Centre needs to act fast in seizing control before it too late. Coordinated security and civil response needed for peace to return to the Valley.
The terrorist attack on unarmed Amarnath yatris in the Valley in Jammu and Kashmir last Monday might well be indicative of a bigger flare up in the country. It has shattered the deceptive calm in the wake of the first death anniversary of Kashmir’s poster boy Burhan Wani, a local militant leader killed last year.
Shockingly this attack on Shiva bhakts has broken the unwritten rule followed over the last 15 years with terrorists steering clear of aiming their guns at unarmed pilgrims. That was the critical difference this time.
There is no doubt a coordinated security and civil response is required to help peace return to the Valley. There are indications of 2017 being the deadliest year in the last decade in J&K. The latest attack specifically targets the innocent aimed at sparking a wider conflagration.
Impartial observers believe Kashmir’s militancy appears to have taken on religious sentiments at least on this occasion by masterminds from across the border. It also showed an increasing desperation on the part of the militants amid indications that militancy in Kashmir might have taken a drastic turn.
There has been an inexplicable and inevitable drift in the efforts by the Centre to find a solution to the protracted and complex Kashmir problem. At the same time there could not have been a bigger rebuff to the terrorist attack on the Amarnath yatris than the determination of the pilgrims to visit the shrine in the face of violence seeking to target them.
The way ahead is to go by Kashmiriyat and its emphasis on social harmony. At the same time civil society played a positive role in checking the spillover of emotions. It was upfront in condemning the death of the innocent including women.
Even as J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti rushed to Anantnag to meet the survivors of the ambush, she felt the attack was a blot on Kashmir.
The unthinkable coming together of the PDP and the BJP in forming a coalition government in the only Muslim majority state in the country needs to live up to its promise when it assumed office in 2015 : to bridge the chasms in the sensitive border state among its regions, communities and aspirations.
As the mentor of the BJP the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh has made some noises before its meeting in Jammu that the saffron brigade should break its alliance with the PDP. However, party general secretary incharge of J&K Ram Mahdav is hopeful of the BJP ironing out its differences with the PDP.
The holy pilgrimage of the Amarnath yatra is not only related to the faith of the Hindu community but plays a key role in the survival of the local economy. From time immemorial Kashmir is linked with its Shaivite traditions and syncretic roots.
The terrorists aided and abetted by neighbouring Pakistan are trying to provoke communal riots in this country by driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims.
The decision to continue the yatra till August four sends a significant message: the people will not give in to terror. The top most priority for the Centre is to ensure security for the pilgrims. This was not a spur of the moment attack as there were specific intelligence inputs and warning about such an assault. The bus from Gujarat that was attacked by terrorists had not followed proper security protocol. It was neither registeredwith the Amarnath Shrine Board not did it adhere to the security detail compulsory for pilgrims because of the security threat.
With militants targetting Amarnath pilgrims, the entire paradigm has changed. They have given cause to the security forces to step up the fight.
There is a strong section of opinion calling for Governor’s rule in J&K. It would serve two purposes of cooling frayed tempers in the Valley and lead to better coordination as well as tightening the administration.
Maintaining status quo and a policy of merely reacting to events will have dangerous consequences in the Valley along with jeopardising peace across the country. This assumes importance with the terrorists signalling their intent to target Hindus.
The Centre needs to act fast in a determined and effective manner for seizing control before it is too late. Neutralisation of a larger violent radical Islamic movement requires reaching out to the locals to reduce the support to insurgency in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be apprising opposition leaders today about the situation in J&K and the stand off in Doklam sector between India and China in an effort to soften the attack against the Modi government during the winter session of Parliament beginning Monday, July 17.
( T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)