With the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan nearing its end, the Indian armed forces, mainly the Indian Army, these days, are busy hosting Iftaar parties as part of their so-called efforts “to strengthen and cement the bond between Awam and Army.”

There is nothing wrong in hosting iftar parties per se, but when seen in the backdrop of the recent killings of two civilians in North Kashmir’s Sumbal in Bandipora district by Army’s 13 Rashtriya Rifles or killing of four civilians in Gool, Ramban by soldiers of Border Security Forces, one wonders how these sumptuous iftar parties could bring Awam closer to armed forces.

In view of these killings, the iftar parties are largely seen as sham PR exercises, rather than a genuine effort aimed at creating amity with Awam.

These get-togethers would ideally work in case there are any minor misgivings or acerbity between Army and Awam. But when its soldiers keep on killing people with impunity, and when army is at war with the civilian population, holding these events seems preposterous.

Army needs to understand that killings and iftar parties can’t go together. Even if they keep on hosting countless parties, it is not going to serve the purpose.

The state government has already approached the families of those killed in the recent incidents, like in Sumbal, with compensation in the form of blood money and job offers. They have made it clear that they won’t be accepting any money or jobs. All they want is the guilty to be punished – something unknown in this part of the world.

These families therefore wouldn’t be attending the iftar parties for sure. They won’t be socialising and rubbing shoulders with the killers of their brethren. As the anger brews against the armed forces, and people seek justice for those killed, hosting these iftar parties seems just a publicity stunt where a few local civil and police officials, religious leaders, Panchs, Sarpanchs, and Nambardars etc. sit, squabble, eat together and pose for the pictures for press handouts.

Locals see Army’s vehement opposition to revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as an attempt to cover the guilty and let them go scot-free.

If army were to truly reach out to these families of those killed by its men it should first punish the killers. If Army really wants to build bridges, and what it calls, strengthen and cement the bond between Awam and Army, it should make some genuine overtures towards peace and reconciliation by stopping to oppose the revocation of AFSPA, which the Awam has been demanding for long, and punish the guilty soldiers.

Till then Army’s attempts of cementing the bond with Awam, be it by means of hosting iftar parties, medical camps or organising sadbhawna tours, would be seen as nothing but sham.

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