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Tension between India and Pakistan mounts after terror attack in Kashmir

Widely used image of Pakistani social worker and journalist Sehyr Mirza, who launched the #AntiHateChallenge on social media. Via her Facebook page.

The tension between India and Pakistan has heightened in the past week after a terror attack in Kashmir which killed more than 46 Indian soldiers.

Last week, India's foreign ministry claimed that Pakistan had offered JeM leader Masood Azhar ‘full freedom to operate and expand his terror infrastructure in territories under the control of Pakistan and to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity”.

Soon after the attack, Pakistani actors were banned from working in the Indian film Industry. The Indian government has also withdrawn trade privileges for Pakistan while blocking cross-border services.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vowed to ‘give a befitting reply’ and blamed Pakistan:

He even promised to isolate Pakistan internationally for supporting the militant groups.

In an emergency cabinet meeting, Modi said India's security forces had been given a free hand to deal with terrorists further adding, the “blood of the people is boiling”.

“I want to tell the terrorist groups and their masters that they have committed a big mistake. They have to pay a heavy price.”  — Narendra Modi

But Pakistan rejected these claims and brought the Kashmir issue and human rights abuses to the forefront:

In a rebuttal, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan denied these claims and warned his neighbor that a response would be imminent if attacked — something which would lead to an all-out war between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Citizens’ respond to the escalations

In India, while the political class including Indian National Congress (INC) Rahul Gandhi backed the government in responding to the terror attack without offering many nuances, citizens rallied, protested and are crowdfunding on social media to help family members affected by the attack.

Indian actor Akshay Kumar and business leader Anand Mahindra tweeted a link to a donation drive to help the families of armed soldiers who perished in the attack:

Numerous Indian sportsmen, religious institutes and citizen groups donated to help grieving families. Meanwhile, another jingoistic narrative developed wherein cricketers, artists and movies became the casualty amid the ongoing war of words.

Instigations of war

Meanwhile, many television channels including ABP news, Republic TV, India Today and Times Now were seen instigating audiences with their sensationalized news coverage and name-calling:

Here's what Ziaa Fouad wrote:

Zaid Hamid highlighted the alienation Kashmiris face due to brutal occupation and subsequent youngsters joining militancy:

Kashmiri Student leader Rashid also spoke about the ignominy of everyday violence as numerous reports of violence against Kashmiris across India were reported in the local media:

Is peace possible?

Amidst all the provocations in India, some citizens are also calling to restrain from jingoism. Samir Bhatia tweeted:

Monazza Aarfa from Bihar, India writes:

Pakistani social worker and journalist Sehyr Mirza launched the #AntiHateChallenge on social media:

Many Pakistanis were also seen condemning the Pulwama violence in social media:

Indian actor Swara Bhaskar responded to all the images and said:

Sathiya Prasanth tweets:

Kashmir subtext:

The terror attack, when looked through Kashmir's brutal occupation presents a complex view of Indo-Pakistan relationship and the tragedies faced by Kashmiris including rapes, enforced disappearances, the Kunan-Poshpora gang rape, pellet gun violence and many other documented struggles as reported by Global Voices.

Militancy, once prominent in the 1990s in Kashmir, has spiked again since 2016 after Indian security forces killed Burhan Wani, a local militant who was revered as a freedom fighter by locals in Kashmir.

Here's what Pakistani senator Sherry Rehman said to India's response to Pulwama attack highlighting the decades-old Kashmir issue:

India-Pakistan tension for whose benefit?

The Pakistan government has described the reaction from the Indian government and several Indian media outlets as irresponsible, baseless and immature, and an attempt to twist the upcoming polls in India for political gains. With the general elections just around the corner, this gives the opportunity to India's Modi to galvanize the Pulwama attacks like he did the 2002 riots in Gujarat that claimed hundreds of lives. This augurs well for the government which was staring ahead at a divisive election amid falling employment numbers and a resurgent opposition that has silenced itself after the Pulwama attacks.

Prem Shankar Jha wrote in Wire.in:

Modi has followed a single-track policy of repression without dialogue. As a result, from believing that peace was only an arms length away, Kashmiris have crashed into an endless night of violence with no dawn at its end. That is the seed from which suicide bombing has been reborn.

However, amidst the political upheaval, some are urging the public to remember that when there is violence — everyone suffers:

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