June 11, 2002


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Varsha Bhosle

The jilebi-wala who cried 'wolf'

That was one baaad week. First, thanks to my applying a recommendation by Windows Update, my video card died. Of course, I didn't know that then; in panic, I restored my registry. Immediately, my computer died. So, for the very first time, I ran to a techie for help. She reinstalled the OS. Which, of course, does not include the 2,001 personalisations I'd made over the years, nor my reference files. Never mind. I disregarded all my misfortunes and assiduously studied for Monday's column. On Sunday, I ignored that bastard Office Assistant, the alien menu/toolbar, the "English" spellchecker, and somehow finished the column. I walked out of my room in triumph, and wouldn't you know it, the idiot box announced the arrest -- the very exhortation in my just-finished column -- of the Hurriyat's Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Now WHY couldn't they have waited a day?! I'd have come out smelling of CBI! Instead, I had to junk the entire piece.

Don't know about you, but I just can't start from scratch all over again within an hour or two. So I asked the sainted editor for an extra day and prepared another column. And wouldn't you know it, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that India has lifted the ban on overflights by Pakistani aircraft and is allowing PIA to use Indian airspace again. There went my second piece, as well: 'Twas about the continuing Indian resolve in the face of American pressure.

Apparently, the government has made this goodwill gesture in response to the Chief Mohajir's pledge to "permanently" curb jihadi infiltration into the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir, which assurance was delivered to the PM by the WWF champ, Richard Armitage. Nirupama Rao said, "Certain changes have taken in the last 10-12 days. There are some indications of a fall in infiltration although no final conclusion can be made... We have a menu of options available. It is not that we have come to a definite conclusion that there is tangible change but certain changes are taking place."

I felt sorry for her. Gone was the confidently belligerent tone; she stuttered, fumbled and, for the first time, looked like she wanted to flee the scrutiny of the cameras. What she said seems Ok on paper, but how she said it... therein lies the crunch.

So, what has happened "in the last 10-12 days" for the government to have concluded that Mushy will surely stop the slow bleeding of India? Perhaps, it's the case of the Indian High Commission staffer, Kulwant Singh, who was deported from Islamabad after being abducted and tortured by a certain Paki agency. Pakistan's good intentions are reflected in Singh's words: "There they beat me without a reason before removing me to a building which I think was their headquarters. Even there they did not stop beating me, going mainly for my neck and head. Finally, one of them sat on my back and broke my spine." Indian surgeons have confirmed Singh's being beaten with blunt objects, leading to his head and neck injuries, and the multiple fractures in his spinal cord. Perhaps, this is what convinced Hajpayee and Colonel Blimp of the sincerity of our good neighbour.

The apologists for Pakistan -- including the US, and a good number of our so-called defence experts -- have never stopped saying that the Chief Mohajir indeed wants to halt the infiltration into J&K, and that by reacting to aggression, India would be playing into the hands of the Islamic jihadis, who are out to get, both, Mushy and India. Hmmm... I suppose, Kulwant Singh was also abducted by the Lashkar or Al-Badr. Maybe that's why the Pakistan government declared him persona non grata and ordered his expulsion -- even as the Chief Mohajir was in the midst of his tête-à-tête with Richard Armitage.

Perhaps, what convinced our government was Pakistan's change of heart on the extradition demands by India. On May 27, it was reported that Mushy had sent feelers to Delhi that he was ready to act on the list of 20 Indian fugitives, including Dawood Ibrahim - but on his terms. Citing the "Palestinian formula," Mushy wanted the fugitives to be deported to and imprisoned in a third country. The "third country," of course, will be a place like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya or Iraq, where the deportees will live comfortably ever after, and use their cell phones more vigorously than before.

Of course, this Paki demand is entirely in line with its view on bilateral talks, as enunciated by Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar on June 6: Indian ministers "have some conditions in mind and they want these to be met before talks could begin... Is it possible to accept these conditions before a dialogue? In the present world situation, nobody can uphold this view."

Or perhaps, it was this June 4 report that did it: "Though radio intercepts indicate that Pakistan has asked terrorists to stop their activities for one to two months, army on Tuesday said there were no markers on the ground to suggest any de-escalation in cross-border terrorism. There is no let up in the artillery and mortar shelling all along the LoC and international border in J&K and an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 mercenaries are still massed in camps close to the LoC, highly placed army officials said. Large bands of terrorists including Al Qaeda and Taliban elements have been moved to launching pads at Gultari across Drass sector, Lippa valley facing Tangdhar, on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, Alibad near Haji Pir Pass, Kotli, Bhimbar Gali and in Zafarwal area facing the International Border opposite Samba town.

"Officials quoting radio intercepts said, Pakistan military high command had also instructed the closure of radio stations in PoK run by Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to indicate that terrorist communication lines had been silenced. However, other intercepts, spoke of Pakistan intelligence agencies assuring the terrorists in the Valley that money flow would continue and that more terrorists would swell their ranks."

By the way, that's June 4 of this year, well within "the last 10-12 days" of Nirupama Rao fame. As we all know too well, the infiltration may cool off for a month or two, and then, back to jaise the.

Let's see now, what have the Mohajir COAS's favourite boys been doing at the frontiers "in the last 10-12 days?"

  • June 1: For the first time since the 1971 war, Poonch town has come under Pakistani shelling, with at least 7 people killed in a fierce artillery duel that continued deep into the night, the army spokesman added (The Times of India).
  • June 1: This is for the first time this year that shells have hit Kargil town... Intermittent shelling is continuing on both sides of Turtuk area in Leh district. A report from Gurez also said that heavy shelling was continuing in Cherwan and Badwan sectors (
  • June 4: Asked whether there has been any significant change in the pattern of Pakistani firing/shelling in the recent past, [naib-sarpanch] says: "They are using heavier weapons and start firing at any time of the day. Things were only marginally better earlier as the Pakistanis used to fire only in the late hours" (ToI).
  • June 5: Pakistani troops have resorted to heavy artillery and mortar shelling in Siachen since Monday evening, while one person was killed in Poonch district in the shelling... Intermittent exchange of fire along the IB was reported since Monday evening at Pital Pindi, Tabowal, Mehta Post, Zero Point, Srinagar highway, Sangral... (The Pioneer).
  • June 10: At least 14 people were reported killed over the weekend in the continued mortar and artillery exchanges in Kashmir. An Indian defence official said there was heavy overnight mortar shelling from Pakistan into southwest Indian Kashmir, killing the civilian and injuring his brother (The News).
  • June 11: While the exchange of artillery and mortar fire is taking place in several places along the border, it has been especially fierce in the Siachen, Kargil, Batalik and Drass sectors in the past 24 hours. Incidentally, these sectors have been witnessing heavy firing for the first time since the 1999 Kargil conflict... An army jawan was killed in the Pakistani shelling at Romilidhara in Naushera sector, while there were reports of two more being injured in other sectors. "Pak troops are continuing to target civilian areas... they again shelled Poonch town on Monday morning." Army officers feel it is too early to decide whether the US pressure on Pakistan to curb infiltration has worked on the ground. (ToI).

I suppose, border firing by the Pakistan army, too, is the evil machination of the wicked jihadis, with no hand of the Chief Mohajir in it. Perhaps, what we really want is that jihadi infiltration ends - and the Paki army keeps killing our civilians in their stead...

Actually, I should have seen it coming and not wasted my energy on that trashed column on India's resolve. For, on June 4, The Nation had a report I didn't see in any Indian publication. Maybe I missed it, or maybe our pacifists didn't want to make a big deal of it and spiked it. In any case, when I read it, I thought that, as usual, the Pakis had put their own spin on the issue: "India has sent the revised design of controversial Baglihar Dam... to Pakistan for consideration... A senior member of the Pakistani delegation, which attended the annual meeting of Indus Water Commission at Delhi on May 29, informed that India apprised the visiting delegation that it has amended the controversial design of the dam following Pakistani objections to it."

I should have known how fast the "nationalist" government would wilt after reading the June 4 statement of Robert Oakley, US ambassador to Pakistan from 1988 to 1991: "You can't ever be sure, but my guess is tensions will be reduced. It's prudent to evacuate American dependents and to tell both India and Pakistan, 'If you misbehave, it's going to be very, very costly in terms of long-term relations with the US'."

"If you misbehave." That says it all. The Hajpayee government promptly pulled up its shorts over its sore butt and slinked out from the headmaster's cabin.

The jihad culture cannot be turned on and off like a tap to accommodate political pressures. Unless the jihad camps in Pakistan and PoK are not immediately and entirely dismantled by the army - if not theirs, than ours - the massacres of Indians will continue. There is no point in looking to the US for support - we won't get anything but lip-service; America's interest begins and ends with the threat to its citizens.

On June 7, the Indian army sought four weeks to assess the scale of infiltration and present an action plan to the Cabinet Committee of Security. Army sources said that at least 150 terrorist camps and staging areas were functioning in PoK at present and 3,000 jihadis aided by the Pak army were in PoK, waiting to infiltrate from the higher reaches in the Ladakh region.

All this has been ignored. The jilebi-walas of South Block have cried "wolf" twice. The next time, forget about the international community, even you and I are going to laugh -- especially at the polling booths.

Terrorism strikes in Jammu & Kashmir

Varsha Bhosle

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