by Nilesh Kunwar

There are no two views that by abrogating Article 370, the Government of India has effectively neutered Islamabad’s narrative that Kashmir is “disputed territory” over which New Delhi has no legal rights and perhaps that’s why The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its recently released report has rightly opined that “Pakistan has limited options to advance its foreign policy agenda on the issue of Kashmir.”

But despite Islamabad lacking the diplomatic leverage to fulfil its dream of getting hold of Kashmir, which became evident when all it could achieve was the support of only three out of the 193 strong UN member states, it still refuses to realise the futility of harping on this issue and reconcile with reality. Instead, the bull-headed military leadership, which oversees Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, has already put into motion its ‘Plan B’ in order to keep the Kashmir pot boiling.

What Is Rawalpindi’s New Game-Plan?

Having found no takers for its “disputed territory” argument, Pakistan is now focusing on trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue by spreading the canard that New Delhi has “caged’ the people of Kashmir and is brutalising them in order to prevent them from expressing their resentment against abrogation of Article 370. This plan is being implemented in two stages- initial restraint in stage 1, followed by violence in stage 2.

Restrictions on movement and communication imposed by the centre as a precautionary measure suited Islamabad’s interests since it lent credence to its allegations that people of Kashmir had been “caged.” In order to further buttress this narrative, the ISI ensured that separatists and terrorists kept a low profile as long as restrictions were in force. The aim was to cite lack of any major untoward incident as proof that New Delhi was just trying to fool the international community by using the law and order maintenance excuse to conceal its covert pogrom against Kashmiris.

Once the centre started easing restrictions, ISI kick started the second stage of its plan by activating its proxies. While ‘upper ground’ elements incited mobs to pelt stones at vehicles plying on roads without even sparing tourists and torching school buildings, terrorists went about attacking the public with guns and grenades without any forewarning. No call for shutdowns were given but still those who dared to venture out were targeted, be it shopkeepers, roadside vendors, people connected with the apple industry, truck drivers and even ordinary commuters.

In this unprecedented orgy of violence perpetuated by Pakistan sponsored terrorists, several innocent civilians have been killed while nearly a 100 people, some as young as three years old and some as old as 65 years have been injured in grenade attacks in busy market places.

Why Are Terrorists Targeting Kashmiris Indiscriminately?

The aim of rampantly targeting civilians is to so terrorise them that they dare not venture out of their homes and a just a sample of a few excerpts from news reports that reinforce this assessment are reproduced below:

• “Terrorists have stepped up grenade attacks in the valley since August 5, when centre scrapped Article 370 and Article 35 A, besides divided the state into two UTs.” (Kashmir Observer, November 4).

• “The petrol bomb attack spread panic among the people, who ran for safety. Streets, which were a buzz before the attack, with heavy vehicular traffic, wore a deserted look in just minutes after the attack.” (Brighter Kashmir, November 5.).

• “About resumption of transport service, the members expressed concern about safety and security of drivers and passengers,” sources said. They said the sector has already suffered huge losses due to strike and any damage to vehicles or drivers or conductors will prove disastrous. (Brighter Kashmir, November 5).

• “The (grenade) blast created total chaos and confusion in the area with attackers taking advantage of the chaos and managing to escape from the spot. The entire marketplace from Residency Road to Batamaloo, reports said, wore a deserted look after one person was killed and 40 others mostly street vendors selling fruits, vegetables, used clothes, crockery and other items were injured in grenade attack.” (Kashmir Times November 5).

• “Roadside vendors were still missing in the area where one person was killed and over 35 others injured in a grenade attack by unidentified persons in civil line area on Monday afternoon. However, life again came to halt at 1100 hrs when shopkeepers closed their establishments and left for home.” (Kashmir Observer, November 6).

• “Amirakadal and its adjoining markets wore deserted look a day after a non-local street vendor from Uttar Pradesh lost his life in a grenade attack in the vicinity. Forty others including three security forces personal also suffered injuries in the incident.” (Kashmir Times, November 6)

Threat of bodily harm due to terrorist attacks will obviously discourage people from venturing outside unless it’s unavoidable and this will give Islamabad a chance to internationalise the Kashmir issue by portraying the subtly enforced indoor stay as being a voluntary decision taken by Kashmiris to express their resentment against abrogation of Article 370.

Since the main objective of inciting mobs to indulge in wanton acts of violence and directing terrorists to target civilians is to create mayhem in Kashmir and pass off the ensuing chaos as a mass resentment against abrogation of Article 370, the need of the hour for all political parties, NGOs and activists is that they should not get unduly emotional and fall into the trap laid by vested interests by igniting passions or succumb to the temptation of drawing political mileage, settling personal scores, or for achieving petty gains.

Since Pakistan has now unleashed a no-holds-barred covert war in Kashmir, it’s time for us to set aside our differences unitedly take this challenge head-on.

Nilesh Kunwar is an amateur Kashmir watcher and after retirement is pursuing his favourite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks