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TERROR STRIKE

The global war against terrorism is yet to have an impact in Jammu and Kashmir. The recent escalation of terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir suggests that there is little hope of an early restoration of normalcy in the state. It is also clear that elements within Pakistan’s establishment are continuing to sponsor violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The most recent incident witnessed the massacre of more than 20 innocent men, women and children near the town of Shopian in Kashmir. All of those killed belonged to the minority Kashmiri Pandit community. As is obvious, there is a clear attempt by terrorists to polarize Hindus and Muslims in the state and generate communal tension. As it is, the exodus of most of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in the early Nineties has meant that there are only a few thousand of them left in the valley. But the targeting of even this microscopic minority has a clear purpose.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir — led by the People’s Democratic Party-Congress coalition — was working seriously on a plan to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits. The government had even identified sites in the valley where the Pandits would be settled. Indeed, several Pandit groups, especially those living in migrant camps in Jammu, had even expressed a real interest in the plan and there was a possibility that the process of the Pandits’ return would start by the summer. The latest terrorist incident is obviously designed to thwart this process, and it will undoubtedly have an impact. The hope, therefore, of reviving Kashmir’s composite culture has been dampened, at least in the short term. It is unfortunate, however, that the media and several political parties have sought to blame the government of Mr Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The so-called “healing touch” policy of Mr Sayeed’s government is aimed at providing relief to the innocent average Kashmiri rather than encourage terrorist incidents.

It is well known that the bulk of the counter-insurgency operations in the state is carried out by Central security forces, who are unlikely to lower their guard merely on the directions of the state government. Terrorist incidents like this are also aimed at subverting efforts to reduce the alienation of the ordinary Kashmiri. If there is a clear failure of the security forces and the intelligence agencies, it is in not preventing the recent assassination of the Hizbul Mujahedin leader, Abdul Majid Dar. It is widely known that Dar was being targeted by Pakistani intelligence agencies for his moderate views. Pakistan was particularly unhappy because Dar continued to command support within significant sections of the Hizbul Mujahedin, including within the cadre based in Pakistan. Dar was, in other words, a vital asset for India and needed to be given full security cover. This did not happen. Clearly, if India cannot provide security to its supporters in Kashmir, it is unlikely to have many allies left in the valley.

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