Megaphone from across the border
Aditya Aamir elaborates how inaction has curdled the Kashmir issue
There was a warning before shelling started, a megaphone blaring from across the border, asking the people of Silikote, the last village on the LoC in Uri, to "not waste time" and get the hell out, and away. Within an hour, when the shelling started, only the soldiers remained. They and the Bofors guns. The Indian Army retaliated with equal if not greater intensity to the Pakistani shelling.
The opposition would make us believe the shelling is proof of the PDP-BJP government continuing to sin against the Kashmiris; the blueprint of democracy being constantly put to test by persisting with an unholy alliance in the Vale, the shelling a byproduct of the Government's flawed policy of 'no talks, till terror stops'.
Houses in Silikote have been shaking since February 20. The village is 10 km from Uri town. It is separated from Pakistan by a gushing stream that flows in from enemy country. All 200 villagers have fled Silikote leaving it to the soldiers and the shells. People of at least 12 villages around Silikote have fled their homes. They say Pakistani shelling has never been so intense since the 1990s.
Images of women and children huddled in a classroom of the Girl's Higher Secondary School tell the tale. It is a 'war-like situation'. For Kashmiris life in times of shelling is all about looming death and "not waste time". It is funny to hear/read reports of "Pakistan violates ceasefire again" – the "ceasefire of 2003". What are they talking about? The ceasefire stopped to exist after the first time it was broken and nobody even remembers when that was.
The Uri-subdivision has a population 1.25 lakh people. In case of escalation of shelling on the LoC, people of 55 border villages are impacted. This is not 'stone-throwing' zone. People of Uri town and the villages that ring it have no time for stone-throwing. They cannot "waste time" indulging in pelting stones and shouting 'Le Ke Rahenge Azaadi'. Uri is not the JNU Campus. Or, for that matter, the J&K Assembly.
Local government officials say it is an "emergency-like situation" in Uri subdivision. Authorities had to summon ambulances and press whatever available government vehicles into service to evacuate people from the villages when shelling started. It is the biggest displacement of people in 28 years. An emergency control room has been set up in the town. The average Uri family is bothered about its home and all that they had to leave behind. All that they struggled to build and invest in over the years since 2003 – livestock, houses, life! With the megaphone blaring from across the border, they had to flee in what was only on their backs, and the clothes they wore.
"Why cannot India and Pakistan settle this once and for all time?" is a refrain constantly heard. For three and a half years the Government has been talking of settling the Kashmir issue once and for all. But the "unholy alliance" stands in the way. PDP and BJP are two sides of the coin, different. They are not on the same page. If one is distinctly pro-Pakistan, the other is rabidly anti-Pakistan.
The voice on the megaphone from across the border is 'new' – "threatening, ominous". What next? Pakistan has in recent days expanded its area of ceasefire violations along the LoC. Moving up from 'South of Pir Panjal range' to 'Up from Pir Panjal'. There are reports that 200 terrorists are waiting on launching pads across the border to infiltrate into Uri subdivision. Snow this year has been less than in previous years. The brigade headquarters in Uri was the scene of a major terror strike in 2016 with 19 soldiers killed. Another such strike could make the LoC "sizzle".
The Government has with its inaction curdled the Kashmir problem beyond repair. It has been left with very few options. Right now it looks like India is allowing itself to be guided by American interests vis a vis Pakistan. It is 'America First' and not 'India First'. Modi will have to do something dramatic to make Kashmir work for him in 2019. What that 'dramatic' will be is the question. Till then the megaphone from across the border will do the talking. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal)