In Srinagar, as evening set in on Thursday, passersby were struck by the sight of a burning trail in the sky. Many people stopped and watched, thinking it was a missile fired by Pakistan in retaliation for the surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It later turned out to be a falling meteorite. A video of the meteorite was later uploaded on Facebook.
In Valley, the news of the strike was initially met with shock and disbelief but as the day progressed the reality sank in and the people started commenting about the fallout and the prospects of a war.
“It seems like war is upon us,” said Ghulam Rasool Parray, a Srinagar resident, who had witnessed 1965 war.
“But it will resolve nothing. Only more destruction will take place,” he added.
The attack generated debate on social media and Whatsapp too. Long comment threads followed on Facebook to analyse the consequences of the strike.
“In either case, blood has been shed,” posted Rifat Mir on Facebook. “India and Pakistan should solve Kashmir issue in a manner that will not lead to further deaths. Nobody knows it better than Kashmiris what it is to lose a dear one to conflict”.
Zahid Qureshi termed the surgical strikes actually a media war between the two countries.
“It is the surgical strike first from television channels in India, and now Pakistan media is retaliating… Both want people living all along the LoC to suffer uncertainty and panic,” Qureshi wrote. “Who do we believe? Media in India says massive causalities across LoC and Pakistan media says a dozen Indian soldiers killed”.
Meanwhile, separatist groups in a statement expressed “shock” over the attack and called on both countries to exercise restraint. “War is no solution to any problem, it instead worsens problems further which the three previous wars between both the two counties has shown,” a statement issued by the dovish section of Hurriyat Conference said.
The amalgam also criticised the role of “Indian electronic and print media for creating war hysteria and arousing passions among the people of the two countries, aggravating confrontation between the two countries”.
Hurriyat also called upon New Delhi and Islamabad to de-escalate tensions. “The two nuclear neighbours should behave in a mature way and instead of confrontations, which can only be disastrous for the entire region, engage in serious dialogue to resolve issues and bring peace”.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, similarly, called for the restraint and de-escalation of the tensions.“We, in J&K, have suffered immensely because of the violence and know very well its dangers and consequences,” she said and called upon the political leadership of India and Pakistan to de-escalate the war-like situation in the region. “For the people of Jammu & Kashmir, peace along the borders and within the mainland is of immense significance and I hope the political leadership of the two countries would also treat it with the same spirit”.
And as far the opposition National Conference was concerned, a statement was issued by its president and the former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah termed the situation “alarming”.
“We hope cooler heads will prevail and the ceasefire of 2003 will be upheld. Our thoughts are with people living along the Line of Control and the International Border as it is them who suffer the most in times of such escalation”, Abdullah said.