SRINAGAR: Till 1990, there were few guns in the Valley. But, soon enough, the situation changed. As the Kalashnikovs began to dominate the streets, Kashmir was flooded with uniformed men. In the last 20 years, a generation of Kashmiris has grown up with soldiers at every street corner; often, even in their living rooms. There are too many troops in Kashmir. There have been too many clashes between men with automatics and youth with stones. Many Kashmiris see the Army as one “of occupation”. Human rights activist Khurram Parvez says the police records 458 cases of pending civilian killings and rapes between 1990 and 2007 because the men in uniform cannot be prosecuted. “We want transparent and independent investigations into many encounters that took place in April-May 2010,” he says. Arshad Anderabi has spent 14 years fighting for justice for his dead brother Jaleel, a lawyer and prominent human rights activist. He alleges that Jaleel “was abducted by the major (Avtar Singh of the 103rd unit of the Territorial Army) on the airport road when he was driving home along with his wife. He was killed in cold blood and his body was dumped in the Jhelum”. The special investigation team that investigated Jaleel’s death found Major Singh responsible for the murder. But the major is now reportedly living in California and Jaleel’s family still waits for justice. Though the Indian army has been in the Valley since 1948, its presence was never as visible as after militancy began. K B Jandial, retired IAS officer and now a member of the state public service commission, says, “The army must put in place a system of checks and balances and rein in the troops who take the law into their own hands. This has diluted the forces’ achievement of almost destroying terrorism. Irresponsible actions of low rung-officers will harm India’s credentials as a democratic and secular nation.” There seem to be far too many Kashmiris who believe the Indian army is a ruthless force. Javid Iqbal, a respected doctor, says there is a huge trust deficit between the people and the army. “During the second world war, Churchill would often say ‘Indian Army any day’. That was a real tribute to the discipline and combat effectiveness of the forces. However, I wonder whether this attribute still holds for the army given the recent complaints of human rights violation.” The police says that there have been 51 allegations of rape against Indian army men in the last six years. Such allegations are deeply damaging to the army’s image. In 1991, about 100 women, including minors, the elderly, pregnant and disabled, were allegedly raped by a 4th Rajputana Rifles unit in Kunan Poshpora, Kupwara. “I am afraid that army could never restore its image in Kashmir given their behaviour with civilians here,” says Qurat-ul-Ain, a social activist. Of late, the army has been working on damage control through its humanitarian work. Colonel J S Brar, the defence spokesman here, says the Army is trying to win hearts and minds. “Under our Sadbavana programme, we are trying to alleviate, medicate, rejuvenate and ultimately uplift the quality of life of civilian population ,” he says. But considering the quantum of allegations against the army, many of the locals would regard this as too little and too late.