Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday said the “massive public outrage cutting across ideological and party lines” in Kashmir against the killing of seven Amarnath pilgrims in an attack by terrorists is “a silver lining” and shows that people of the Valley collectively reject such “despicable acts”. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Srinagar, Mufti said she had “no words to describe the pain and anguish” when she “met the survivors of the attack” on Monday night in Anantnag.
“When I reached there (Anantnag), there were heart-rending scenes. Most of the yatris killed were women, who were the head of their families. I had no words to express my grief. They had come here for religious reasons, to pay their obeisance at the cave shrine. And now, they were returning in coffins,” she said.
Mufti said she met a survivor who had come to Kashmir thrice earlier. “She told me that one of the women killed in the attack was her friend, who was wary of coming because of the situation here. She told me she convinced her to come along, assuring her that nobody would harm yatris or tourists in Kashmir. Now, she doesn’t know how to explain this to her children waiting at home,’’ she said.
“I saw their clothes drenched in blood. It was very sad. I didn’t know how to respond to so much grief,” she said.
However, Mufti said, the “silver lining” in this “senseless attack” is the “outpouring of anger, disgust and grief by the people of Kashmir collectively”.
“The way people cut across ideologies and party affiliations to express their outrage across Kashmir shows that our heart is in the right place. Those who are responsible for such an attack do not represent us. We have far greater humanity in us, despite going through a lot ourselves,’’ she said.
Speaking about the response of the local population, Mufti said, “The way Anantnag town came to the hospital, offering blood or anything else that the injured yatris needed, was extraordinary. Everyone (the survivors) appreciated the role of the doctors and other hospital staff in Anantnag as well as SKIMS (Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar).”
Mufti said the attack caused a lot of grief among common people. “Whoever I met (in Anantnag), was in grief. The outrage against this attack gives me a lot of hope. Our people have seen a lot of pain and they relate to it,” she said.
Describing the restraint shown by the survivors as “exceptional”, Mufti said, “I told them that this is the handiwork of a very few and that the whole of Kashmir is extremely pained. I told them that those responsible for the attack want to hit at the fundamentals of our society but haven’t succeeded. The response of the people of Kashmir has proved that.”
Speaking about her government’s response, the Chief Minister said that they have asked for a Special Investigation Team to probe the attack so that “we are sure as to what happened and how it happened”.
“Though police is saying that Lashkar is involved… we want a detailed investigation to be 100 per cent sure about the identity of the perpetrators. We have to collect every little evidence to find out who did it and why. This will also help us prevent such a thing in the future,’’ she said.
“We have to investigate how this bus moved alone when there were clear directions that no vehicle carrying yatris would be allowed to move after the ROP is withdrawn in the evening. We have to check why this bus was not registered, and how it was allowed to carry yatris. We need answers to all these questions,” said Mufti.
“I spoke to the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat, too. The victims of this attack are from those two states. I also met the Army Chief this evening, and (Minister of State at the PMO and MP Udhampur) Jitendra Singh and MoS Home (in Srinagar),’’ she said. “The leadership of the country has been extremely supportive during this difficult time,” said Mufti.