Many Kashmir-related myths busted amidst rumours, media hype and panic
The situation in Jammu Kashmir seems to be hurtling towards some undefined goal even as the article is being penned down. If media were to be believed, and rumours are flying thick and fast, then it seems there is a big change in the offing. The situation seems to be very fluid, rendering what is written a few hours ago by editors as irrelevant.
But when one calmly sits to analyse the ‘Kashmir situation’ one realises that globally and domestically events have been quietly shaping up towards what one sees at present. Kashmir, contrary to a certain media narrative, has never been an isolated entity, with ‘azadi’ being the only narrative Kashmir seems to be identified with.
Senge Sering, an activist from the occupied territory, analysed the present state with a very interesting tweet, stating the solution of Kashmir problems lies in Gilgit, not Srinagar. Kashmir, since ancient times, was never immune to global events, being located on numerous trade routes.
At present, President Trump wants to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and in the present geographical context, for the US, access to Afghanistan is via Pakistan. US-Taliban are going in for peace talks in Qatar, and the Indian friendly regime of Afghanistan is not included by Taliban in the talks.
In the recent visit of Pakistan president Imran Khan to the US, Trump’s ill informed offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue took everyone by surprise. India rejected the offer, not once, but twice. Though the US state department immediately issued clarifications and stated that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, Trump again irked India by issuing a qualified offer to mediate on August 2. To a question on how would he "want to resolve the Kashmir issue", Trump said: "If I can, if they wanted me to, I would certainly intervene." He, however, qualified it with: "It's really up to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi (to accept the offer of mediation)."
Pakistan seemed to have got emboldened by this offer, and more so by the aid finally granted by the US. Reports have started pouring in of terror camps in PoJK getting revived. The LoC, which is always hot, suddenly burst into white hot action by Pakistan shelling, killing a civilian child in Indian side. The Army retaliated as it always does, but Pakistan suddenly chose to present it as if India is ready to attack Pakistan. Unverified rumours started across the border, accusing India of damaging the Neelam-Jhelum Hydropower plant, Indian jets buzzing over LoC, and the latest being Indian forces dropping cluster bombs, which was denied by the Indian forces. In India, the usual suspects in media, aided by ex CMs Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, joined in the chorus to spread the narrative of panic and an impending war.
The most probable explanation is that Pakistan wants to exploit the present US-Afghanistan disengagement by starting a bogey of Indian aggression and forcing the US to intervene. This appears quite plausible as Imran Khan again made a statement on Sunday. “President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LOC with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces. This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis,” he said on Twitter. He is obviously trying to internationalise the 'Kashmir issue' - an old strategy of Pakistan to shift focus from its internal failures.
Notably the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also took to Twitter on Sunday on the issue. Upon Pakistan's request to take note of the recent developments in the region, the OIC in a series of tweets showed 'deep concern' over the escalating tension between the two countries along the LoC.
However, the press briefing, on the back of deployment of additional paramillitary forces, caused intense speculation of trifurcation, abolition of Articles 370, 35A, war with Pakistan and assorted rumours. The advisory issued by the Governor to Amarnath yatris and tourists to leave Kashmir as soon as possible added fuel to the fire.
The official explanation for additional deployment in Kashmir is given as a security precaution based on intelligence reports, and the plan to hoist the tricolour in every panchayat on forthcoming 15 August. The advisory to Amarnath Yatra seems to be a logical outcome in view of landmines and sniper threats. Yet the Kashmiri media, aided by likes of Barkha Dutta, Rajdeep Sardesai etc are joining in rumour mongering and creating panic. They are trying to incite Kashmiri populace by alleging that Articles 35A and 370 are going to be removed, Kashmir will be trifurcated into Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir, and claiming the people are terrified. Some are trying to bring back the terrible exodus of 19 January 1990, claiming that the government spread unwarranted fear then, and is doing the same now.
Somethings are definitely different this summer in the Kashmir valley. If one goes back to July 2016, the death of Burhan Wani, aided by the same media personalities, plunged the valley into a frenzy of violent protests, stone pelting and an virulent anti-pellet guns narrative, which was aimed at hobbling the forces in the valley. Three years down the line, stone pelting incidents are almost negligible and the visuals of media showing protests every Friday seem to be absent. The domestic media is discussing Articles 35A and 370 every day, and the fake media narratives are being burst daily. There is a public opinion being built in India about abolition of the discriminatory articles, and the Abdullahs and Mufti dynasties are slowly loosing domestic support.
Rumour mongering by established leaders and media on 35A and 370 has been exposed. The articles will be removed in Parliament, not secretly. Rumours about J&K Police being asked to deposit arms have also been denied by the J&K Police.
But the bottom line is — no one knows what is happening, as they always did in the past. The NC, PDP and Pakistan-friendly media hope that by creating a situation of panic, the government may be forced to spell out its plans.
The situation is fluid. Yet, the present scenario has burst many bluffs - the separatists often claimed there are more than 7,00,000 troops present in the valley, so a mere addition of 10 or 30 thousand troops should not send them into a panic mode. There are no stone pelting mobs or flag burning mobs on the streets, this also burst the bluff of Kashmiris wanting to come on the roads for azadi.