The 'Political Strike'
Recently Captain Amarinder Singh, the Congress leader from Punjab took a media team to the border to show that everything was normal and there was no war like situation. A video about the visit has been posted on Facebook. According to him, the Punjabi farmers were unnecessarily being displaced by the government on the pretext of an impending war.
Singh related his experience of previous Indo-Pak wars and the situation during Operation Brass Tacks and Operation Parakaram when the borders were very much alive. According to him during those days the borders were mined, there was artillery and thousands of soldiers. At the present moment there was hardly any noticeable activity on both sides of the border.
He questioned the government’s directive to the border people to vacate their villages leaving behind unharvested crops. According to him this was all being done for political reasons by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consolidate their vote in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. The easiest way to mobilise the Hindu vote has always been to resurrect the bogey of external threat from Pakistan.
A number of questions have been raised about the “Surgical Strikes” across the border by many people within the country and also from abroad. In the absence of any proof shown by the government, doubts have been expressed by many people regarding the authenticity of these operations.
The Pakistani side has taken a large group of foreign media persons to the Line of Control on their side to claim that no such operations have been conducted.
Within India high ranking persons like the Chief Minister of Delhi have asked for proof for which a sedition charge has been filed against him. In fact demanding proof about the strikes has also been classified as an anti-national act.
Within Kashmir, Engineer Rashid, the Assembly Member from Kupwara, in whose constituency two of the five places where the alleged strikes are supposed to have taken place are located, said there has been no firing or any other activity in that area.
More recently China, echoing the scepticism expressed in the foreign media, has said that counter terrorism should not be used for political ends.
Whether the strikes took place or not is not as important now as it has been revealed that such events have been occurring across the Line of Control earlier also. The Congress party has said this in so many words along with its then Defence Minister.Both the sides have been making forays into each other’s’ territory but without any fuss or publicity.
More important is the war hysteria generated after the surgical strikes mostly through the corporate media which has converted its TV studios into virtual war rooms.
It appears to have had a twofold aim. One was to drown the Kashmir uprising by a war cacophony and the other was to garner the vote in U.P. by presenting a macho image in relation to Pakistan. A detailed analysis of these strikes has been given by Seema Mustafa in her article on the online newspaper, thecitizen.in. She has raised a number of points in regard to this operation.
It appears, both the countries have been only drawing political mileage from these strikes. Even though the Pakistanis have made a lot of noise but the main consideration appears to be somehow to drown their own internal political woes in the noise! The Prime Minister there too seems to be facing many uncomfortable questions which he is trying to drown in the noise of the strikes!
Pakistan has not really made any concerted effort for the cause it claims to propagate, in contrast to its slogans of a 1000 war year for Kashmir. PM Nawaz Sharifs family has deep interests with favoured industrialists in India according to media reports.
Whatever may have been the motives of the two countries in these strikes and their aftermath, the real sufferers at the moment are Kashmiris who are used as a whipping boy by both the sides.
They have been subjected “surgically” to continuous internal hemorrhage for last four months. The Kashmir valley is bleeding and the Jhelum has virtually turned red! More than 90 person mostly teenagers have been killed; more than 15,000 injured; more than 1,000 hit in the eyes with pellets of whom over a 100 may lose total eyesight and over 6000 or may be even more have been arrested and a large number including minors have been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act. Homes of the people have been vandalized all over the valley.
Crops have been burnt and apple boxes destroyed in some places. The attack by the security forces on the funeral prcession of a teenager Junaid killed by pellets just outside his home is a cruel case in point.
Last time such a thing happened was in 1990 which made the then Governor lose his job! However, at that time there had been a response from parliamentarians and the media who rasied a voice against this in India. Now both are silent.
The biggest irony now is the State ruling party members asking for a probe into the killing of the teenager Junaid. How can the perpetrators of the crime ask for a probe against themselves?
The PDP’s effort to distance itself from the BJP is not cutting ice with the people, as it is such a pathetic effort.However, the most ridiculous stand has been from the so called opposition mainstream leaders. Instead of having the moral courage to express their agony about the Kashmir mayhem by quitting the assembly, they are just tweeting endlessly which amounts to spraying salt on these raw wounds of Kashmiris.
Right now Kashmir is in a logjam between the official curfew and the peoples’ shut down. There seems no end in sight unless the Central Government takes a bold and a practical initiative as advised by many veteran leaders, political experts and reputed journalists. An unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders after restoring normalcy not by the force of the soldiers but by the true balm of confidence building measures restoring basic human rights without any reservations.
(Mohammad Ashraf is a retried IAS office and former Director General of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir)