A heart warming article about our Army in Kashmir. Do read the entire article in the link below. Art Of Peace Kashmiris warm up to a humane army initiative. Everyoneâ€™s talking, listening: it can only be for the better. Chander Suta Dogra Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain is the first Muslim general to commandeer 15 Corps Soon after taking over in Dec 2010, he declared 2011 to be the `Year of the Kashmiri Awamâ€™ The general began Awami Sunwais all across to assess and address peopleâ€™s grievances He has also organised seminars where college students, youth and citizens were invited This summer, the army held 300 matches between 193 teams of the first Kashmir Premier League T20 tournament. At last, the army seems to be getting something right in Kashmir. After two decades of using the jackboot, brutal excesses and an indifferent attitude towards the collective anger of the Kashmiris against the men in uniform, a general has taken it upon himself to sensitise his force to the Kashmiris and assure the latter in the process that the army can be their friend, not foe. That his is a Muslim name is a relevant fact, but only just. With militancy ebbing and even separatists favouring peaceful mass agitations over violence, the army too has altered the whole tone and tenor of its engagement with Kashmiris, using an unexpected new weapon in its arsenal: a respectful humanism. Ergo â€˜Ji Janaabâ€™, a doctrine designed to project a more friendly face of the armed forces. Itâ€™s at play everywhere: at the roadside security barrier, in the conduct of a speeding army convoy, indeed in all areas of the armyâ€™s interface with civilians. It was in December 2010 that Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, an old Kashmir hand, took charge of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps which controls all military operations in the Valley. Almost immediately, he declared 2011 to be the â€˜Year of the Kashmiri Awam (People)â€™ during which the army would devote itself to the welfare of the people and be more humane. The first indication of getting his priorities right lay in Hasnainâ€™s change of the army slogan: from â€˜Jawan aur awam, aman hai muqam (for the jawan and the people, peace is the goal)â€™ to one that put â€˜awamâ€™ before â€˜jawanâ€™ to become â€˜Awam aur jawan, aman hai muqamâ€™. Many initially felt the change to be just cosmetic. It would take more than a play of words for the Kashmiris to view the army differently, and infinitely much more to learn to trust it. But the army had made its first sensible move in appointing a Muslim general after 20 years, Lt Gen M.A. Zaki being the last to hold office in the 1990s. The Muslim credentials go way beyond cynical tokenism; it offered a shared cultural vocabulary. To be fair, in less dire times, a non-Muslim might have managed equally well but in an atmosphere of accumulated fear and mistrust, it had a disarming potential. What worked in the end was not the tag but the manâ€”Hasnainâ€™s genuine efforts struck a chord with Kashmiris and made them willing to give the man in uniform a chance after having held him in contempt for years. He was meticulous in putting the doctrine into action: initiation into â€˜Ji Janaabâ€™ begins at the 15 Corps Battle School at Khrew itself, where army units coming into Kashmir are administered basic familiarisation capsules. Hasnain makes it a point to interact with jawans of each incoming unit and stress on the importance of being courteous with locals. Some of the instructions are simple but fundamental: Troops must adopt an â€˜aap over tumâ€™ policy. If you are ordering people to get down from a vehicle for a security check, or searching their houses for terrorists, the form of address is a polite â€˜janaabâ€™ or â€˜begumâ€™ or â€˜mohtarmaâ€™ and not unprintable abuses. Army drivers must avoid racing over puddles to avoid splashing water on pedestrians. The change is evident. As Sheikh Javed, a shopkeeper in Srinagar, observed, â€œThey donâ€™t shout at us any more. We donâ€™t fear the army now.â€ However, Hasnainâ€™s foremost strategy has been to initiate a dialogue with the people. In the series of â€˜awami sunwaisâ€™ he has held across the Valley, Hasnain has been meeting ordinary Kashmiris in some of the most volatile districts of Kashmir: Bandipore, old Baramulla town, Handwara, Shopian, Sopore and Gurez. Attended by officers of the civil administration, these have become a forum for ordinary Kashmiris to voice their grievances, and have them attended to forthwith, sometimes at the sunwai itself. So, when he visited Handwara tehsil in north Kashmir in April, one complaint was about the local army unit closing a road leading to Rajwar area at night for security reasons. The road services some 200 villages. Hasnain ordered that the barrier be lifted immediately . . . Grudging approval is flowing even from the armyâ€™s most strident critics: the local media. Hasnain is on first-name terms with most journalists, whoâ€™re appreciating the unprecedented access to information they are now getting. â€œI believe the army is finally trying to understand the problem,â€ says Javed Iqbal, a prominent Kashmiri political commentator. â€œIt helps in shaping their response, though by itself it can never be a solution for a problem which is political.â€ . . . Not everyone is happy with the armyâ€™s new initiatives. Among the first to oppose them were the separatists who objected to the army teaching Kashmiri to its men. Though it was a move meant to connect better with people, after the separatist camp accused the army of cultural aggression, it is being downplayed. Hasnainâ€™s proactive methodsâ€”however effectiveâ€”have also not gone down well with the civil administration which is seeking to put curbs on him. As Prof Gul Ahmed points out, â€œSince all this is coming at a time when the civil administration is disconnected from the people, it has been taken note of.â€ . . . If all this means that the army is becoming a friend of the Kashmiri, it still has a long way to go. But a beginning has been made and itâ€™s showing results. â€œWe have no heroes to look up to in Kashmir today,â€ says Ajaz Ahmed, a young college lecturer from downtown Srinagar. â€œNot Omar Abdullah, nor the separatists. Not even the militants. We would like the army to truly change its colours and become the heroes we do not have.â€ In the treacherous, strife-ridden turf that is Kashmiri politics, where even positive initiatives like Hasnainâ€™s can run into a wall, peopleâ€™s expectations, hopefully, will reflect in more affirmative action.