Tribune News Service
Srinagar, May 6
Sadbhavana, a goodwill programme, was launched by the Army in the militancy-infested J&K with the objective of bridging the gap between the jawan (Army) and the “awaam” (people). The catchphrase was “Jawan aur awaam, aman hai muqam (soldier and people together can bring peace).
However, the recent protests in the frontier district of Kupwara, where the Army has invested heavily under Sadbhavana, indicate that the targeted objectives of the programme have “not been achieved”. The protests at Handwara, which started after allegations of molestation, show that trust deficit still exists. In the face of protests and civilian killings, the Army had to agree to demolish the 25-year-old strategic bunker in Handwara town.
After the protests against the five civilian killings in security forces firing, hundreds of locals turned up for the funeral of the three Pakistani militants who were killed a week later in a gunfight with the Army in the nearby Lolab area. One of the militants who had escaped fell to the Army bullets even as civilians tried to facilitate his escape. These latest incidents reflect the strained ties between the Army and people in the Valley, and even in Kupwara, one of the districts where locals and the Army had been arguably enjoying good relations. Kupwara is known as a key infiltration route for militants.
The Sadbhavana programmes, undertaken mainly around the Kashmir countryside, focused initially on education, medical facilities, small-scale infrastructure and national integration. Later, women empowerment and human resource development became its other priority areas.
While the Army maintains Sadbhavana has been a success and helped local people, noted political scientist and coordinator, Department of Politics and Governance, Central University of Kashmir, Prof N A Baba has said only a deeper study will tell how successful the programme has been so far. “But on the face of it, Sadbhavana has not made a huge impact,” Baba points out.
From the military point of view, the programme has been a great success. “Sadbhavna had its own list of initiatives and played a salutary role in its own way. Sadbhavna is continuing with full vigour to date,” said spokesman of the Udhampur-based Northern Command Col SD Goswami. Former GOC-in-C of the Northern Command Lt Gen HS Panag (retired) said Sadbhavana had been very successful in the conflict-hit state.
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