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Pilgrims' progress

Kuldip Nayar, Jul 13 2017, 0:13 IST
When terrorists attack from the front, it means that they are not afraid of the consequences. The story of counterattack to kill seven pilgrims, returning from the Amarnath yatra in Kashmir, is somewhat similar.

The Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists did not hesitate to take on the police or the army as if they knew that the counter challenge would fall short of their resolve to harm the security forces accompanying the yatra.
The LeT is a possibility, particularly when it has not claimed responsibility yet. Even if it claims responsibility, there is no certainty that they are doing so to cover up the homegrown terrorists. Even the Jammu and Kashmir Police have pointed finger at LeT. It is quite likely that LeT is the perpetrator. The group is being battered so much in most countries in West Asia that it wants to resell itself. If it can frighten India, there is every possibility of nations in West Asia coming under its spell of fear.

The nation is justified in expressing its horror because the yatris were on the pilgrimage of faith which they cherish. It had nothing to do with politics. Unfortunately, the whole episode, as the days pass by, is being politicised. The BJP has not bothered that the party has a share in the state government and some of the blame would come to it.

This is not the first time that attacks on yatris have taken place. In August 2000, terrorists had opened fire on over 95 people, leading to a death toll of 89. The series of attacks, which began on the night of August 1, were believed to have been planned. The following year, too, terrorists opposed to the local outfit Hizbul Mujahideen’s ceasefire declaration, had attacked a pilgrim base camp at Pahalgam. A total of 32 people were killed in the strike, of which 21 were Amarnath yatris.

Similarly, a militant hurled two grenades at a camp and later opened fire near the Amarnath shrine on the night of July 20, 2001, killing 13 people, including three women yatris and two police officers. The attack took place around 1:25 am near Sheshnag, one of the highest stops on the way to the Amarnath cave.

What is baffling is the fact that nearly 15,000 security personnel and policemen were deployed to offer protection to the Amarnath pilgrims. Yet, the terrorist attack could not be averted. The attack occurred before dawn on the Nunwan camp on the way to the Amarnath shrine, according to reports.

Coming back to the attack on the yatris in Jammu, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the government over the attack and has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept responsibility. “This is a grave and unacceptable security lapse. The PM needs to accept responsibility and never allow it to happen again... India will never be intimidated by these terrorist cowards,” he said in his tweets. The bus, which was fired upon by terrorists in Kashmir, was not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board and plying without any security cover long after the evening deadline fixed for the vehicles carrying the yatris, said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala.

Pakistan may be involved, but that is only a suspicion so far. The government must lay before the country the evidence of Islamabad’s involvement. But we must also cleanse our own house. The establishment is involved in training Hindu terrorists and as former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said, “if you nourish snakes in your courtyard, they are bound to bite you one day.”

Indigenous terrorists are now a reality and they do strike here and there. The attack on the Samjhauta Express in 2007 is said to be the handiwork of homegrown terrorists.

Biggest casualty

The biggest casualty of the Amarnath attack is Kashmiriyat, a secular belief propelled by the sufis. This faith asserted itself when Maharaja Hari Singh quit the government and left it to popular leader Sheikh Abdullah. There was no communal feeling at that time. Fundamentalists and the propaganda by Pakistan have destroyed what was so beautiful. But why should we throw in the towel?

For 70 years, we have been upholding India’s ethos, secularism and democracy. We have added the word secularism in the preamble of our constitution. Ironically, Indira Gandhi did this when she, as prime minister, had imposed Emergency. She detained one lakh people without trial and imposed censorship on the press.

And she openly said that the press did not resist the restrictions she introduced. BJP leader L K Advani was quite correct in chiding the press after the Emergency was lifted: “You were asked to bend but you began to crawl.”

Were the Kashmiriyat to assert itself, basic values like free press would come to be respected. The Kashmiri Muslims have themselves to decide if their faith in togetherness is being replaced by fundamentalism. I was recently in Srinagar and found to my horror that the youth, who have taken to the gun, want to convert the Valley into a sovereign, Islamic country.

Leaders like Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah have become irrelevant. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq have a following but that is because they talked about Pakistan and Islam at the same time. They even support the stone-pelters saying that the stones were being hurled in the name of Islam. It is a dangerous trend to emerge.

New Delhi will have to think hard and come up with a solution which is acceptable to the people in the Valley and the ruling party at the Centre. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has accepted the responsibility of arranging the yatra without any attacks. The BJP should consult with other political parties and take necessary steps which have the consensus behind them.

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