It was just another ordinary Srinagar summer evening until I received a frantic phone call from my friend breaking the horrifying news of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims coming under attack. It left me cold and shell-shocked. But there was no time to lose, so I immediately left for Anantnag to join Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in her rescue efforts. The thunderstorm and incessant rain darkened the gloom of the ill-fated evening as our car sped past high alert checkpoints all the way to Anantnag.
Panic was reigning supreme when I reached the spot. The entire hospital was in turmoil. Heart-wrenching sounds of shrieks and wails filled the corridors as doctors outdid themselves serving the injured and calming their families. The devastation this barbaric attack against humanity had left behind in its wake was unprecedented and it was difficult, if not impossible, to face the victims of this naked atrocity. But the Chief Minister stood strong in this hour of emergency and led from the front, reaching out individually to each victim in their hour of anguish and spent the entire night in Anantnag ensuring that all possible assistance – medical, logistical and moral – be extended to them.
In the meantime, news of the attack was spreading like wildfire across the country, and rightly so. Amarnath Yatra has always been a crucial aspect of Kashmir’s syncretic tradition and this journey of faith has been continuing in the Valley since time immemorial with Hindu pilgrims being welcomed and facilitated by local Muslim populations, as a living manifestation of Kashmir’s values of diversity, tolerance and harmonious co-existence.
Over the past three decades our society has been going through a difficult phase. Death, destruction and denial of justice has resulted in a complicated situation. But what is most disturbing is the break-down of societal structures. Religious fanaticism, indiscipline, and lack of considerate secular values have constricted the space once held by dialogue and debate. While the elders once ran the writ that once maintained peace in villages and mohallas, today inexperienced and gullible youth have taken over in the cities, wreaking havoc on the ground by their misguided actions.
The very idea behind the dastardly acts of violence that was the Anantnag Attack is to further fracture the harmony of Kashmir’s space and social fabric . The intention is to invite conflict not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the entire country, to further polarise the already conflicted communal situation. But in reality the only message that the terrorists send across by killing innocents is that they are not against a nation or a religion but against the very people of Kashmir and their glorious past.
While these terrorists may feel buoyed by every such heinous crime that they commit, in effect they are losing any foothold they may have had in the Valley, as there remains no discernible legitimacy for violence anywhere in the world. The majority of the people in Kashmir have unsubscribed to this ideology of separatism and above all want the madness to stop.
In this unsettling environment, it was heartening to see the entire Kashmiri civil society rise up and unequivocally denounce the killing of Amarnath Yatris, by uniting against this odious act of terror and speaking vociferously against it. The overwhelming condemnation shown by everyone should serve as an eye opener to those who harbour hate and glorify violence. The people of Kashmir have made it clear that these killings are a matter of disgrace and go against every tenet of Kashmiriyat, against the essence of Islam, and against humanity at large. This constituency of peace and love has to be strengthened and supported for a peaceful and developed Jammu and Kashmir.
Finally this fills us with a sense of hope that Kashmir is on its way to reclaiming its once-celebrated past by defeating the agents of animosity and delinquency.
Violence has never served us in the past and will not do so in the future, and Kashmiris understand it as such as they rise in full strength to make it clear that such acts of violence are against their interests and will not be condoned.
The biggest tribute to the victims of violence at this point is for the society to remain steadfast with its faith in justice and in humanity, and isolate the divisive forces, which is exactly what Kashmiris everywhere are doing right now.