The next time you sympathise with the victims of pellet guns used by the CRPF in Kashmir, spare a thought for the security forces in the state. On his feet from 6 am till 8 pm, which sometimes stretches to even 10 pm depending on the mood of the stone pelting mobs, a CRPF trooper’s life is harsh and unforgiving. Away from their families and loved ones, they sleep inside high security barracks, fully camouflaged.
Each day they step out wearing weighty helmets, complete with mesh, get into a truck or bullet proof mobile bunkers, again completely meshed for security, along with their weapons, protective shields and gear.
Ready for another day of practicing “maximum restraint” while battling huge mobs hurling stones, petrol bombs and grenades and sometimes even random gunfire from militants. The media uproar over the use of pellet guns means even that non-lethal option becomes difficult to exercise.
The other option, tear gas, more often than not backfires as the protesters have learnt to pick and throw them back at the forces. In times of peace, they are tasked with connecting hearts with minds.
They distribute cricket kits, badminton racquets and other sports gear besides organising tournaments and matches and even give away cash prizes, just to win the confidence of the young Kashmiri.
In fact, when violent protests broke out after Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani’s killing, a badminton court nearing completion near the Eidgah grounds in Srinagar was to be handed by the CRPF to Kashmiri youth.
The violence ensured that it remains incomplete, and all the goodwill generated faded into the dust. Many noted Kashmiris say they have been ‘’living in a cage’’ for more than two months now. But who actually is living in a cage, is it the stone pelting Kashmiris who return home, or the trooper in his protective gear, shuttling between his fortified barracks and the daily battles on the streets?