They are known by the colour of their uniform. They come from all parts of country – Kerala to Punjab, Haryana to Maharashtra. And they have little that is common with the life and people of the valley.
In Kashmir even IAS and IPS officers, who have to serve their entire tenures here, are not accepted as local people. There is hostility towards uniformed personnel, whose basic task, especially in the past 20 years, has been to fight militants, many of whom were, and are, sons, brothers and relatives of the locals.
They are straightway bussed or airlifted into the valley, where the land, language, cultural ethos are different from what they are accustomed to. It is the vale where the jackboots have become an anathema. The very presence of the men in uniform, in many quarters, is not only unwelcome but also something that needs to be resisted.
And the resistance against them has come in the form of shootouts, grenade attacks, stone pelting or straightway ransacking of their bunkers.
The men who live in 6/8 square foot bunkers or move around the armoured personnel carriers do feel the heat of the inimical atmosphere.
And enmity breeds enmity. If a security person is killed or injured in an attack, his colleagues too react emotionally. It usually happens when there are processions raising anti-Indian slogans and besmirching the Indian national flag. The crowds often move menacingly. Earlier, they used to have guns, now they carry stones.
Psychiatrists who have dealt with them or carried out studies say it is a result of conditions of “chronic conflict” in which they live.
“In such conflict situations, when danger is assumed or when it is real, there are brain elements that react emotionally,” says Dr Mushtaq Marqoob, professor of psychiatry at Government Medical College, Srinagar, and co-chairman of Indian Psychiatry Society.
“In surcharged atmospheres, there is more of such reaction,” he said. And when news from home is not happy, they turn even more edgy.
But the Army believes that the soldiers make sacrifices because they want to avoid collateral damage.
“Casualties occur because the Army tries to avoid damage to civilians and to civilian property – this is strictly ingrained in all our operational precepts,” said an official of the Northern Command while detailing the professional attitude of the force even during gun battles.
He told HT via e-mail: “The operations are planned with great deliberation and care. The officer leading from the front is responsible for the command, control and coordination of his unit/sub-unit. He is, therefore, more vulnerable.”
The army is out of towns. The Border Security Force too has been replaced in most of the towns in the valley by the CRPF.
The CRPF’s bunkers are located in lanes and bylanes and whenever they come under attack, they are within their rights to take “self-defence measures,” said a CRPF officer.
“Our men are trained to deal with high-voltage situations all across the country,” he said. “We are a disciplined force and react professionally,” he maintained.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday said: “The CRPF had to use force in self-defence.”