion not be identified. “Our wives are worse than widows, our children worse than orphans. At least women whose husbands are dead can look to the mercy of their neighbours. Who is there to fend for our families back home?”

    Far away from friends and family, the circumstances and nature of duty in an insurgency-hit area is making them increasingly remote from their families. Men get no leave, for instance, even in an emergency. “I couldn’t even get leave to attend the funeral of my father, who passed away recently. I couldn’t even complain as the circumstances did not allow it,” said a CRPF jawan guarding a government installation in Srinagar.

    The lower in rank a jawan is, the tougher is his life and the less sleep he gets. “I have been in servicefor the last 13 years,” said a jawan posted in Bandipore. “The world has changed in the meantime, but barracks life remains the same. The only difference is that earlier we would take a bottle of water and go to the fields to ease ourselves. Now we need colleagues with weapons to accompany us even to attend to the call of nature.” There have been instances of jawans being fired upon while going to ease themselves. In Hawal, Srinagar, the BSF had a makeshift latrine barely 50 yards from the main bunker. But two unarmed jawans were ambushed and killed in those 50 yards.

    “Our troops are certainly working under tremendous stress and strain,” said Inspector General K. Vijay Kumar, chief of the BSF in Kashmir. “The jawans not only have long duty hours, they also work against the biological clock,” he said. “Often, they get no sleep. The duty shifts can be 1 am to 3 am and again from 5 am to 7 am.” Half of the BSF’s total strength, which is deployed in Kashmir, lives under this regimen.

    Inspector General P.C. Joshi, CRPF chief in Kashmir, admits that jawans undergo enormous stress and strain. “They guard all important installations and also protect political activists, even defeated candidates residing in far-flung villages,” he said. Joshi says a CRPF jawan puts in over 14 hours a day. “Fatigue is the main reason why jawans are becoming more and more short-tempered and, unfortunately, at times even going berserk,” he said. Recently, a CRPF jawan killed three of his colleagues after an early-morning altercation at the Meterological Office. “Around 98 per cent of my troops are deployed and there is hardly any scope for rest and recuperation,” Joshi said. “The pressure results in different types of problems. We need to be one-up on the militants, not only in weaponry but also fitness, training and morale. We need time and mental peace.”

    The Rashtriya Rifles are no exception. The Army jawans who are sent to RR call it the Rote Raho (Keep Crying) posting. Officers of this special counter-insurgency force admit that they initially thought RR was a temporary arrangement to deal with militancy. “Now there seems to be permanent,” an RR officer said. “How long will the Army busy itself with internal security, especially when the country is facing Kargil-like aggression? The counter-insurgency operations are extremely tiring for them, as they are trained to kill in open war, not to fight an invisible enemy in a proxy war.”

    Not only are complaints of jawans feeling tense and fatigued increasing, the fresh wave of violence is making them feel that all their work has gone to waste. In fact, the latest Fidayeen attacks constitute a role-reversal. “Militants used to be on the run, hiding and avoiding direct confrontation, but now they are sneaking into our camps and shooting at us,” said a jawan. Ironically, the security forces do not even have the services of a psychiatrist, not to speak of other facilities, to deal with the psychological ramification of this protracted war. “Not only jawans, even officers come to us with problems like palpitation, acute headaches, excessive sweating and a feeling of suffocation,” a BSF doctor said.

    What is the remedy? The feeling among most jawans and officers is that they have no permanent answer to the problem of militancy. “We can kill militants and take the situation to a threshold, but not solve the problem of militancy,” said a senior BSF officer. “It needs a political initiative. We controlled it once in 1996 but because of the lack of such an initiative, we are in a situation where militancy seems to have completely revived again. We also need to be strict with Pakistan.”

    However, the officers have suggestions for improvements on the ground. BSF Inspector General K. Vijaykumar said the troops need to have more relief. “We need to rotate them more often,” he said. “Their casual leave of 10 days generally goes to waste; we must give them longer casuals. We should allow them to go home at least once in six months. Besides, we must provide STD phones in field units so that the jawans remain connected with their families.” He said the Forces also need to have a mechanism to take up problems of the families of jawans back home with the respective state governments, so that they will feel more secure while on duty.

    Another suggestion that the BSF officers put forth is to build a network of family quarters with all requisite facilities like schools and canteens at Srinagar and Jammu, so that jawans can visit their families frequently. But CRPF IG Joshi believes there is hardly any scope for relief for the jawans as long as the problem of militancy is prevailing in various parts of the country. “Our transfers are like going from the frying pan to fire,” he said.

    This reminds me of our jawan’s during the 1971 war, history repeats it self – lekin itni jaldi!

    >>We also need to be strict with Pakistan<<
    It’d be interesting to see what the next move is, open war, propaganda war, state sponsored terrorism open hatred almost every thing has been tested on Pak, and Kashmir problem still isn’t resolved. Khair..


      Well said Sabah je...

      71 history is going to repeat itself very soon in Kashmir, inshallah