A fact check.
We have all heard this often, and even taken it as gospel truth. “The Indian troops-to-Kashmiri people ratio in the occupied Kashmir is the largest ever soldiers-to-civilians ratio in the world.” “Kashmir is the ‘most heavily militarized zone’ in the world.” “There is an Indian soldier for every ten civilians in Kashmir.”
These myths are based on many erroneous premises. Let us start with the police. The total sanctioned strength of Jammu and Kashmir police, including the civil police and the armed police, is 68,125. Based on the actual strength of the police in 2009 and the population of the state as per 2001 census, the police-to-population ratio comes to 683 per 100,000 people. As per 2009 data, the national average for the police-to-population ratio is 133, while the UN mandated figure is 250-300. Considering the violence experienced in the state during the last two decades, the existing police-to-population ratio is not abnormally high.
Next come the paramilitary forces. As per this statement by the Union minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs, Planning and Science and Technology, Ashwani Kumar, there are 86,260 people from the central forces deployed in the complete state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1989, before the insurgency started, there were 28,782 central armed forces troopers deployed in the state.
Finally the army. The official figures of the army men deployed in the state is not available but in 2007, the army authorities had reportedly stated that there are 3,37,000 soldiers deployed within the geographical boundaries of the state. Leave alone the fact that at least 3o,000 soldiers have since moved out of the state, the deployment of soldiers needs to placed in the right context.
Barring the Rashtriya Rifles, which is a specialist counterinsurgency paramilitary force manned by the army, all the Indian army units are deployed on the Line of Control, Actual Ground Position Line (both with Pakistan) and the Line of Actual Control (with China). Even the Rashtriya Rifles are mainly deployed in the semi-urban and rural areas of Kashmir. There are a total of 65 Rashtriya Rifles battalion in the state, and at an estimated average of 1,000 soldiers per unit, this would lead to 65,000 Rashtriya Rifles troopers in the state.
So the actual strength of security force personnel dealing with the people in the state is nowhere near the figure of 7,00,000 which is usually floated in the media. Barring the 2,20,000 policemen, paramilitary troopers and Rashtriya Rifles soldiers deployed among the population, the rest of the army soldiers shall continue to be deployed on the LoC, AGPL and LAC irrespective of the internal security situation in the state. Even among the 2,20,000 troopers, a fair share of the police force would still be required to maintain the law and order in the state which has a population of 1,25,48,926 as per the 2011 census.
Meanwhile, let us get another fact out of the way. These deployments are for the complete state, and not just for the Kashmir Valley. For example, the Rashtriya Rifles units are deployed as Counter Insurgency Force (CIF)- R in Rajouri and Poonch, CIF-D in Doda, CIF-V in Anantnag, Pulwama and Badgam, CIF-K in Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar, and CIF-U in Udhampur and Banihal. Kashmir Valley, or the Vale of Kashmir, forms just 7 percent of the area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (for details of area in J&K, see this post). Because of the high density of population in the Valley, as compared to other mountainous regions of the state, and the increased threat of militancy and civil disturbance (as witnessed in 2010) in urban areas of the Valley, an impression is created in the minds of many visitors to the state capital that the complete state is over-militarised and teeming with gun-toting soldiers at every nook and corner. The facts are actually to the contrary.
Should there be less intrusive security in the urban areas of Srinagar? Yes, definitely. But that will take time to happen. The security forces were not raised and moved into Kashmir on the whim and fancy of the Indian government. They were deployed to control and defeat the violent insurgency in the state which has been actively promoted and supported by Pakistan since 1989. As the level of violence comes down and the threat of organised stone-pelting reduces, the behaviour of the security forces will also change. This is precisely what happened in the neighbouring state of Punjab in the late 1990s once the militancy was completely defeated by the security forces. In fact, some steps towards less intrusive security in Srinagar have already been initiated last year and this year when a number of paramilitary bunkers were removed from residential areas of the state capital. As peace and normality returns to the state, this move will gain further pace in the weeks and months to come.
The myth of Kashmir having the “largest ever soldiers-to-civilians ratio in the world” has persisted far too long without being challenged. This myth has been used not only in the Western media but has also gained currency in the writings of many Indian commentators. It is high time this myth is demolished and buried once for all. For as John F. Kennedy said: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”