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Courage, pettiness

In a significant development, two men belonging to a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror module were arrested by the Army in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. Reportedly, the two terrorists were involved in the August 16 attack on army/police convoy at Baramulla. It’s a significant catch for our armed forces and intelligence agencies, considering the climate of terror that the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment continues to foster on Indian soil. 

Meanwhile, escalating cross-border firing, Pakistani Rangers overnight pounded border hamlets and outposts with mortar shells and opened fire from automatic weapons along the International Border. Seven Pakistani Rangers and a terrorist were killed and three others seriously injured in retaliatory firing by Border Security Force troops. Unless top-level officials intervene, the continuous firing along the International Border (IB) is expected to continue for some time. The commanders of both border forces must meet soon and sort it out before more innocent civilians suffer. 

Before the Uri attack and surgical strikes by the Indian Army, ceasefire violations along the International Border had witnessed a sharp decline. “In 2014 there were as many as 430 violations compared to four this year,” says a report in The Hindu. But since these recent developments, ceasefire violations have spiked. 

However, another reason could be that the Pakistani ISI wants to infiltrate as many militants as it can before winter sets in. While our security personnel are bravely guarding our borders, politicians in the mainland continue to exploit the good name of the Indian Army for petty gains. Merely days after he promised stern action against any attempt to block the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis found himself brokering a deal borne out of brute coercion. Some have even called it extortion. 

In other words, the Maharashtra Chief Minister brokered a deal between Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray and the film’s producers in which the latter promised not cast Pakistani artists in the future and to pay Rs 5 crore as “penance” to the Army welfare fund.  To the uninitiated, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a Karan Johar-directed film starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Indian Army has expressed its disappointment at the way petty politicians have forced the film's producers to pay Rs 5 crore for its welfare funds. The army is no mood for such low-level political bickering. It is a strong, highly disciplined and secular institution. 

No political party has any business exploiting its name for petty electoral gains. The makers of the Bollywood flick have capitulated to the MNS mob, as well as large sections of the Indian public consumed by low-grade intolerance and a misplaced sense of patriotism. The ease, with which a complete boycott of people from a particular country has been enforced, whereby everyone is intimidated into falling in line, reflects poorly on the state of our public discourse. 

"What the threat-makers forget is this — culture humanises what politics demonises,” writes Salman Ahmad, a founding member of popular Pakistani music group Junoon in a recent column for an Indian publication. “Banning artists, writers, actors and poets will give victory to the terrorists and extremists who don’t want people-to-people contact. They only want to create fear." 

The Centre has issued no changes in the visa policy for Pakistani citizens. Trade relations with Pakistan are still intact. There was no need for Fadnavis to mediate any deal. By brokering the deal, he has legitimised the mob. Instead, one is left with the impression that the state government isn’t strong enough to maintain law and order in the face of an ill-tempered mob.
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