Once again the land of Kashmir has turned red with innocent blood being splattered all around. This time it is the Amarnath pilgrims who lost their lives in Anantnag in one of the more gruesome attacks in recent times which demands condemnation from one and all in the strongest possible terms.
In the first place, the attack should have never taken place; whosoever has done it, has certainly committed a grave crime against basic humanity. Quite rightly, the attack is being condemned in the strongest terms across the board. It is heartening to see that every section of Kashmiri society has risen in unison in condemning the attack.
Civil society groups and various trade and tourism related bodies were prompt in condemning the gruesome act with demands also made about a thorough probe into the incident. The separatists have denounced the attack in clear terms. There is a realisation within sections of the separatist camp that if Kashmir’s political issues are to remain credible, they must be separated from the growing extremism which will only bring the people of Kashmir at loggerheads with the people of the rest of India.
This kind of a response certainly offers hope, especially at a time when the right-wing frenzy is disturbingly finding its roots in the rest of the country. Common Kashmiris, who have always welcomed and facilitated the Amarnath Yatris, are shocked by this coward but horrific act which has been taken as an attack against the timeless values of Kashmiri plural ethos and identity.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has always been an abode of communal harmony and rich traditions of brotherhood, which have stood the test of times even during the most horrendous phases of turmoil in the state.
Among other designs, the attack appears to have been carried out with the sinister aim to wreck communal harmony and create mass disorder in the state and in the rest of the country. Perhaps the perpetrators of this attack need a few lessons on how and why the secular and syncretic fabric of the Valley has survived despite the conflict of the decades. They forget the “light” that Mahatma Gandhi saw in Kashmir amidst all the dark chaos of the gory events of the partition in 1947.
The Yatris have always been welcomed and facilitated by the common people of Kashmir, even in the most adverse circumstances. A lot of poor and working class Kashmiri people depend on the Yatra for their livelihood. The Yatra also symbolizes, in an undeniable way, the rich secular ethos and age-old syncretism of the people of the state.
According to early reports, this attack appears to have been carried out by those elements which don’t wish to see peace in the state. We should collectively rise to defeat their nefarious objectives to communally polarize the people, besides creating a wedge between the Valley and the rest of India.
It is important not to fall prey to the evil objectives of these violent elements. This is the only reply the citizens of the state and the rest of the country can give to these elements. Some TV channels began to rant, baying for blood and calling an all-out revenge, but that cannot be the approach. We must deal with the situation sanely so that we don’t play into the hands of the elements which are behind the attack.
It must also be admitted that similar horrifying incidents have begun to take place with sickening regularity, especially in South Kashmir. Less than a month ago, in the same district, six policemen were also brutally killed in another horrific attack. The current governments, at the Centre and the State, cannot limit themselves to mere condemnation. They have to ensure that the lives of the citizens are protected. This is not the time to play petty politics but to present a united front, so that the cycle of violence which has currently engulfed the valley is put to an end and some relief is brought.
The government must also begin talks for a long term political solution, alongside due security priorities. An enormous sense of insecurity along with mass alienation is generally apparent. The lack of political engagement and the absence of a comprehensive dialogue with politically disgruntled sections of Kashmiri society in the last three years of the BJP government has created a huge vacuum in Kashmir.
The aggressive and indifferent attitude of the current dispensation at the Centre towards Kashmir for some time now has greatly marginalized the mainstream parties and moderate voices of the state. Moreover, certain elements which are antagonistic to a democratic and peaceful solution of the issues have capitalized on the Sangh Parivar’s approach to Kashmir to reinforce their own extremism. They have managed to apply the unique idea of India through the Sangh Parivar to Kashmir.
No surprises that radicalism and fundamentalism are taking root in the Valley and many young people are taking to the gun. This vacuum has been allowed to build and sadly, it is being now filled by violent elements who profess an extremist consciousness.
Extremist elements should not be allowed to succeed in their desperate attempts by giving them any chance to capitalize on the people’s political dissatisfaction. This can only be achieved when there is a serious attempt to start dialogue and political reconciliation with all the disgruntled sections in the valley.
The attack on pilgrims is in many ways a continuation of the vicious cycle of violence and death which is now a daily feature, or sadly, a new low of common Kashmiri life. In all this, the elected state government which continues to boast of an abstract ‘healing touch’ and ‘dialogue’ seems to have completely fallen in the abyss of indifference and insensitivity to the suffering of its masses.
One should not mistake the large numbers of people rushing to the encounter sites and attending the funerals of fallen militants as a manifestation of people’s direct endorsement of the path of violence which militants adopt; it is more an expression of their anger and exasperation at the apathy which the rulers both at the Centre and State have chosen vis-à-vis them. It is the only outlet which people are now finding to express their choked voices so they can be heard. This is their only way of responding to the “muscular handling” which the ruling dispensation at the Centre frequently boasts of.
Any caring, sensitive and democratically elected government should be listening to its citizens and trying to ameliorate their suffering, not labelling an entire population as hostile constituents.