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Photo Source: Nissar Ahmad/The Hindu
   International Peace Research Initiative (IPRI)
Conflict Resolution and Peace Research Programme
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
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The case is made; let the NIA take it to its logical conclusion “ proving who was behind the attack, and bring justice not only to those who lost their lives in Pulwama but to all those who fight terrorism supported by Pakistan.

Also in the series (Friday Backgrounder)

IPRI # 93, 21 August 2020
J&K: Baby steps taken. Now, time to introduce a few big-ticket items
 

IPRI # 91, 14 August 2020
J&K: Integration and Assimilation are not synonymous

IPRI # 89, 7 August 2020
J&K: One year later, is it time to change gears?

IPRI # 86, 31 July 2020
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IPRI # 95, 28 August 2020

The Friday Backgrounder
J&K: The Gupkar Resolution is a good beginning. So is the NIA charge sheet on the Pulwama Attack.

  D Suba Chandran

During the last week, there were three major developments in and relating to J&K. The first is the most crucial-six regional political parties, with a strong presence in Kashmir Valley, coming together to take forward the Gupkar Resolution 2019. Second is the filing of a formal charge sheet in a Court in Jammu, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the horrific suicide attack in Pulwama in February 2019 that killed 40 policemen belongings to the CRPF. The third is the continuing violence and counter militancy operations in the Kashmir Valley.

I
Facts on the ground

Going ahead with the Gupkar Resolution
On 22 August 2020, in one of the first significant political activities, after the one year of restrictions imposed by the government of J&K, six political parties of Jammu and Kashmir came together. They agreed to work further and take forward the Gupkar Resolution that they had signed a year earlier on 4 August 2019. These six parties include the two major regional political parties - the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Other parties include the following: the Congress, the J&K Peoples Conference (PC), the CPI(M) and the Awami National Conference (ANC). (“6 J&K parties vow to fight for statehood," The Tribune, 23 August 2020)

The joint statement issued by the above six parties was highly critical of what New Delhi did on 5 August 2019. It said: “In a spitefully shortsighted and unconstitutional move, Articles 370 and 35A were abrogated and the State was bifurcated and relegated to the status of two Union Territories and its Constitution tried to be made unenforceable. The series of measures undertaken on 5 August 2019 were in reality measures of disempowerment and a challenge to the basic identity of the people of J&K.” (“Six J&K parties forge alliance to fight for pre-August 5 position," The Hindu, 22 August 2020)

As a way forward for the regional political parties, the joint statement says: “We all reiterate that we are bound, wholly, by the contents of the Gupkar Declaration and will unwaveringly adhere to it. We are committed to strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, the Constitution of J&K and the restoration of the State and any division of the State is unacceptable to us. We unanimously reiterate that there can be ‘nothing about us without us.” (“Six J&K parties forge alliance to fight for pre-August 5 position," The Hindu, 22 August 2020)

In a nutshell, the primary agenda that the six parties agree is to restore the status of J&K as it existed on 4 August 2019.

NIA’s charge sheet on the Pulwama terror attack
On 25 August, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a formal charge sheet in a Court in Jammu, on the deadly suicide attack in Pulwama on 14 February 2019, that killed 40 policemen belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

According to a report published in the Hindu, the charge sheets looks at the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as the primary actor behind the attack. According to the news report, the charge sheet has been filed against JeM chief Masood Azhar and 18 others. In all, seven Pakistanis have been indicted, including Azhar’s nephew- Umar Farooq, who was killed in an encounter on 29 March in south Kashmir and is said to be the mastermind of the attack. Farooq's father, Ibrahim Ather, is one of the main accused in the IC-814 Kandahar hijack case in 1999 and looks after the training camps of JeM in Afghanistan. (“2019 Pulwama terror attack case | JeM chief Masood Azhar among 19 in NIA charge sheet,” The Hindu, 26 August 2020)

The news report also refers to the NIA mentioning about another attack, that could not be carried out following the pressure created by India and the international community with the surgical strikes on Balakot. According to the Hindu report: "Investigation revealed that the Pakistan-based JeM leadership led by Azhar, Rouf Asgar and Ammar Alvi were giving directions and guidance to the Pakistani terrorists both before and after the attack. ‘They had also planned to carry out another suicide attack but could not execute it due to the Balakot air strikes and the killing of Farooq by the security forces. Further, due to international pressure, Pakistan lay low.’” (“2019 Pulwama terror attack case | JeM chief Masood Azhar among 19 in NIA charge sheet,” The Hindu, 26 August 2020)

Continuing Violence 

On 28 August, in an encounter, four militants belonging to al-Badr were killed in Shopian in south Kashmir.

On 27 August, the J&K administration reimposed the restrictions on religious gatherings within J&K, following a group of Shia mourners engaged in a clash with the police in Budgam in central Kashmir. A few mourners were also booked by the police for raising pro-Azaadi slogans during the procession. Only ten days earlier, the administration had lifted the ban on a religious gathering.

II
Focus Questions in the background

 

How far will the regional political parties walk the talk on the Gupkar Road? And what about New Delhi?

The reinvention of Gupkar Resolution signed by the regional political parties in August 2019 is a smart move by the regional political parties, and augur well for restarting the political process inside Jammu and Kashmir.

It is a smart move, for it brings the regional political parties – mainly the PDP and the NC, along with the Congress in a single platform. Farooq Abdullah, being the pragmatic leader he is, should have realised the future of Kashmiri politics depend on a consensus, given the New Delhi’s approach towards J&K, and the BJP gaining ground in the Jammu region. In an interview to the Tribune, Farooq Abdullah has also underlined that this process would be peaceful and not violent. To quote him: “We don’t believe in stones and bullets. There is no room for stones and bullets. It will be a Gandhian way of struggle.” (“Will raise Gupkar Declaration in Parliament: Farooq,” The Tribune, 26 August 2020)

And it augurs well for Kashmir politics, as it would provide the much-needed space to restart a process between New Delhi and J&K. The status quo today is one-sided – with New Delhi implementing a what it wants, starting from what it did on 5 August 2019. Detaining the political leaders should have been a temporary strategy to ensure there has been no widespread unrest. Now one year has passed, and the top leaders of regional political parties have been released (except the PDP), it is time to start a political process.

Will New Delhi like to travel along Kashmir's Gupkar Road? In the current mood, it wont. But, it should consider it.


Long way to go for the NIA charge sheet, but the road is the right one.

The NIA's charge sheet on the Pulwama attack is just the beginning of a long, arduous road. If the experience of the Special Investigation Team led by DR Kaarthikeyan, that looked into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination needs to be taken into consideration in this context, the NIA has a lengthier and tough assignment ahead. Filing a charge sheet is only one part of the investigation. Proving it in the Court beyond any reasonable doubt, as the SIT did in Rajiv Gandhi’s case, bringing clearly the role of the LTTE and the masterminds behind it – is a larger challenge facing the NIA.

The primary perpetrators of the Pulwama attack are in Pakistan. So were the primary perpetrators of Rajiv Gandhi assassination. They were in Sri Lanka when the SIT filed its charge sheet and followed it in a lengthy trial. The NIA has to repeat the SIT magic in proving beyond any doubt, on who in Pakistan were behind the horrible attack on Pulwama.

Such a process would also silence those critics who ask for evidence. Such a process will also nail the role of Pakistan in supporting terrorism in J&K against India. The charge sheet clearly identifies the role of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, its local supporters within J&K and its sponsorers in Pakistan. This has to be brought not only at the national level, but also at the international level.

The case is made; let the NIA take it to its logical conclusion proving who was behind the attack, and bring justice not only to those who lost their lives in Pulwama but to all those who fight terrorism supported by Pakistan.

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