The attack on the Indian Army camp at Uri, on the Line of Control in Kashmir, has left the Valley worried. It is the timing of the attack that has troubled a cross section of Valley residents, and the fact that it may push a resolution of the Kashmir issue farther away.
“People’s mood is off because of the attacks,” said the owner of a prominent news agency who had spoken to a wide range of people on the matter, but on condition of anonymity. “It was hoped that India and Pakistan would talk to each and something fruitful would come out of it. We are also frustrated [with the impasse].”
A trader in Srinagar’s commercial hub, Lal Chowk, asked why such attacks happened every time India and Pakistan seemed to be inching towards dialogue. He also blamed it on a security lapse in the Army.
“They [infiltrators] go for a morning walk and they reach Pathankot, they go for an evening walk and reach Uri,” he said.
Closer to the Line of Control, traders did not seem very worried about the attack taking a toll on business immediately. But they were still wary of how the situation might develop.
Hilal Turki, president of the Salamabad Cross LoC Traders Union, said, “The [cross LoC] bus service and trade are two big CBMs [Confidence Building Measures] as far as Kashmir is concerned. Even after the previous attack in Uri [in 2014], when a JCO [junior commissioned officer] died, the bus was allowed to go. These CBMs are not affected. We hope trust builds between India and Pakistan.”
Protests after Uri
In the wake of the attacks, some fear security forces will come down harder on civilian protesters. Ever since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8, mass protests have spread across the Valley.
“Militancy never led to a solution, only to more Kashmiris getting killed,” said Touseef Raina, who runs the Global Youth Foundation, a forum that works to promote peace, and is from Baramulla in North Kashmir. “And this is even worse. What has been happening around Uri is more like war. Who in their right mind would want war? Only those who sell armaments.”
Ghulam Hassan Mir, a politician from the Democratic Party (Nationalist) and former state agriculture minister, said the attack was unfortunate and expressed concerns that civilian resentment against the government would not be distinguished from armed violence.
“Now the resentment on ground will be seen through [the prism of] militancy,” he said. “Both countries are nuclear powered and when these two fight, it doesn’t bode well for anyone. It is totally unacceptable for the people of Kashmir. We have to see where there were lapses in security and the perpetrators must be dealt with strictly.”
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads the pro-Pakistan Hurriyat Conference faction and has become the figurehead for the recent protests, issued a statement where he expressed concern about human lives but also voiced some suspicion about the attack. He brought up the Chittisinghpura massacre in 2000, in which 35 Sikhs were killed, at a time when Bill Clinton, then president of the United States, was visiting India.
“It was done deliberately to hoodwink America and international community,” said Geelani, reviving an old allegation. “Similarly, the Uri episode is used in same nature to demoralise people and create suspicions about people’s movement.”
Many in the Valley share this suspicion. They have questioned the timing of the Uri attack that came days before the UN General Assembly was to begin. The attack, some believe, was aimed to divert attention from the deaths of at least 86 civilians in the current unrest, and the speeches at the UN that were expected to raise the issue of Kashmir.
Shahroz Khushal, a student at Kashmir University, said that he believed the attack would not lead to war but did not trust the government’s version of the strike. "Indian government and policies are dishonest,” he said. “90% of the people believe the attack took place because Indian agencies want to take Kashmir at the global level that ‘we [India] are being attacked in Kashmir and that is why we are here’."
Khushal added: "this attack will lead to a generation of bunkers again in Kashmir.”
Tight spot for Pakistan
Muzaffar Hussain Baig, a senior leader of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and a member of Parliament, however, said that he thought the Uri attack would only go against Pakistan.
“The relations between India and Pakistan are going from bad to worse,” he said. “Pakistan will not benefit from this attack. Rather, it will be detrimental to them. In the United Nations and in the world, I think, an opinion is taking shape that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism.”
The international community, he seemed to think, had sided with India, largely thanks to the prime minister’s international standing.
“This is the first time that international community has shown strong reactions,” said Baig. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has achieved a status in the world. Whatever he says is taken seriously.”
The international community has condemned the attack and expressed its solidarity with India. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent out a carefully worded statement condemning the attacks, terming the infiltrators militants. The UN has a presence on both sides of the LoC in the form of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, whose mandate is to monitor the ceasefire between the two countries.
While Pakistan denies a role in the Uri attack of September 18, tensions have escalated. Two days after the attack, Pakistan violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control and the Army foiled an infiltration bid by an estimated 15 gunmen. At least 10 infiltrators and one Indian Army jawan have been killed in the ongoing encounter. The Pakistan Army has for long resorted to ceasefire violations along the Line of Control to assist infiltration.
Meanwhile, on September 19, militants attacked a police post in the Handwara area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. This is not the first time that Uri has been a target for infiltrators. In December 2014, they stormed into an Army installation in the same region. Eleven security forces personnel and six militants were killed in the incident.
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