|A jawan stands near the body of a colleague who was killed during the gunfight in Srinagar on Wednesday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, March 13: The attack in Srinagar has prompted suggestions that Delhi was reluctant to factor in homegrown threats while worrying about outfits based in Pakistan in the wake of Afzal Guru’s execution.
On March 8, an electronic surveillance input had landed at the multi-agency centre (MAC), the co-ordination avenue for intelligence agencies at the Centre.
The input stated that the Hizb-ul Mujahideen might launch an attack on security forces in the Valley.
This input and others received earlier had suggested that the attacks might be in retaliation to the hanging of the Parliament attack convict.
Last week, many officials had played down the inputs. The usual suspicion about the veracity of alerts did play a role but so did a reluctance to acknowledge that homegrown terror could be rearing its head in the Valley again.
The possibility of a strike from within was discounted possibly because the government did not want to lend credibility to a perception that Afzal’s hanging has further deepened the sense of alienation in Kashmir, sources said.
Within hours of the attack in Srinagar, Union home secretary R.K Singh suggested Pakistan’s involvement. “Prima facie, the terrorists appear to be from across the border and were Pakistani nationals,” Singh told reporters.
Hours later, the Hizb-ul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack. But Jammu and Kashmir police feel the Lashkar-e-Toiba may also have been involved.
In the evening, Pakistan “strongly rejected” the charge that the attack was the handiwork of militants from that country.
“We feel that this trend of making irresponsible statements and knee-jerk reactions by senior Indian government functionaries has the potential of undermining the efforts made by both sides to normalise relations between the two countries,” a statement from the Pakistan foreign office said.
There has been little local involvement in fidayeen attacks in Kashmir, except for an incident on August 27, 2003, when terrorists attacked a hotel in Srinagar.
A.S. Dulat, former RAW secretary and a participant in Track II diplomacy with Pakistan, said the involvement of Hizb reflected an indigenous footprint. “Any such attack shows capability and shows people are still prepared to die,” said Dulat, recalling that he had also warned of the negative fallout after Afzal’s hanging.
Dileep Padgaonkar, senior journalist and part of a group of interlocutors, said disparate separatist groups have come together and protested while the government imposed curfew in the Valley.
Flagging the “fracas” in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Tuesday where legislators engaged in “competitive soft separatism”, Padgaonkar attributed it partly to Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s straight-faced refusal to hand over Afzal’s body to his family.
The attack will also weaken the case of those advocating the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Padgaonkar said. For the army, vulnerability of a region to terror attacks is an argument for continuance of the act.