Hauling Aam Aadmi Party member Prashant Bhushan over the coals for having called for a referendum on the presence of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir is unwarranted. Some may disagree with Mr. Bhushan’s view, but he must not be gagged. There is a world of difference between a referendum on the deployment of the Army and a plebiscite over Kashmir being a part of India. Mr. Bhushan’s idea is being misstated with the intention of throwing AAP supporters into confusion.
It is merely partial truth that the Army is stationed in the Valley in order to “prevent infiltration”. It can well do without the gratuitous bolster of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the discharge of its duties. The undue protection from prosecution accorded to Army personnel causes disaffection among Kashmiris while revocation of the Act will by no means demoralise the men guarding our borders. The State’s people eventually have to be made part of the efforts to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.
G. David Milton,
Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
The rationale behind Mr. Bhushan’s proposal is clear: the voices of a referendum will collectively throw light on the grave human rights abuses committed by the Army. However, as Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India, it is the nation-state’s sovereign prerogative to deploy its armed forces wherever it sees fit whether people like it or not. The only sustainable solution is to deliver justice to the Kashmiri people by bringing the culprits to book and putting in place mechanisms to preclude such occurrences in the future.
Kashmiri locals, who are slap bang in the middle of the situation on the ground, can provide the most reliable feedback of the effect of the Army’s presence in the State. In the interests of democracy, too, the people have the right to give their opinion on the matter. But the final decision rests with the Central authorities. Even if they do not deem it fit to withdraw the Army from the Valley, the referendum can throw up alternatives, the worst among which is sure to be in the interest of the common man.
Enthused, perhaps to a fault, by the party’s sterling showing in the recent Delhi Assembly elections, its leaders are going hammer and tongs on all issues, displaying scant regard for repercussions. The AAP must move forward carefully and not aim too high at this stage; be reticent rather than rhetorical, lest their behaviour boomerang. No party will stomach their barbs. Populism has its limits and hollow statements cannot conquer the nation overnight. The earlier the AAP realises this, the better it will bode for its future.