The Indian Army has lost nine personnel to terrorists, the highest loss of casualties in the Poonch region of Jammu and Kashmir since 2004 putting a huge dent in the Union government’s claims that they are successfully targeting militancy in the region.
The ongoing counter terror operations are one of the longest and the most deadly in recent years and will go down as one of the worst attacks in recent times after the Uri attack and Pulwama bombing.
But more than that, these attacks signify that it is back to square one for all parties involved in the equation -- the Indian Army, the people of Kashmir, the government of Kashmir that is now completely ruled by Delhi via a Lieutenant Governor since the state was downgraded to an Union territory and those living in Kashmir.
This after a series of ‘masterstrokes’ by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi each of which was touted as an end of terrorism in the Kashmir valley.
Jammu and Kashmir is now a Union territory bifurcated from the Ladakh region that was hived off into a separate Union territory. Article 370 has been repealed. The region is now directly under the control of the Central government and the Prime Minister himself claims to be a bold, brave and decisive leader who will bring an end to all troubles in the region.
Each of the moves listed above was sold as bringing an end to terrorism in the region and curtailing the ability and incentive for the cross-border terrorists to come into the region and cause carnage. Instead, they have proven to be just as effective in fighting terrorism as demonetization was in fighting black money.
There’s an even more sinister pattern that is now emerging. Terrorists are now targeting non-local people for their killings -- people both Hindus and Muslim who have settled in the region for work have been traced and killed -- to send out a stern message that Article 370 being repealed or not ‘outsiders’ will not be welcomed to Kashmir and even if they do choose to travel there for work, they will be risking their lives.
Never mind being able to buy land in Kashmir or being able to marry Kashmiri girls, as many of the ruling party’s foot soldiers were boldly claiming on social media, even travelling there for a holiday is now being considered risky.
This is a far cry from the situation in the then State of Jammu and Kashmir, when after years and years of confidence building measures being conducted by the Government and the Indian Army the Prime Minister chose to deal with the region with an ‘iron fist’.
Not only has the running roughshod over the sentiments of Kashmiris and denying them basic dignity in their own land begun to backfire, it is also risking decades of slow progress made in the region which led to a boom in tourism over the turn of the century and allowed thousands of tourists from the rest of India to witness the beauty of Kashmir.
That seems like a far cry now and is symptomatic of much of the style of governance of the current leadership -- much bluster but little substance.
Will India wake up and choose substance over style?