The recent escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir has understandably caused widespread concern. It would be imprudent, however, to blame the new coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir for the terrorist incidents over the past month. In the recent past, terrorists have increasingly sought to attack soft targets throughout the state. Most notably, the Raghunath temple in Jammu was attacked, in which several civilians were killed, and a legislator from the ruling People’s Democratic Party was shot dead near a mosque in Kashmir. Terrorists have again sought to enforce a dress code on women, and those who resist are being targeted. This is deeply worrying. This rise in violence clearly indicates that Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is continuing.
Most of the organizations claiming responsibility for the attacks are located in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Indeed, the head of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, a terrorist organization active in the state, was recently released from confinement in Pakistan. Moreover, attempts by extremists to enforce a dress code for women in Kashmir must be seen as part of a larger design to destroy the valley’s long-standing culture of tolerance and pluralism. It goes without saying that these forces of terror and intolerance should be dealt with ruthlessly and not allowed to succeed in their destructive and obscurantist mission. It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that the PDP-led coalition government’s “healing touch” policy is responsible for the escalation in violence. This policy is aimed at winning back the Kashmiri people rather than being soft on terrorism.
For more than a decade now, Kashmir has witnessed an unprecedented scale of violence. While a large number of security personnel and terrorists have been killed, the worst casualty has been the ordinary Kashmiri. Not only have thousands of innocents been killed, but most Kashmiris have been deeply traumatized as well by the brutalization of their state and society. Given the overwhelming Kashmiri sentiment against violence, the “healing-touch” policy is aimed at providing succour to the ordinary Kashmiri. Ultimately, however, not only will such a policy firmly isolate forces that are continuing to perpetuate violence, but may also help create the conditions under which the Kashmiri people — rather than the security forces — will together fight those who continue to spread terror. Meanwhile, more stringent security measures are clearly needed. Since Pakistan is likely to continue to let terrorists infiltrate into the state, managing the line of control must continue to be a priority. A more effective patrolling system, real time intelligence gathering and sharing, and improved interdiction technologies, including electronic sensors of various kinds, are essential if infiltration has to be made more difficult. The unified headquarters of the security forces in the state has served the counter-terrorism effort well, and should be maintained and strengthened.