As Government unravels the conspiracy behind the horrendous car bomb attack on February 14, 2019, that has taken the lives of 49 Central Reserve Police Force jawans, it must consider civilian supporters of terrorists, especially stone pelters who hurt the Forces, as accomplices. Pulwama has shaken India’s soul; we can no longer tolerate human rights vultures while losing worthy citizens. In a little noticed episode on February 13, 2019, an explosion at a private school in Narbal, Pulwama, injured 16 students. Yet the police team that arrived to investigate the incident was pelted with stones. Apparently, a student of class X was carrying explosives in his bag, which exploded after others fiddled with it.
This message should also be strongly conveyed to the Supreme Court, whose judges last year ordered that FIRs be filed against soldiers when civilian casualties occur, and who dismissed a petition by over 300 serving soldiers asking the Court to define where their duty ends and crime begins in their operations against anti-national forces. The petition was an appeal to the apex court not to act as protector of the human rights industry; sadly, it fell on deaf ears and the PIL business continues to flourish.
It was a mistake to ask Northern Army commander, Lt Gen D.S. Huda (of Uri surgical strikes fame) to publicly apologise when jawans at a check post fired upon a civilian who refused to stop for a routine security check, smashed through two check posts and was moving through the third when stopped by a bullet (April 2016). The provocation was to the jawans, not the other way round, but the Bharatiya Janata Party, infatuated with its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party, humiliated the men in uniform.
Fortunately, the government stood by Major Leetul Gogoi when, during the violence in Ultigam (Srinagar bypoll) in May 2017, he grabbed an alleged ringleader of stone-pelters and used him as a human shield to save the lives of Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel. In the violence that day, petrol bombs were hurled and boulders thrown from rooftops. It follows that while finalising its policy on Pakistan, the Government must enunciate a policy regarding civilian perpetrators of violence (those not officially affiliated with a terror outfit) in Jammu and Kashmir. There has been enough charity; now zero tolerance must begin at home.
We must also speak some harsh truths to the nation and particularly to Jammu and Kashmir. What is the purpose of inane dialogues to integrate Kashmir with India? Does the nation know that Maharaja Hari Singh repeatedly offered to accede to India prior to 1947, but was rebuffed by Jawaharlal Nehru who insisted that power be handed over to Sheikh Abdullah as a condition for accepting the sensitive border state? That Mountbatten knew of the Pakistani aggression but withheld aid for four critical days? That after 1947, Central funds allotted for the entire State were cornered by Kashmir valley to the detriment of Jammu and Ladakh?
The myth of the artificial alienation of the valley has to stop somewhere. Four lakh Kashmiri Pandits were terrorised, brutalised, and forced out of the State in the biting winter of 1989-90, and the Lutyens Fraternity shamelessly blamed Governor Jagmohan when he had barely entered the State. Now, as Pulwana shatters the national stupor, false stories of Kashmiri students being terrorised in some places are flooding the social media. Has any Kashmiri politician or human rights activist wondered about the careers of non-Kashmiri students of the National Institute of Technology Srinagar who objected to Kashmiri students celebrating India’s loss against West Indies in World T20 series (March 31, 2016); they were thrashed by Kashmir police for chanting nationalist slogans and waving the tricolour and left the State in fear of their lives.
The Centre has to think carefully about how to punish nuclear-armed Pakistan, which has also developed tactical (small, easily deployable) nuclear weapons. An Uri-like action may not be feasible; perhaps terror kingpins like Saeed Hafiz and Azhar Masood can have a “bad accident”.
But before any action in or against Pakistan, there is much to fix at home: repeal Article 370 through Presidential Order; the President alone has the power. Repeal Article 35-A that was smuggled into the Constitution by Presidential Order in 1954 at the insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru, despite Dr Rajendra Prasad’s objections.
The State flag must go without further ado; Urdu (official language of Pakistan, which led to its break-up) must no longer be the official language of a state with a rich civilisational heritage and classical language, Kashmiri. Jammu and Ladakh must be allowed to adopt Dogri and Bhoti (Bodhi) as language of education. It is true that the Centre has granted Ladakh a Central University and Divisional status, but the long neglected Jammu and Ladakh regions now deserve attention and national resources.
Major world capitals and neighbouring countries condemned the Pulwama attack and stood by India. In a significant statement, Washington, which needs Islamabad to extricate itself from Afghanistan, said: “US condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack today on an Indian CRPF convoy in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”. This is the first time the US has unequivocally called Jammu and Kashmir an “Indian State”.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad, which was behind the attack on the Indian Parliament (2001) and Pathankot air base (2016), has claimed responsibility for Pulwama. But what deserves attention is the timing and purpose of the attack. Iran has accused Pakistan of supporting Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) terrorists who are behind a suicide bombing that killed 27 troops on February 13, 2019. Revolutionary Guards Commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has threatened retaliation if Islamabad does not punish the culprits and warned that the action would not be ‘limited to its borders’. He blamed two other Middle Eastern nations for complicity in the attack.
Pulwama continues a series of Pakistani provocations against Indian armed forces: Pathankot (January 2016); Uri (September 2016); Nagrota (November 2016); Sunjwan (February 2018). But what could be the reason for Islamabad – which has always feared a two-front war – opening hostilities on two borders at the same time? Its greatest backer, China, does not want to alienate Tehran or New Delhi, even if Beijing is not supporting India in having Azhar Masood declared a ‘global terrorist’ at the United Nations.
(The writer is Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library; the views expressed are personal)
The Pioneer, 19 February 2019