Indian Army has been deployed in Jammu & Kashmir since 1948 post Independence to secure National Interest and Since early 90’s being engaged in Counter Insurgency & Anti Infiltration operations from across the border to prevent anti national elements from disrupting peace & tranquillity of the India’s most embattled state Jammu & Kashmir & particularly Kashmir which shares considerable border with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Considering the conditions & the following political outfall marked by “Kashmiriyat” the situation over there is not as usual as it’s in other indian states. In a bid to deal with Insurgency & foil any act of subversion by Pakistan sponsored separatist forces who bank upon the sympathy & fragile Political, Economic & Social situation of the valley,in 1990 Parliament extended provisions of Disturbed areas Act & Armed Forces Special Powers Act to empower indian Army, better deal with the frailed Situation.Economic & Social development of the People in the valley who over the years have born the burnt of Insurgency & Separatist Movement have been stymied by the loath Political establishment mired in Corruption & public apathy & to the extent they are being virtually cut off from rest of India , which has further narrowed their vision to India being a Invader.Operating among these Political, Social,Economic constraints is the most challenging task which is being successfully done by the Indian Army and they continue to render their yeoman service within these circumstances with the motto ” Country Comes First Always & Every time & Army is For the People,By the People & Of the People” .Indian Army runs many Skill programmes , Goodwill Schools & other Activities to empower local kashmiri childrens & youths to build their Lives & make a constructive self sufficient living under “Operation Sadbhavana”.Majority of Indians from across allover the Country know least about the various Inter faith activities done by the Indian Army to Promote the Secular values of Brotherhood, Oneness & Inter faith Trust & Belief.Indian Army has religious teachers who witness & accomplish various religious activities within the Army units & those special places within the units where the religious activities are done known as “Sarv Dharm Sthal” where officers & Jawans of all faiths & beliefs unanimously Unitedly Perform & Particiapte in all froms of Worships done by the respective & at times religious teachers of the other faiths.
Our former 15 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain ( also Known as PEOPLE’S GENERAL for his humanitarian activities & an all Inclusive Progressive Views ) has numerous experiences during his stints at different posts & positions while in service.In this Holy month of Ramzan and while World famous Chariot festival of Holy trio of Fourth Pilligrimage Dham “Puri” is on its way here he shares his experiences of how Ramzan being Celebrated by the officers & Soldiers across different faiths & beliefs.
He says ” In India Roza Iftaar is a traditional ice breaker and bond creator between communities. There is one dimension of it which most people do not indulge in. For true blessings Roza Iftaar should be organized for the really needy people who cannot afford a good meal after a day’s fasting and hard work.In Kashmir I asked all my units to ensure that if they had a traditional Roza Iftaar party for the bigwigs they must organize two such for the people who usually assemble at masjids to partake of a frugal feast made from doles. My units never failed me and went on to organize feasts for the poor which could outdo the ones for the rich. That is why we remained blessed with the good wishes of the Awam.(Lesson — without the blessings of the poor and needy your community bonding and bonhomie goes no where. )While in the modern world Roza Iftaar may be used for networking, the true network for lasting peace that you establish is with the poor and needy by being sensitive to their needs and emotions. There is nothing more pleasing to my eye than to see a burly soldier of the Rashtriya Rifles forcing sweets into the hands of young children or serving a “wazwan” to their parents. It takes nothing away from his menacing profile of being a terrorist hunter and yet builder of society. In serving the poor and needy there never has to be a faith based profiling. All must be welcome, from the heart. RAMZAN is something so pure that faith cannot divide its purity. Particularly in India, the way its spirit is appreciated by every faith makes it special. You must know that in our ARMY there are SUB UNITS which are entirely Muslim and have non MUSLIM OFFICERS/COMMANDERS in many cases. These OFFICERS keep all 30 ROZAS and PRAY with their TROOPS.It is something so enlightening that it sometimes seems unbelievable. Would you be aware that during a visit to the JAK LI Centre at Old Airfield, Srinagar I participated in Eid prayers being led by the Granthi from the Sikh faith because the Maulvi Saheb was away. That is the greatness of this country we live in.”
To a Query asked by a friend ” Whether as part of his social approach in Kashmir he did any such social activity at Hindu shrines”. He said “One should be aware that there are some very historic and significant Hindu shrines in the Valley. Since the system of mass continuous fasting does not find place in Hinduism, except during Navratra, and the opening of fast is a family affair rather than the public oriented practice of Iftaar the question actually is out of context. However, it gives me the opportunity to place before all for information what the Army does for different faiths, in the Valley in particular. One would be aware how many units of 15 Corps are deployed near temples. 5 RR (*RR-Rashtriya Rifles) near Kheer Bhawani, does yeoman service for pilgrims,3 RR near Martand Temple, Anantnag, does similar service. On important days Sankarcharya temple, which had Army deployment once, also has the units of BB Cantt doing social service. But the event where the Army’s true worth for the Hindu faith comes to the fore is the Sri Amarnath Ji Yatra. In my charge I have conducted four of them. In this we need no contribution in terms of food because the amazing Bhandaras from Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujrat,UP etc set up the logistics. In fact many Army units on deployment enjoy the food of the bhandaras; amazing kachoris and imartis are available. What the event needs from the Army no one can provide; medical assistance and evacuation at the dead of night, assistance to the elderly, especially at the last bit and at Mahagunas Pass,communication management at remote areas and most importantly disaster management. If you do one such yatra a unit feels blessed with the accolades and wishes of the pilgrims. In two such yatras I walked the long route via Pahalgam but in two more as Corps Cdr I flew to the shrine and paid obeisance in the traditional way. In both I had an outstanding Garhwal Rifles unit looking after the security and management of the darshan at the main shrine.The Sikh gurudwaras areorganized the best but in Uri at the Paran Pillan Gurudwara the conditions were not so good. My units stepped in on all occasions.It is unfortunate that the Paran Pillan Gurudwara sufferedsuch extensive damage during the 08 Oct 2005 earthquake but the Army and contributions ensured its reconstruction. In the Valley, besides mandirs, mazjids and gurudwaras there are the other most important shrines which combine the virtues of all three — the Pir Babas. This is where the Army’s presence is most felt because these are spread out in rough shod areas along the Shamshabari and Pir Panjal. The annual fair of each such shrine is supported by the local unit. In my tenure I had the honor and privilege of releasing a coffee table book titled ‘Iconic Shrines of Kashmir’ which covers every single shrine of all faiths in the Valley. It is the labour of love of one of my independent brigades, completely authenticated by the History Department of Kashmir University.
The Indian Army does do some great things but remains at the receiving end of criticism because of lack of information spread about its activities. I get amazed when people on express their surprise about what all it does. And then one realizes how little the public in India knows about what its own Army does, far away and in most trying conditions. Social engineering is a part of the Army’s responsibility in remote border areas. I state this before some one starts questioning us as to why the Army does all this.”
In a Nation like India being EDUCATED means RESPECT for and ACCEPTANCE of every FAITH and CULTURE, the ability to APPRECIATE someone else’s FAITH and PARTICIPATE in its FESTIVITIES and RITUAL.