A young Indian soldier recently stationed in Kashmir reflects on the controversial issue of 'fake encounter' killings - where the security forces are alleged to carry out extra-judicial killings while claiming they were caught up in gun battles with militants.
The body is exhumed of a carpenter - seven police are accused of killing him
Since he gave these views to the BBC's Urdu service, seven policemen have been charged with murder in connection with the death of a carpenter that he refers to.
I heard that there have been some 'fake encounter' killings in Ganderbal [near the summer capital, Srinagar].
It's not that I was not aware of the fact that these things happen, but somehow the number disturbed me.
Apparently the security forces are being held responsible, and they have probably even accepted responsibility.
Some of the people who are part of the security forces are Kashmiris, some of them are even surrendered militants who fought the army at one time. I was appalled, and at the same time very sad.
The question is, why would anybody want to kill a poor carpenter? I mean how harmful can he be? The answer is so obvious that I was at first surprised and then angry at my own naivety.
The answer is the system.
The system in the Kashmir valley has become such that "kills" by so-called security forces are associated with medals, monetary benefits, promotions and a host of other perks.
Militants are tough adversaries
So any organisation getting or registering more "kills" reaps the benefits.
Now, to kill a seasoned militant these days is difficult, because these guys are mercenaries and are tough.
So some elements within the security forces apparently do the next easiest thing: pick up an innocent man from the street and get him killed somewhere else.
And the saddest part about the whole thing is that even Kashmiris themselves are doing this to their own people.
Suddenly everything becomes a blur. It becomes unclear who the real enemy is. I had come to the valley with naive ideas of being able to make a difference, but in reality I can only influence not more than 10 people.
'Dying for a cause'
And then something like this happens, and there are villagers and more villagers protesting on the street, asking for freedom from this kind of oppression.
Obviously they will protest. Anybody would.
A solution to the suffering looks a long way off
Even if there is no solution in sight one cannot just go and pick up people from the street and kill them. And if they do this there will be never be any solution.
I had dear friends who had nothing to do with the Kashmir problem, who were from places far away from here, who were soldiers, who died here believing they were dying for a cause because they were told so.
But now I realise they do not really want to solve the whole issue.
The big game being played here is that of money. Money being pumped in by Pakistan to wage the war and money from India to conquer it.
And as long as there is a war going on in the valley there will be unaccounted money and people to make good use of it.
I realise that we are just pawns in this game of dirty politics. And I suddenly feel small... very small.
The soldier wished to remain anonymous.
Below are a selection of readers' comments on this article.
I am pleased to see a soldier speaking like this. I wish the policy makers, whose brainchild is all teh gory stste of affairs in Paradise on earth, also have a human heart, and wish they try to look at the problem with a human heart, rather trying to handle it militarily.
khursheedlone, Handwara Kashmir
It's funny to see people here thumping their chests over such incidents and conveniently ignore the plight of 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were systematically driven out by Kashmiri Muslims. There are horrifying stories of Pandits being killed tortured maimed by their own Muslim neighbours by misusing the trust afrer being brainwashed by the call for Jihad. There are video tapes of these folks openly going out in the streets asking for the KPs to either get converted or Leave the valley and now these same people are crying for justice. Sounds very fair !
Shridhar, NY, USA
My heart goes to all those innocent lives, but let this lesson be learnt. No problem can be solved by terrorism and supporting any sort of violence will only have violent repercussions. It's time for Kashmiris to separate themselves from terrorism and give peace a chance
Ram, Ohio, USA
The so called "Dairy of a soldier" is an attempt to justify the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian Army. The "soldier" conveniently shifts the blame on indigenous Kashmiris for the killings in fake encounters that take place on a daily basis in Kashmir. The author speaks of "wanting to make a difference", well one thing is certain that he can't make a difference with guns and occupation. If he wants to make a real difference he - along with a growing number of Indians - should pressure the Indian government to withdraw the Indian army from the valley and give the Kashmiris the right to self determination.
Mirza Baig, Toronto, Canada
Indian troops and paramilitary forces have killed thousands of people in "fake encounters" and blamed them as militants. The only solution is for the international community and human rights organisations to visit Kashmir and probe all cases. Those accused of such crimes should ideally be punished in an international criminal court. I don't think there will be any shortage of wailing mothers and grieving relatives to give evidence.
Raies Ahmad, Sopore Kashmir
I am glad that somebody within the army has the guts to come out and speak the truth. I fear for the guy, as he might be next in line and could very easily be in harm's way. The surrendered militants sold their souls when they took the arms for the wrong cause in first place. It is a scheme to get rich quickly without any work and people realise that they are sandwiched between the army and militants. The end-result is the same: more of the common people suffer. Both the Indian and Pakistani armies need this conflict, otherwise they can not justify the money they get.
Moin, Los Angeles
Dear Anonymous Soldier, It is great that you have your conscience about you. The army will be stronger because of people like you, who will do the right thing. Remember that the military is an extension of the State and has to project the aspirations of the State. Never forget that Jammu and Kashmir is the source of five rivers, and this is is the "prize" that Pakistan is fighting for, under the guise of solidarity with their Muslim brethren. Good luck, and stay alive.
E Dite, Leh, India
Kashmir once the paradise on earth, but has now turned into a bloody battlefield. I passed my childhood in the lush green valleys of Kashmir, and it was touted as a part of the world which had the lowest crime rate. Rapes, murders and tortures were unheard of. Then came the late eighties and early nineties when the valley started churning blood. Nobody at first understood what was going on. All of a sudden the cinema houses were closed. The beauty parlours were given notices that they would be shut down, and women who enjoyed an equal place in the society, were asked to wear veils. Kashmiri Hindus were forced to flee the valley - now it is like an endangered species on the verge of extinction.
Arun, Aix en Provence, France
Fake encounter killings have long been the way of the Indian army. This practice has been viciously adopted since the late 1970's. It was common extensively in the Punjab in the 1980's against Sikhs and still occurs today. Now we hear about fake encounter killings in Kashmir, it had always been covered up by the Indian government.
Gurj Singh, Birmingham, UK
"And as long as there is a war going on in the valley there will be unaccounted money and people to make good use of it." This is the ugly and usually unspoken truth about all wars. Remember the scene from Farenheit 911, a business exploiter of the Iraq War callously explained, "It's going to be good for business, bad for the people."
Elaine Cole, Oregon, USA
Is has always been like that - war is just a dirty game about money and power played by our so called leaders. Tragically, it is the innocent who suffer. My heart goes out to the them - the civilians who get caught in the cross fire and the brave soldiers who leave their loved ones behind and sacrifice their lives just out of patriotism.
Sujatha Rajanandam, Chennai, India
I was born in India. I am very proud of being an Indian but its time all those who consider themselves as true Indians speak up against such injustices. All those guilty should be punished, no matter whether they are Kashmiris or from any other part of the country. Such killings are against our culture and values
I think the only way to stop all these atrocities being inflicted on Kashmir is for India and Pakistan to get out - and let Kashmir emerge as an Independent Country.
Mahmood Hussain, London, UK
It is a no-go situation. Neither Pakistan nor India is going to give up their parts of Kashmir. Independence for such a small country is not viable and it will create more problems due to its strategic situation bordering China and other countries. Why not let the cease-fire line become an international border, with open access to both parts of Kashmir?
Brar, London, Uk.
The game is not for money, but to ensure the survival of people outside Kashmir as well. Kashmir controls the water resources on which Pakistan and India depend. Both know that they would be helpless if access to river waters was stopped. Kashmiris have been misled by Muslim propaganda and need only look at India to realise (i) the ruling elite in India has generous doses of Kashmiris, (ii) a very large number of Indians have Kashmiri roots. The militants in Kashmir have not shown themselves capable of taking part in any form of representative government. As to the Indian Army, it is showing the cracks due to the pressure, but it needs to be forced to respect human rights. Court martials are needed.
Rattan Nath, West Orange, USA