Kashmir has been an issue of conflict between India and Pakistan, since the inception of the two nations. As terrorist activities continue to beset the region, it is the state and its people who eventually pay the price. A lot has been written and said about the 14th February bombings that took us by surprise. Also, a lot of questions have been raised regarding this issue. However, in the midst of this need to talk about Kashmir, it is Kashmir and the Kashmiris who have unfortunately been left out of the picture.
On 14th February, 2019, a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying 2,547 CRPF jawans was bombed by a Kashmiri militant, Adil Ahmed Dar by an explosive-laden vehicle. The fidayeen attack that took place on the National Highway which connects the Kashmir valley with the rest of India, is arguably the worst jihadist terror attack targeted at the Indian security forces which left 46 dead and more than 6 injured. While there is no official information with respect to the type or quantity of the explosive used, different sources have quoted figures between 30 to 300 kg of RDX and IEDs that might have been used. One can imagine that in order to carry out an attack of this magnitude, it would’ve taken around a dozen men to coordinate tasks like gathering explosives, planting them in the car, moving money around for the operation, etc.
Usually, it is observed that more the number of people involved in an attack, more are the chances of the information being leaked out. The fact that this situation didn’t arise, points not only to a major intelligence failure, but also to an act of cooperation occurring within. It also shows that the organisation involved, ‘Jaish-e-Mohammed’ is quite proficient to conduct such attacks, which increases the likelihood of more such attacks being conducted in the near future.
India’s response has been adequate, in terms of undertaking coercive diplomacy and revoking Pakistan’s ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status. However, the call for war and politicisation of the event that followed is the area where India has failed miserably. Countless people took to the streets chanting “Pakistan murdabad” in various parts of the country and called for war. What invoked them to do so is quite ambiguous. However, one can also note that this incitement might have taken place due to the 9 p.m. prime time debates which happened on mainstream news channels of the country.
It therefore relates to George Orwell’s concept of ‘Two Minutes Hate’ which is described in his popular book, wherein people watch a film depicting the party’s enemies and express their hatred towards them in exactly two minutes. The India news channels were relentlessly showcasing anti-Pakistan comments for increasing their TRPs and for conforming to the ruling party’s ideology. However, it is important to realize that the call for war was both illogical and an immensely privileged stance. It not only ignored the kind of pressure it would have put on the economy, but it also depicted great insensitivity towards those who would be directly affected by this.
In addition to this, there was a large scale Anti-Kashmiri backlash that unfolded in the subsequent days. Kashmiri students living in other parts of India faced violence, harassment, and eviction from their homes. Two colleges in Dehradun announced that no new Kashmiri students will be given admission. The Alpine College suspended its dean, who was a Kashmiri, after some groups called for him to be fired. A Kashmiri man was beaten up in Kolkata by men dressed in saffron. Amidst all this violence and acts of making Kashmiris feel unwelcome in most parts of the country, Kashmiri locals opened up their houses and hotels to stranded tourists who’d missed their flights because of the on going India-Pakistan standoff that worsened after Indian Airstrikes.
On 26th February, India conducted preemptive non-military airstrikes deep inside Pakistan’s Balakot. According to the Indian intelligence, Jaish was planning another attack on India and in order to prevent that, 12 Mirage 2000H fighter planes were made to cross the Line of Control and bombed the biggest terrorist training camp run by Jaish in Balakot. The following day saw even more aggressive news, anchored by reporters asking the public “how’s the Josh?”. Violence was celebrated and more hate was invoked against Pakistan. While no official sources have confirmed any real damage done by these airstrikes, anonymous sources from the Home Ministry have reported that around 300 militants were killed in these bombings. Independent investigations by Reuters revealed that the satellite images before and after the airstrikes showed no major damage done to any buildings in the area. “The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.”
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years of experience in analysing satellite images of weapon sites and systems, confirmed that the high-resolution satellite picture showed the structures in question. “The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage“, he said. Lewis viewed three other high-resolution Planet Labs pictures of the site taken within hours of the image provided to Reuters, but found the results inconclusive to the remarks made by the Indian government and the Indian media.
Therefore, nowadays, it becomes really difficult to believe any information that we’re receiving from the media, be it from the official sources or from the reporters. When asked about any official figures or statements confirming the damage of these airstrikes, the government promptly accused the media of bringing the defense forces’ morale down. There exists an electoral incentive in shifting the media and public agenda under umbrella terms like patriotism, nationalism, war, India v/s Pakistan, etc. The political exploitation of this issue has largely gone unnoticed, just like the Kashmiris.
Picture Credits : deccanherald