Amarnath killing, a big security failure

Amarnath killing, a big security failure

The dastardly killing of seven Amarnath pilgrims by militants in Kashmir has been rightly and widely condemned both inside the state and outside. A number of pilgrims were also injured in the attack on the bus carrying pilgrims from Gujarat to the well-known cave shrine and it was only the driver’s alertness that limited the casualty to seven. The attack is against the syncretic traditions of Kashmir which has always taken steps to arrange and facilitate the annual pilgrimage from all parts of the country. Ordinary Kashmiris were involved in it in various ways and were proud of it. The entire Kashmiri society, including all political parties and groups like the separatist Hurriyat Conference, has condemned the incident and there were expressions of spontaneous protest and anger. This is encouraging and heartening when the situation in the state has deteriorated in the past many months with increased militant activity, signs of greater popular support for militants and even reports of a jihadist culture taking roots in the Valley.

It was a serious security failure that such an attack took place at all. There is a state of high security in Kashmir. Special alerts are issued and steps taken during the Amarnath yatra. There was an intelligence warning also about a possible attack. Still, the bus carrying the pilgrims with no registration for the trip was allowed through checkpoints and travelled in violation of the norms laid down for the passage of pilgrims. There are also different versions of the incident. It is important to study the security lapses and ensure that they do not happen again. Enforcement of security in Kashmir often means the taking of high-handed actions which alienate or antagonise the people. But it should involve implementation of norms and protocols of conduct and action and strict adherence to them.

There are lessons to be learnt from the incident and the responses to it. The PDP-BJP government is under attack and there are calls for its resignation. It has to investigate the incident and take remedial measures to plug the security loopholes. The handling of the militancy situation, both by the state government and the Centre, will also be in focus following the attack. There is an opportunity for them to tap the positive popular sentiment which has come into play in the wake of the incident and relate to the people at the human level. Security policies and strategies will be effective only when they have a human dimension and appeal. This is especially important in Kashmir where human rights violations by security forces have contributed much to the worsening of the situation.

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