J&K: Have we lost the plot?

Wages of Failure: Pulwama suicide car-bombing is the price of Modi govt’s Kashmir, Pakistan policies
Last Updated 23 February 2019, 17:21 IST

The February 14 suicide car-bombing attack in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which killed 49 CRPF personnel, wasn’t only grieved by the whole country, but a majority of Kashmiris, too, who disapproved of the gruesome attack. Though a section of the population in the Valley cited the reasons behind such deadly acts, no one approved of the barbaric act by Adil Ahmed Dar, the 20-year-old whom the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed as its own. But the Pulwama incident must not be seen in isolation. It is a continuation of the dance of death, unfortunately the predominant feature of Kashmir today.

The rising level of radicalisation has manifested itself in an increasing number of youngsters taking to arms. Even well-educated youth from well-off families have fallen prey to the Pakistani ISI’s psychological machinations and Jihadist influence and indoctrination by terrorist groups.

The morale of militants and their handlers across the border must have risen as the Pulwama attack was carried out by a local militant. Militants repeating such gruesome attacks on security forces and even against the political leadership in the Valley in the coming months and years cannot be ruled out. And for that, they don’t have to do much hard work to find those ready to undertake suicide missions.

It is a fact that radicalisation has made inroads in Kashmir in the past few years, but if it has reached a level that a young boy is ready to blow himself after being brainwashed, it means that it will have a major impact on Kashmir insurgency in the coming years. Even at the peak of insurgency in the 1990s, Kashmiri Muslims never took to suicide-bombing as their religious orientation is different from those in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. The advent of the local suicide-bomber is a new dimension in the almost three decades-long insurgency in Kashmir, which should be a serious concern for the security agencies. The gruesome suicide attack was carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit in the way the IS and Taliban operate in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Addressing the anger and alienation of the youth is a big challenge for the state. They don’t trust anyone. The targeting in many parts of the country of Kashmiris who had nothing to do with the Pulwama attack or terrorism in their state, is precisely the kind of division that Pakistan and the terrorist groups want to cause in India. Wittingly or unwittingly, it seems the government of the day is playing right into their hands.

In the last five years of BJP rule at the Centre, there had been much talk of the ‘muscular policy’ to deal with the Kashmir problem. Yet, the approach has coincided with rising violence, more terror attacks and the alienation of Kashmiris.

The government and its agencies need to answer some tough questions on Pulwama attack. How was a massive collection of explosives put together and let loose so easily by a young suicide attacker on a CRPF convoy? What the Centre has done about the massive failure of intelligence? Rather than identifying the fault lines and the remedial measures, the government, as usual, blamed the ISI to get itself out of the embarrassing situation.

Ordinary Kashmiris, unconnected with terror acts, are the worst sufferers in the endless cycle of violence, and nobody has a greater stake in peace than the common people in the Valley. Why is Kashmir in such a mess today, worse than at any time since the 1990s and who is responsible for it?

In the 2014 assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir, there was more than 70% voter turnout and the large majority of seats were won by the PDP in Kashmir and BJP in Jammu. The two parties forged the “alliance of extremes” in March 2015, with a promise to bridge the chasm between Muslim-majority Kashmir and predominantly-Hindu Jammu region. But the reality is that by the time the alliance ended, the polarisation in the politically-sensitive border state was at an all-time high and militancy had once again gained foothold, after remaining dormant for years.

The BJP pulled out of the alliance last June with an aim to project its hyper-nationalist posture across the country ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. But how and why did the huge turnout of electorate in the last assembly elections – a measure of the acceptance of the democratic process in the Valley -- turn into an opportunity lost? The politics played by the leaders of the two parties for petty political gains has caused fissures in the state’s social stability. The communal divide was promoted by politically ambitious leaders to tear apart the rich and diverse social fabric of the state. The alliance government needs take a large share of the blame for the situation that the border state is in, today, along with the Centre.

The BJP needs to answer to the people of the country what they have actually done in Kashmir, and why this situation obtains today in which local youth, who in 2014 preferred the ballot over the bullet, are now ready to become suicide-bombers. For a time, the BJP government had flaunted that the backbone of terrorism had been broken, stone-pelting had been controlled and that the day was not far off when Kashmir would be peaceful. The reality is that Kashmir is at a crossroads today and, if corrective measures are not taken, the situation may go out of hand.

Kashmir seeks attention, redressal and justice. It cannot be a burial ground eternally nor a theatre for the kind of politics that fuels grievances. It is a live volcano that spews up anger in different shapes and forms at different times. There is a need for honest and unprejudiced evaluation of the causes that compel people to these extreme means of fighting the State.

It is the duty of the government to take immediate steps to arrest the attacks on Kashmiris in many parts of the country and to rein in communal elements whose actions elsewhere fire insecurities in Kashmir. Politicians must understand that their provocative statements in such situations may bring them gains in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls but they will prove harmful to the country.

(Published 23 February 2019, 17:08 IST)

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