October 2016 News

Kashmir Stares At New Uncertainties

17 October 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: The September 18 terror attack on an Army base in Uri continues to rattle and rankle the nation despite the high value surgical strikes at the terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 29. A month later India and Pakistan hurt by the terror attack and surgical strikes, respectively, have heightened their campaign against each other within and internationally, pushing Kashmir into a tight spot. An immediate effect of the Uri attack and the subsequent favourite rhetoric of Delhi and Islamabad - 'prepared to give a befitting reply to any aggression' - has flagged off so many issues all at once. The military movements, temporary migration from borders and swaggers of Army generals along the LoC from both sides have relegated the matters of dealing with the Kashmir address to the background. Two disturbing trends have been noticed. Pakistan and local elements have become quite active in the hinterland while the Line of Control is witnessing almost regular cross-border fire, displacing thousands of people. The unrest issue that was largely confined to the need for internal dialogue has now escalated to the calls for an urgent India-Pakistan dialogue to resolve all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. These calls have come from the international community, be it the United States, China or for that matter the United Nations. A month later what is clear is that this 'terrorism first versus Kashmir first' debate is going to consume more time between India and Pakistan. Pakistan Prime Minister's adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz's most undiplomatic and immature statement that 'as long as Narendra Modi is there, there can be no breakthrough' has reflected the hardening of attitudes by the civilian leadership in its game of one-upmanship with the Pakistani military, which controls the state in real terms. Pakistan knows where its weaknesses lie, but it is never short on bluster that has negated the Prime Minister's own thesis that 'poverty cannot be fought with tanks on the farmlands'. There are war cries. And, India is not short on that either. The Uri attack was avenged by surgical strikes in the PoK, despite Pakistan's vehement denial. That is one part. Diplomatically, India succeeded in neutralising Pakistan vis-à-vis the SAARC summit that now stands cancelled. Pakistan says 'postponed'. It is now consistently carrying on a diplomatic campaign to isolate Pakistan internationally by describing it as a 'mothership of terrorism'. The first fallout has been that Kashmir is worried as it is seeing the gradual but firm signs of the gun ruling again. This time, these are not going to be hit-and-run cases, as has been proved by the attacks on the Army camps, Entrepreneurship Development Institute building near summer capital Srinagar. In the 1990s, this was an immature generation, which romanticised the gun as a tool to deliver 'azadi' or freedom to them. When sweets and flower petals were showered on them, they developed a sense of false heroism among themselves. There were nights in Srinagar when hundreds of bullets would be fired for hours, and the next morning there was not a single injury. The current generation has seen all - guns, grenades and graves. It is not afraid of anything. The Uri attack gave them a sense that if (Pakistani militants) can do it, why not we'. That explains the rise in attacks and weapon-snatching incidents. Quite often local policemen hide their faces with their hands while they 'arrest' or prevent separatist leaders from leading a march. It speaks of their vulnerability. It cannot be a coincidence all the time that militants snatch their weapons and rarely do they offer resistance. This is a trend which is having potential of setting up a new and dangerous nature of the conflict. This new generation of stone and petrol bomb throwers and weapon-snatching has an exaggerated confidence that comes with the sights of police vehicles swooshing past the stone-throwing zones. They bare chests to face bullets. It was a growing phenomenon, but now it has assumed a sense of reality. Apart from the spurious support by Pakistan, they really believe that they can achieve what their previous generations failed to do. This can escalate the situation at any time. The indoctrination that they have nothing to lose except shackles of Indian domination is closely linked to their religious radicalism. The 'Kashmir first' concept has been lost to the 'Muslim first' assertion. It is now more of a religious movement than political. Politically, there is a strong belief in some sections that the Uri attack, which they cheered on the September 18 morning while the rest of the nation was outraged, has done more harm than good to their cause. This stole the attention from the Kashmir unrest in which the narrative of death, blinding and injuring of the stone-throwing protesters was drawing international attention. India was facing pressure. But after the attack, the dynamics changed because the international community felt that this cross-border terrorism originating from Pakistan could destabilise the nuclear-armed region. The doomsayers found evidence of that in the anti-terror strike by India in PoK on September 29. At the moment not only have the relations between Delhi and Islamabad touched the nadir, but the atmosphere between Delhi and Srinagar is also getting polluted. When Delhi's Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra recently asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at a conference in Delhi that 'who shelters terrorists', she rightly responded that 'girls in her state were the safest and didn't get raped in moving cars.' A month is a long time in politics, but in a conflict situation it can change the dynamics once and for all, and that's what Uri attack has done to Kashmir. Valley after 18-9 September 18: Four fidayeen militants storm an Army base at Uri close to the LoC, killing 19 soldiers and wounding 23 others. The four militants were killed in the fierce gunfight. September 19: Militants snatch four rifles from policemen guarding the house of a ruling Peoples Democratic Party leader in Dialgam, Anantnag. September 20: An Army man killed as an infiltration bid foiled in Nowgam. September 22: A militant gunned down in north Kashmir's Bandipora. September 28: A service rifle of the personal security officer of a former lawmaker snatched in Kellar, Shopian. October 2: A BSF man killed and another injured as militants' attack on Army battalion headquarters in Baramulla foiled October 3: Militants decamp with five weapons from a minority picket after taking hostage two minority members in Kulgam. October 6: Three militants killed as the Army foils a fidayeen attack in Langate, Handwara. October 6: Four militants killed as the Army foils an infiltration bid in Nowgam, first after surgical strikes. October 7: A police constable was killed and another injured when militants made an abortive bid in Shopian district to snatch rifles from the policemen guarding a minority community picket. October 10: Militants snatch two rifles from policemen guarding minority community in Pulwama district. October 10: Two militants barricade themselves in EDI building at Pampore, triggering a gunfight. Both killed after the 56-hour encounter. October 11: 10 injured in a grenade attack in Shopian. October 12: A worker of Peoples Conference, headed by Sajad Lone, shot dead in Kupwara. October 15: An SSB jawan killed and nine others were injured in a militant attack in Srinagar outskirts at Zakoora. October 16: Militants snatch five rifles in Anantnag.

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