By SHABBIR AARIZ
Addressing India Today conclave 2019, Prime Minister Modi said that the situation would have been different, had the government procured Rafael jets and according to him, the whole nation was missing Rafael jets. Similar views were expressed by the Air Force chief, Dhanoa while saying that once Rafael was here, Pakistan would not come near Line Of Actual Control. These being the statements from the most responsible functionaries of the nation after both Pulwama terror attack and Balakot surgical strikes, have made the atmosphere a little misty that has led to a number of questions being asked by a number of people who are equally placed in responsible positions in Indian public life. What conclusions can be drawn from the suggestions made by the prime minister and the Air Chief except that in the absence of Rafael jets, the desired results were not achieved even after the claims of huge losses having been inflicted on Jaish camps in Balakot following the air strikes. Though West Bengal Chief minister, Mamta Banerjee had earlier pointed that nation has a right to know as to what actually had happened after IAF’s strikes since according to her the foreign media had reported that not much damage was done. But lately politicians like Digvijay Singh, Manesh Tewari, Ramgopal Yadav, Raj Thakray and many more have not only raised doubts and sought explanation but have alleged conspiracy against the BJP government. While the government is dismissive of all such talk and describe it as discrediting the nation’s armed forces, those who ask questions, seek support from various international sources such as investigations by Reuters based according to them on high resolution satellite imagery by Planet Labs that has noted unchanged landscape while compared to an April 2018 satellite photo of the bombed site. Similarly according to European Feb, a day after the strike, showed buildings unharmed and no sign of casualties at the site. Yet another article published on 27 March on The Strategist, run by Australian Strategic Institute (ASPI) pointed out conspicuously undamaged roofs as seen in the imagery. Though some have rubbished these findings here but others argue and ask questions following some contradictory statements made again by very responsible functionaries of the government and the ruling party. The home minister, Rajnath Singh felt that there was no need to tell as how many were killed in the surgical strike while the party president Amit Shah said that more than two hundred and fifty were killed. U.P chief minister Yogi Adityanath placed the figure at four hundred killed but the Air Chief maintained that IAF does not count the dead. Needless to say that initial intelligence inputs put the figure at twenty eight. Meanwhile western diplomats say that no one on the government cares to set the record straight. Although Modi at a rally in Jammu said that while Pakistan was counting its dead, some back home still question the results of air strikes. There have been terror attacks previously also but questions were neither raised nor did leading political figures and others air their doubts as is the case now the entire official narrative is being looked at as anomalous. No blood. No bodies. No debris. No tragedy. Some also point their fingers at the fact that timing of both Pulwama terror attack and the surgical strikes that followed have placed Prime Minister Modi at an advantageous position politically. They hold that Pulwama and Balakot have given him a new lease of life. This opinion is shared by many who hold that the prime minister has failed the nation after 2014 and has not been able to deliver in terms of employment, poverty alleviation, problems of the farmers or the vital strategic concerns of the nation. The right wing agenda of Ram temple and so called HinduRashtra also remains to be achieved. In the process the issue of Kashmir has been internationalized to the extent that it has come to be described as dangerous place on earth which is something that Pakistan and Huriyat has not been able to do all these decades. Another side effect that is felt even by military veterans is that army is being dragged into politics. Given this situation, army in due course will not only talk politics but by and by may also seek political space which in any case is not a healthy sign for a democracy like India. As if it was not enough, claims that before the aircraft flown by the wing commander, Abhinandan was shot by Pakistani missile, he was able to shot down Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet have been described wrong by the two senior U.S defense officials reportedly with direct knowledge of the situation who counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing. Pundits view this controversy also in relation to the elections to the parliament. Whatever the truth, things seem terribly messed up and Pulwama-Balakot has become a bone stuck in the throat that neither is being swallowed nor vomited out and has now led to collective punishment to the larger population of the state by closing the highway for civilians twice a week for convoy movement of security forces in order to eliminate the fear of any attack on them. Sadly, this arrangement only reminds one of the times in the history when some maharaja of Kashmir constituted his army and the army sought police protection to move from Srinagar to Jammu which has been described by various commentators as stupidly preposterous and now also the move has been widely criticized for the right reasons. Claims of Kashmir limping to normalcy are not only dissipated but on the contrary the losses are irreparable. Be that as it may, it is now for about a period of two months that people’s peace is consumed by the controversies around Balakot which need to end somewhere as even after truthfully believing the official narratives, the total peace is not guaranteed unless wiser alternatives are not worked out to achieve that and let us hope that 2019 election results also result in bringing about stability and joy in the region.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author can be reached at: [email protected])