On whether it could be jotted down in the “fail” column for the BJP-led government on its third anniversary, Mr Rijiju said, “It’s the reason why we have separate wings in the ministry to deal only with Kashmir or only with Northeast. It’s because these areas need special attention. We do have problems but I can say that in the last three years we have improved a lot, like in securing our border areas.”
The minister said it was “very sad” that Indian security forces had to face attacks from across the border. Asked about India’s response to recent provocations from Pakistan, including ceasefire violations, terror attacks and the mutilation of two soldiers by Pakistanis, Mr Rijiju said, “I can’t say much but try and understand what I am trying to say. We can do things like surgical strikes but we can’t talk about it. We also have to present our case to international forums and our soldiers are bound by political decisions. I can only assure you that this government is very supportive of our forces.”
The friction, however, between the forces and the people of Kashmir was evident in recent videos that were in wide circulation in the Valley. In one video, CRPF or Central Reserve Police Force personnel were pushed, abused and harassed by local people as they walked with EVMs or vote machines after by-polls in Srinagar.
Another video showed a protester strapped to the front of an army jeep by personnel as a shield against stone-throwers on the same day. The man, a weaver, had come to vote in the by-polls.
The state police are yet to complete their assessment of that incident but Mr Rijiju said the soldiers did nothing wrong.
“It is very sad that our forces have to face such things in their own country. They are portrayed as villainous and defamed. There are many things that security forces do but they are always charged with violations of human rights. We want to show that we treat Kashmiris as our own but it isn’t right that they are always attacked and die for their country. This isn’t right for the country. So, this is a delicate issue.”
When NDTV asked specifically if he supported the use of a human shield, he said, “I can’t speak because if I do, it makes it a matter of policy and government stance. But there were circumstances which had to be decided on the spot. If it is a question of protecting your own life, you may adopt means. You have human rights but security forces also have human rights.”
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