The worst Pakistani firing in 15 years — in the Uri area of Kashmir — on Saturday coincided with the third anniversary of the PDP-BJP government in the state, underlining the Kafkaesque nature of the reality in J&K. The Indian Army returned fire using the Bofors gun, indicating the seriousness of the situation. Earlier, from the Pakistani side, loudspeakers could be heard in Uri asking people to vacate their homes by a specified hour.
This appears to have been psychological warfare tactics to create panic among civilians. Public anxiety is growing. It is evident that in recent months, the border areas of J&K have come alive. Small arms fire, the norm so far in respect of Pakistani ceasefire violations, has given way to artillery.
Pakistan seem to be escalating hostilities as it calculates that the restraint the international community is imposing on it to make it fight terrorism can be loosened if the Pakistan Army can create the impression of a military conflict with India.
Domestic politics in India, on the other hand, is likely to be guided by the coming general election within a year, and it may just suit the ruling side to show heightened military activity against Pakistan.
The lack of concern shown by the Centre toward the political matrix in Kashmir — highlighted by its refusal to start political discussions with different elements to defuse the situation and create conditions of peace and stability, as envisaged in the PDP-BJP’s Agenda of Alliance — suggests apathy on the Narendra Modi government’s part.
Its core belief appears to be that if the optics can be designed to give the impression that India has given Pakistan a “strong reply”, then nothing needs to be done in Kashmir. Besides, that may help the BJP go beyond appealing to its core constituency. What we seem to have is a perfect example of governance by propaganda.
In three years, the Mehbooba Mufti government has achieved only negative results. Her PDP party’s relations with its BJP ally repeatedly hit new lows on every parameter of politics and administration. In the past three years, the coordination committee of the coalition partners to review the Agenda of Alliance has met just thrice, suggesting that both sides realise they are hanging in there only in order to be in power, even as they realise the state is gaining little by their association.
More and more young people have taken to the gun in the past two years than at any time since the mid-1990s. Repeated stone-pelting against the paramilitary forces and the Army is being reported. In the Valley, MLAs — and specially those of the ruling PDP — are unable to visit their constituents. The panchayat election is six months overdue. The Centre’s political unconcern is writ large on the map.