After roaring jets appeared over skies in Kashmir last week, a slew of advisories and a mass crackdown on dissenters triggered a wave of war frenzy in Kashmir. But now as India and Pakistan ‘acted’ and ‘retaliated’, the belligerent guards are expected to make room for better sense.
The clock was close to ticking 10:00 in the morning, and the sound of Indian Air Force jets hovering over the sky was getting louder than ever. Although it was scary, but for Aqib Khan, the roaring skies had now become usual to his ears – like for plenty others in Kashmir.
Just as he was bracing up for another winter-Wednesday, on February 27, at around 9:55 am, a loud blast-like thud sent shivers down his spine. “It was initially rumoured that a bomb has been dropped,” he says.
Curious, in the next 15 minutes, Aqib reached the spot, and all he could see was an aircraft engulfed in high flames. Reportedly, it was a Mi-17 transport chopper carrying six IAF personnel that had just crashed down in an open air-ground, a kilometre away from Aqib residence – in Gariend Khurd area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Aqib wasn’t the only one to reach the spot, there were thousands more, who, he says, “slowly marched towards the crashed-jet, in an attempt to rescue the pilots alive”.
“But we couldn’t,” he exclaims. “We could only spot one burnt-body – half of it inside the jet and other half lying on the ground. With a wooden stick, we somehow managed to pull the body entirely out of the fire-area, but it was too late. He was already burnt to death.”
Soon after the incident, Ishfaq Reshi, a Budgam-based journalist working with a local newspaper, took to Facebook and noted how the “quick response from people clearly shows they are no way in favour of war”.
Reshi wrote: “Despite the fact these IAF fighting jets have created fear psychosis among us since last few days, however, after a Jet destroyed in paddy fields in Budgam, what I have observed is that within a short period of time, people from the adjoining villages came to the rescue of the pilots (who may have already been charred to death).”
“This quick response from people clearly shows that they are no way in favour of war. Neither is war any solution to Kashmir issue,” he added.
Even when on Tuesday, post the air-strikes carried out by the IAF on Pakistan spread across, netizens from both sides of the border engaged in a war of words. But, back in the valley, many were seen curiously connecting the dots: air-lifting of 10,000 soldiers – viral images of artillery being transported – roaring skies – possible call for war – and much more. From the local tea-stalls to public buses, the air-strikes had become the centre of talks.
What concerned the majority of the Kashmiris – who found themselves “stuck in the middle of two nuclear nations” – was a possible war on their land.
With majority of Indians erupting in joy over IAF air-strikes that claimed to have “killed at least 350 Jaish men” – the social media was flooded with praises for the country-head Narendra Modi, with #IndiaStrikesBack, #SurgicalStike2 and #HowsTheJosh becoming the top Twitter-trends.
However, one trend that remained constant was that of #SayNoToWar – with plenty of it coming from the people of Valley.
Sharing the picture of the captured pilot, a Kashmiri wrote: “See the helplessness of wing commander Abhinandan. While India’s blood thirsty masses, politicians and studios are celebrating war and violence those who are on the forefront are paying for it.”
While another Kashmiri appealed the Pakistan government to ensure the “prisoner of war is treated humanely”.
Furthermore, targeting the “studio warmongers” – the Indian journalists, who had been seeking war since the Feb 14 Pulwama attack – another twitter user sharing the picture of the wounded pilot, wrote: “Dear Indian news anchors, please take a good look of what you have done. Take a good bloody look. I hope you have the courage to face his father and mother now. I say courage because you have no shame. This is your doing. We will remember it. We all will.”
Even when on Tuesday, when the news-agency ANI became the first to flash the news of air-strikes, the renowned Indian media outlets like The Print and News18 triggered a war of “breaking news” to speed-up with the TRPs.
With #SurgicalStrike2.0 becoming the most-used headline-slug, The Print ran an “exclusive” specifying the targeted camps to be of “Jaish, Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen”; while News18 went a step ahead and published a guide for its users on “how to spot the camps on Google Maps”.
Moreover, India Today and Aaj Tak reportedly ended up showing the controversial Rafale aircraft being used in the air-strikes.
While even post the Wednesday’s cross-LoC chaos, Arnab Goswami’s Republic headlined the Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s appeal for peace-talk, as – “After IAF shoots down Pakistani jet, Imran Khan begs India for talks.”
However, in the comments that followed on Twitter, several joked about Goswami to be exchanged with the captured wing commander Abhinandan.
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