By Poojil Tiwari
A terrorist attack on a bus carrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, July 10th, left seven dead and thirty-two injured. The pilgrims, who were mostly from Gujarat and Maharashtra, were returning to Jammu after visiting the cave shrine of Lord Shiva. The bus was in violation of the rules laid down for the pilgrimage, which forbid the movement of yatra vehicles post 7 p.m. on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. After 7, the security cover is withdrawn. Home ministry officials have singled out Pakistani national and Lashkar-e-Taiba Commander Abu Ismail as the mastermind behind the attack.
Tense conditions in the valley
The attacks come a year after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an operation of the Indian Army. Burhan Wani’s death led to massive unrest in the Kashmir, sparking cases of militant violence which led to the imposition of 53 consecutive days of curfew by the Indian authorities. The valley is facing its worst case of insurgency since 2010. The economy—which heavily relies on tourism—is in shambles. Extensive media coverage of the ongoing violence in the valley has acted as a deterrent for tourists, thereby adversely affecting business in the state.
The atmosphere in Kashmir over the past one year has been tense, to say the least. The last few months have seen the army at loggerheads with civilians, and acts of violence being committed by both sides. The armed forces and other security wings already had their hands full battling militants and ensuring that law and order prevail in the state. Additionally, they now have to follow up on these attacks in order to ensure that communal riots do not break out in the state. Now, they are working to avert a civil war.
Time for the state government to step up
The onus also lies on the state government to guide its citizens through this crisis and ensure that peace prevails in the valley—something they have been struggling to achieve. At present, the government in Jammu and Kashmir is the result of a surprising and uneasy alliance between the soft separatist Peopled Democratic Party (PDP) and right wing nationalists, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti being at the helm of affairs.
However, two years down the line, the chinks in the armour are visible to everyone. The two parties come from inherently conflicting schools of thought. This has been more evident than ever in their inability to deal with the ongoing unrest in Kashmir. While BJP advocates for a more confrontational and extremist approach in dealing with the rioters, PDP is pushing for a ‘policy of appeasement’. A lack of clarity in the policies of the top order has led to a multiplicity of command, thereby making it difficult for the police to take concrete action. As mob violence in the valley continues to be on the rise, the two parties remain locked in a war of words.
According to the official data released by the crime branch of the state police, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 3,404 cases of rioting in 2016 as opposed to the 1,157 cases witnessed in 2015. While leaders from both parties are united in their condemnation of the attack on social media, there is a severe lack of tangible policies on the ground level.
Keeping Kashmiriyat alive
Widely regarded as heaven on earth, Kashmir today is smouldering in flames. In times like these, when the valley is at war with itself, that it becomes incredibly difficult to keep the spirit of “composite culture”—or Kashmiriyat as it is popularly known—of the Kashmir region alive. However, it was reflected in the outpouring of support for the Amarnath attack victims. Civilians in and around the area extended medical and physical help to the attack victims. In the days following the attack, protest groups comprising of academics, students, activists, and traders took to the streets in Srinagar, holding placards saying “silence is criminal” and “every life is valuable”. Home minister Rajnath Singh echoed this sentiment and tweeted about keeping Kashmiriyat alive.
In fact, the indomitable spirit shown by the people has been the only silver lining in the clouds. It may be temporary, but for now, Kashmiriyat has succeeded in uniting a fragmented Kashmir.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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