Pakistan's Border Action Team beheading (or mutilating) of two soldiers — Army JCO Paramjeet Singh and BSF's head constable Prem Sagar — brought back the horrors of last year's brazen Uri attack which had killed 17 Indian soldiers. Both the attacks are quite different, but the aftermath feels pretty much the same.
While the Centre sprung into action immediately after the reports said that bodies of two soldiers were mutilated, the Indian Army vowed "appropriate response". On Monday, Pakistan mutilated bodies of two Indian soldiers, who were killed in Poonch firing near the Line of Control (LoC) at Udhampur, said media reports. The "despicable act", the Northern Command said, and warned of "appropriate response" to "an unsoldierly act by the Pakistan Army".
According to CNN-News 18, this time, Pakistan launched a double attack of ceasefire violation and Border Action Teams (BAT) on the patrolling Border Security Forces (BSF). "The Pakistan Army carried out unprovoked rocket and mortar firing on two forward posts on the LoC in Krishna Ghati sector. In an unsoldierly act by the Pakistan Army, the bodies of the two soldiers in the patrol were mutilated," the Northern Command said in a statement.
The situation in Kashmir, which was already not the ideal ever since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July last year, might start deteriorating even further. Burhan's encounter and the subsequent protests in the Valley have been wreaking havoc in the lives of thousands of villagers for months now. It is safe to say that the recent beheadings of the two Indian soldiers in no way will make the lives of Kashmiris any easier. One would have to jog one's memory real hard to recount all the ceasefire violations and cross-border firing that has happened ever since the Uri army base was attacked in September 2016, but according to reports, between September 2016 to November 2016, there were at least 12 ceasefire violations along the LoC.
Let's take a look at what the Kashmir Valley has been dealing with since last year's Uri attack.
Nearly 10 days after the Uri attack that claimed lives of 18 Indian Army jawans, India carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, inflicting heavy casualties on terrorists and 'those protecting them" and indicating a change of stand on the rules of engagement on the disputed line of control. In September 2016, paratroopers from special forces were airdropped at the LoC, from where they crossed over to the Pakistani side. According to sources, Indian commandos entered three kilometres across the Line of Control to conduct the 'surgical strikes'.
The Narendra Modi-led BJP government took the decision in the wake of increased infiltration bids across the border, the DGMO had then said. Terrorists had begun gathering in large numbers along the LoC with the objective of crossing the border and targeting locations in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as other metros. In such a scenario, surgical strikes were considered the best option to deal with the threat, the DGMO told the media.
Clarifying their stand further, the army spokesperson clarified that surgical strikes does not mean war. India stood unified on the topic as the main Opposition party, the Congress, backed the BJP government's initiative. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a statement had said, "The Congress Party congratulates the armed forces on the success of the operation and offers its support to the government in our country’s continuing battle against cross-border terrorism."
World powers reacted to the strikes too. While Britain asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint in the wake of surgical strikes by Indian troops across the Line of Control, China said it was in touch with both countries to reduce tensions. There was no immediate reaction from the US to the surgical strikes. Hours before India announced it had carried out the strikes, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice called on Pakistan to "combat and delegitimise" terror groups operating from its soil, including Jaish-e-Muhammad, which Indian blamed for the attack in Uri that killed 18 soldiers. The Japan Times quoted sources and reported that the US stressed on its partnership with both India and Pakistan and urged the two countries to avoid an escalation in their dispute over Kashmir.
But panic, confusion, and disbelief gripped Kashmir residents the day after the surgical strikes. Reports from Uri sector in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, where cross-border terrorist attack at an army camp on 18 September left 18 Indian jawans dead, said people living close to the LoC already started migrating to safer areas. People rushed home earlier than usual in Srinagar as the news of the surgical strikes by Indian special forces spread.
When the Centre conducted the surgical strikes, the Kashmir Valley was reeling under a curfew situation, for the 83rd consecutive day, following the 8 July killing of Burhan. "Whether a knife falls on a melon or a melon falls on the knife, it is always the melon that gets cut," Zahoor Ahmad, 52, a businessman in north Kashmir's Ganderbal district had told PTI.
"In wars between India and Pakistan, the Kashmiris have always been the worst sufferers and if, God forbid, a war breaks out now, we would be at the receiving end again," he stressed. "Is the worst still to come? Is it already lurking in the dark? Will they (India and Pakistan) really be so mad so as to start a war which will destroy both?" another resident was quoted as saying by PTI. The resident was recalling the horrors of the 1965 war when he was a child.
Endless ceasefire violations
The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement virtually became redundant when reports quoted sources saying that a whopping 286 incidents of firing and shelling along LoC and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops that resulted in the death of 26 people, including 14 security personnel since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. There have been 186 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the over 190km International Border in Jammu frontier, while 104 violations of the agreement took place along the over 500km from LoC.
"There has been 182 ceasefire violation by Pakistan Rangers along IB targeting civilian areas and BoPs in Kathua, Samba and Jammu districts since the surgical strike on the intervening night of 28-29 September," a senior BSF officer had told PTI in November 2016. They also resorted to firing of 120 mortar bombs and from automatic weapons very heavily in which civilians and security personnel were killed and a large number of people including women and children suffered injuries, he had said, and added that a large number of cattle perished in the shelling and huge damage was caused to houses.
A large population was forced out of their homes, harvesting of paddy crops halted and marriage season was badly affected in the border areas due to heavy shelling and firing. The officer added that there have been 85 ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC in Jammu region falling under 16 Corps area and 19 ceasefire violations have been recorded along the LoC in Kashmir region falling under 15 Corps area.
(India and Pakistan entered into no-firing agreement along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir in 2003. On 25 November, 2003, the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan agreed to observe a ceasefire along the International Border, Line of Control and Actual Ground Position Line in Jammu and Kashmir.)
Violence during elections
During the bypolls for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat in April this year, at least eight people were killed in clashes with security forces, reports have said. The biggest bloodshed was recorded in Srinagar, where the by-election was held along with 10 assembly constituencies in eight states, including New Delhi's Rajouri Garden.
"There were more than 200 incidents of violence, mostly in Budgam district, which included stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks, setting ablaze of a polling station, some vehicles and attempt to burn another two polling booths," Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Shantmanu was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. During clashes in Budgam district, police initially used tear gas against protesters who were throwing stones, but then opened fire, killing seven people, a senior police officer told Reuters. On 2 May, the Election Commission cancelled the 25 May Anantnag Lok Sabha bypoll, citing poor law and order situation and lack of adequate central forces. Earlier, the EC had planned to hold the bypoll on 12 April but had postponed it to 25 May, citing similar problems in the Kashmir Valley.
In its 10-page order issued late on Monday night, the poll panel said "in view of the prevailing ground situation and non-availability of sufficient security forces, the Commission is of the considered view that peaceful, free and fair poll is not feasible on 25 May, as scheduled, though some political parties have asked for the same."
Valley paralysed with protests and social media blackout
Protests and stone-pelting did not leave Kashmir ever since July last year. Barring a few days here and there, Kashmir has been making it to the front pages of leading newspapers given the fact that there has not been a day's peace in the state.
While protesters and stone-pelters remained in the eye of the storm in the Valley, a new batch of protesters emerged — school and college students. The spiralling student protests have shaken the state administration as the number of students hitting the streets is increasing with every passing day, Firstpost reported. The decision to close few schools and a college was taken after thousands of students hit the streets against the use of excess force by security personnel inside the Degree College Pulwama, in which more than 65 students and 30 security personnel were injured.
Kashmir also witnessed a new trend in protests. Young girls, who are barely out of school and colleges, became the new face of protests in Kashmir. The valley, which has been reeling under fresh violence sparked by the killing of those whom people describe as innocent civilians by security forces, saw the emergence of several video clips fanning the anger. These videos, the authenticity of which Firspost cannot vouch for, purportedly show human rights abuse by security forces, including the use of a Kashmiri man as a human shield.
"We came on the streets to register a simple protest against what happened in the Pulwama college," Afsha Anjam, a third-year commerce student told Firstpost, "The forces outside abused us and slapped one of our girls, then we threw whatever we could lay our hands on, at them." "Why would a girl wearing a school ID card, with a basketball in one hand, throw stones? Until and unless she is forced to do so, why would she?" Anjam asked. The sporadic, but intense, a wave of student protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, and with equal participation by girl students, has taken everyone by surprise, even the mammoth intelligence-gathering apparatus of the state.
PDP-BJP 'unholy' alliance comes under scrutiny
Ever since the video of a Kashmiri man, who was allegedly tied to the front of a jeep by the Indian Army, went viral, fitful protests have been haunting the Kashmir Valley. Apart from the spate of protests, the incident has also brought political crisis back to the state, at a time when senior leaders of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) aren't entirely satisfied with the way Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is running the state.
The incident, coupled with fervent protests across the Valley, unleashed a second round of political instability in the state, especially with senior BJP leaders also speaking in favour of the Indian Army. BJP national general secretary and the party's in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, justified the controversial video. "I compliment the major for not allowing both these things to happen… If I were to blame anybody for that scenario, it would be those responsible for failing to send reinforcements when the situation was critical and it was informed to the seniors." Madhav told CNN-News18.
As protests raged, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti turned to ally BJP, and reached New Delhi to meet the central government's top three — Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah — to discuss future course of action. On 24 April, Mufti (before meeting the top BJP leadership) invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and suggested "talks with all shareholders" is the only way to "move forward". The suggestion was rebuffed by the BJP leadership.
According to The Indian Express, Mufti's suggestion has not only threatened the BJP-PDP alliance, there is also a rebellion within her own party.
Ever since she became chief minister in March 2016, Mufti's tenure has been marred by vicious protests and political instability. Several PDP leaders have expressed fear that their base in Kashmir is fast eroding because of the party’s alliance with BJP and its stance on the protests. The attack on the PDP leader came on the day fresh clashes broke out between protesters and security forces at SP College in Srinagar, police said. No casualties were reported in the incident.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: May 03, 2017 07:36 am | Updated Date: May 03, 2017 07:35 am