Author: Saadut
•8:24 PM

On 8th of January, Indian media reported that two Indian soldiers had been killed in an alleged cross-border attack by Pakistan troops across the LoC (Line of Control) at Krishna Ghati area of Poonch district in Jammu & Kashmir. While media claimed that the two Indian soldiers not only had been killed brutally but one of them had been decapitated. Some media quoting ‘other sources’, claimed that ‘the heads of both the Indian soldiers have been chopped off and one was taken away by Pakistani intruders’.  Indian media was fluctuating about their ‘beheading’ sources between ‘senior army sources’ to ‘Other sources’. However in yet another media report the spokesman for Indian army's Northern Command denied Indian media reports that one soldier’s body had been decapitated and another had its throat slit. In fact in the January 8th press release of the Indian Army about the death of these two soldiers at the hands of Pakistani troops, there was no mention of ‘head being chopped’ or ‘decapitation’. Soon studio outrage in Indian media against Pakistan was pushed to a peak, calling for action, from retaliation to outright war.

While India blamed Pakistan for the reported 8th January attack terming it as a 'Grave provocation' , Pakistan had on 6th January accused India of ‘crossing the boundary between the two sides' in Uri sector of Kashmir, attacking a Pakistani border post and killing a soldier.’  According to Pakistan, one of its soldiers had been killed and another was critically wounded in Indian attack in Uri sector early Sunday. As with the 8th January incident where two Indian soldiers were reportedly killed and Pakistan denied its involvement, India had also denied its involvement in the killing of Pakistani soldier by its troops across the LoC during 6th January Uri attack. In this maze of accusations, denials and counter accusations, Indian media had already seized the opportunity to whip its favorite ‘punching bag’. In a frenzy overdrive none of the Indian TV media was pointing to the 6th January Uri incident, nor were they pointing to the first statement from the Indian army where there had been no mention of ‘decapitation’ or ‘mutilation’.  Surely both the killings should have been condemned in the strongest terms, but was the war mongering frenzy by Indian media being whipped for pure TRP gains?

By 10th January details of the 6th January incident at Uri and the provocation that it had provided for the 8th January incident were emerging in the India media too. There was a subtle acceptance of the facts that forceful attack by an Indian commander in Uri could have been the provocation for the attack in Krishna Ghati area of Poonch district. The sparks of the Uri confrontation had been ignited September last when Indian troops had begun constructing observations bunkers around Charonda village, although such border post construction work was barred by the terms of 2003 India Pakistan LoC ceasefire agreement. These bunker constructions had been protested by the Pakistani troops, which however did not stop the Indian side from going ahead with these bunkers. Failing to stop Indian positions from constructing bunkers, tensions escalated which lead to announcements over public address systems from Pakistani side, followed by mortar fire and continued with occasional fire towards the new observation posts. According to reports, by 6th January ‘The commander of the 161 brigade, stationed in this sub-sector, .. had decided to take a very aggressive posture.. (and) that he asked the commanding officer of 9 MLI to take “proactive action”  The ‘proactive action’ and the raid on Pakistani positions led to the death of a Pakistani soldier while seriously injuring another. And it was this incident that was followed by the 8th January incident on the LoC at Krishna Ghati. Clearly such attacks and retaliatory attacks were a result of uncontained sparks and cannot be seen as a major policy shift from the defence establishments of Indian and Pakistan. But the loss of human lives in such skirmishes is often underplayed by those who ignite these sparks and the studio war mongers. On 10th January, Pakistan again claimed that ‘Indian troops shot and killed a Pakistani soldier … due to unprovoked firing by Indian troops at Hotspring sector in Battal”. The conflict continued to extract.

While we may not know the truth behind claims of mutilated bodies in the 8th January incident, but mutilating bodies in any war is deplorable. Who else but Kashmir can understand the pain of mutilated bodies and the disregard faced by human lives? Kashmir had its agony of mutilated bodies and chopped body parts, sadly Indian media has marked a distinct line between ‘their own’ and ‘the conflict fodder kashmiri’. The Indian media has never expressed any outrage against mutilated kashmiris, chopped body parts and carcasses of civilian returning in gunny sacks since Kashmiris were never considered their own. Between this India Pakistan military friction, a higher cost is borne by civilians of Kashmir; after the Uri bunker building standoff, three civilians had been killed by mortar shelling (Mohammad Shafi 25 years old, Shaheena 20 years old and Liaqat Ali a school student). The civilian casualties of conflict often go unreported by the Indian media, treated as ‘collateral damage’.

India and Pakistan seem to have learnt little from the human cost and devastation of previous wars. The irony of present times is that media and politicians, who claim to be representing peace and the interest of a nation foremost, get into warmongering mode at the slightest opportunity. And such opportunities are often encashed at the cost of truth.  Since media plays the role of the messenger and conscience keeper (sic) in modern societies, its influence in drumming popular sentiment is huge. For the past few days India’s national ranter, Arnob Goswamy had singlehandedly taken on to himself the task of leading India to a war with Pakistan. From the comfortable confines of his studio, he would make the battle cry rallying his self pat experts who have more of their mouth open that their eyes. While there can be no arguments about the futility of war; in war there are no victors, there has to be an argument about the reason for forcing a war cry. Was the Indian media not presenting only one side of the story for self glorification and for gaining brownie points against competition? Had the facts of the Uri incidents that led to the escalation of hostilities between Indian and Pakistan, still not come to light, would the war hysteria not have enveloped into serious political posturing that could even lead to some military decisions? Who would take the responsibility of repercussions of such military decisions; surely not the hate whipping media? India and Pakistan have been for long treating each other as their biggest enemies, and such postures have only negated resolution efforts of critical issues including Kashmir. While elements in India may keep denying this for self satisfaction, but fact is Kashmir continues to be the biggest issue between India and Pakistan, which if left unresolved will continue to extract a human & conflict cost. 

12th Dec, 2012

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