Despite the continued employment of various methods of state terrorism on the freedom fighters and the innocent protesters in the occupied Kashmir, Indian armed forces have been demoralised in crushing the war of liberation.
In the Indian-held Kashmir, since 1947, Indian military troops have been using barbaric tactics of extra-judicial killings, burning the houses, torture etc. to suppress the genuine freedom movement of the Kashmiris. Last year, discovery of nearly 1000 graves of the unmarked Muslims in the Indian-held Kashmir showed another evidence of Indian military terrorism. Recently, more such graves have been discovered. Reports suggest that these Muslims were tortured to deaths by the Indian army during custody.
In fact, under the cover of various anti-terrorim laws of the country, Indian armed forces have committed multiple brutal crimes such as encounter killings, illegal custody, torture, forced confession, rape of women, corruption, robbing the houses, kidnappings etc.
The fact of the matter is that when Kashmiri people lost faith in the international community, which persisted in ignoring their liberation and when it became obvious that the Indian occupying forces would not vacate the controlled areas through political means, the peoples had no choice but to resort to armed struggle which was actually intensified in 1989.
In fact, present different war between the Indian occupying forces and the Kashmiri freedom fighters is simply a ‘clash of wills’ between two entities. Military thinkers agree that although the physical force will determine the type and scale of war, yet it is the ‘will to fight’ or ‘moral force’ that determines the outcome of war. Clausewitz puts it this way, “One might say that the physical force seems little more than the wooden hilt, while moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon”
In his book, “Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945”, Creveld identifies the elements of moral force, whom he calls “fighting power, the willingness to fight and the readiness, if necessary, to die.” The greater these elements, the less vulnerable an armed force will be to demoralisation. Moral force, then, is the crucial factor in determining the combat power of any belligerent.
The ongoing different war between the Indian state terrorists and the Kashmiri people has proved without any doubt that such elements like ‘will to fight’ and ‘moral force’ have been more noted in the latter who have exerted psychological impact of causing fear, shock, mental depression and stress, resulting in demoralisation of the Indian military and paramilitary troops.
In this regard, numerous cases of suicides among Indian troops—opening fire on their colleagues and several other tense reactions have been reported in respect of Indian forces in the controlled territories of Kashmir.
In the recent past, Lt. Col. Pankaj Jha shot himself with a service revolver, while Maj Sobha Rani, Capt Sunit Kohli, Lt Sushmita Chatterjee and a number of other officers of the Indian army also did the same in one or the other way.
Indian defence analysts and psychologists have indicated various causes of suicides and fratricides, found in the Indian military, stationed in the Jummu and Kashmir. They have attributed these trends to “continuous work under extreme hostile conditions, perpetual threat to life, absence of ideal living conditions, lack of recreational avenues, and of course; the home sickness due to long separation from families.”
While other experts have pointed out that the growing stress in the Indian armed forces is owing to “low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate home leave, unattractive pay and a communication gap with superiors.”
Retired Maj Gen Afsar Karim, who has fought three wars, remarks, “The stress may be high among soldiers because of lack of leave.” He further explains, “The army is involved in a tough long running internal security environment. There is lack of rest…soldiers get angry when they are denied leave and their officers themselves take time off. It triggers a reaction, while they are well armed and they take their own lives” or those of their colleagues.
Another Indian military analyst reveals, “then there is the question of what many say is low pay…starting salaries in many jobs in middle-class of India are double that of a new soldier, and for many of them, the army no longer holds out the promise of a good life.”
According to the Indian Col SK Sakhuja, “soldiers kill each other when one of them perceives that they are being harassed by superiors or when they have heated arguments among themselves.”
An Indian parliamentary panel had indicated that the military establishment was not taking reports of suicides and fratricides seriously. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, in its 31st report on “Stress management in the armed forces”, stated that 635 suicides of soldiers were reported between 2003 and 2007. In addition, 67 fratricidal killings had occurred.
The committee further said that the “alarming trend of suicides and fratricidal killings in the armed forces is attributable to increased stress environment leading to psychological imbalance in the soldiers”.
However, with the rise in the cases of suicide and fratricide in the Indian armed forces parliament was informed in 2009. In this connection, Defence Minister A.K. Antony revealed in a written reply in the Lok Sabha that of these, there were 48 cases of suicide and one of fratricide in the three services—41 suicides were reported from the Indian Army, six from the Indian Air Force, and one from the Indian Navy. He further disclosed that overall, there had been a staggering 495 cases of suicide and 25 cases of fratricide in the armed forces over the past four year. Of these, 154 suicides and 13 fratricides occurred in 2006, 142 suicides and seven fratricides occurred in 2007 and 151 suicides and four fratricides occurred in 2008. Of the total cases, 412 suicides and 24 fratricides were reported from the army, 76 suicides and one fratricide were reported from the air forces and seven suicides were reported from the navy.
Nevertheless, India has also hired the services of counselors, and stationed psychiatrists close to its troops especially in the occupied Kashmir in order to combat stress that has driven many soldiers to kill themselves or fellow soldiers. Director General Medical Sciences Lt. Gen. N.K. Parmar indicated, “Sixty psychiatrists have been trained and are working in close coordination with the troops…if there are any signs of stress, this will immediately be brought to the commanding officer’s notice.”
Nonetheless, various security agencies of India, working in the Indian-held Kashmir have now not only engaged counselors and psychologists to combat stress among troops but have also found cure in meditation, music, exercises and yoga—all used as techniques against stress and mental disorder.
No doubt, in any conflict zone, the cases of mental depression and stress are common phenomena, but in case of the controlled Kashmir, the trend has increased. It is because of this fact that that Indian armed forces have been so demoralised by fighting with the freedom fighters that either they commit suicide or kill their own colleagues and seniors. They completely lack ‘will to fight’ or ‘moral force.’
Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for Opinion Maker. He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.