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STILL EARTHLY

The more vulnerable the better. This seems to be the killers' motto, and they have succeeded three times within 15 days. Around and after the visit of the prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, to Kashmir, three sets of tourists in buses have been hit by grenades as if to make clear that the killers have no intention of letting Jammu and Kashmir recover. The return of tourism had been hailed with relief in the state; it was seen as an omen that one of the most important parts of its economy would begin to heal. When the grenades exploded in two buses full of tourists from West Bengal, the home secretary-level talks had just come to a reassuring conclusion in Islamabad. Everything would be done to stop terrorism. The killers, who know exactly where to hit in order to damage the tourism industry in Kashmir most, decided to demonstrate that planning for peace is far from the real thing. They had already got a group of tourists from Gujarat, where Kashmir is almost as favourite a destination as it is in Bengal. This time their targets were Bengali travellers.

The smoke and blood of a terror strike seem to symbolize the confusion the act wishes to stoke. The best-known extremist organizations have not only denied responsibility for it but have also condemned it. According to them, Indian agencies are responsible for these strikes, because the Indian government wishes to blacken their 'patriotic' war. And, their argument goes, the Indian government would, in any case, like Kashmir's recovery to be stalled. The history of violence and bloodshed in Kashmir has grown so complicated over the years, the interests of various parties in the politics of the state so intricately crossed, that it is useless to look for reason. No peace process has ever been smooth: those who destroy peace for a cause, whatever that cause may be, ultimately come to have the highest stakes in the condition of continued disruption. To target tourists is one of the most cowardly, and most malicious, forms of violence. And for the Bengali tourist, it is an unfairly terrifying penalty for his traditional 'Kashmir nostalgia'.

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