Tighten security

The killing of five CRPF jawans in a suicide attack in Srinagar on Wednesday shows that the outward appearance of calm in Kashmir for a long time was unreal. Though there has not been a suicide attack for over three years, violence was lurking under the surface. Incidents of militants’ pressure and their presence have been seen and felt in many ways. Elected sarpanches in the state were attacked many times.

Verbal expressions of protest have been common place. The recent resurgence of mass protest, which were not free of violence, in the wake of Afzal Guru’s hanging has provided a backdrop for a more spectacular attack. Afzal Guru’s hanging upset both political and non-political sections of society. Even the state government and the National Conference found it difficult not to adopt a stance of damage control. The discussions in the state Assembly and the continuing demand for return of Afzal’s body are proof of this.

While this is the background to the attack on the CRPF camp, it can only be seen as an attempt on the part of militants to take advantage of the situation. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has claimed  responsibility for the attack and has issued threats of more in future. There have been warnings of attacks from other militants too and the security forces, which were supposed to be on alert, failed to prevent the latest incident. There was perhaps a sense of complacency after a prolonged period of relative calm.

Tourism in the state had picked up and economy had revived. There is the need for heightened vigil in the coming weeks. With the summer months approaching, there is the possibility of greater infiltration of militants from across the border.

While the loopholes in the security system will have to be plugged and the forces will have to exercise greater care and sensitivity in dealing with people, that alone will not ensure a state of normalcy. Even on Wednesday a youth was killed in CRPF firing in Srinagar. Though the security forces find themselves in the most difficult situations, extreme restraint has to be exercised. Beyond the security measures, there is also the need for positive political steps to reach out to the people. The demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) could perhaps not be actively considered now. But there are other proposals which could be implemented and they can help to lower the political temperature in the valley.

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