The world has been made to believe that terrorists have no religion. Then why some of their ilk sprayed bullets on a bus carrying about 60 pilgrims, mainly from Gujarat, on Amarnath yatra in the glacial heights of Himalayas in Kashmir. This shoot-out was unabashedly aimed by Islamic Fundamentalists to kill Hindu pilgrims. This finally affirms that the fight for ‘azadi’ in the valley is no longer political only, it is blended with religion, a cocktail which Marx warned can be very explosive.
The gunmen, said to be four, two from Pakistan and two locals, either accidentally or knowingly chose, 10 July 2017, the most auspicious first Monday of the month of Shraavana, for their diabolic act, in which seven pilgrims died and around 20 were injured.
The security agencies investigated whether the bus was the target because it was carrying pilgrims from Gujarat or was it incidental, the terrorists had positioned themselves to hit yatris at random because assault on pilgrims is a very sensitive issue in India.
According to IGP of Kashmir range Munir Khan and a statement by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the gunmen had first attacked a police bunker in Botengo which was retaliated, without any casualties being caused in the exchange of fire. Munir added that the gunmen later attacked a police post at Khanabal with the fire being returned and the bus carrying the pilgrims being caught in the crossfire, with seven pilgrims being killed.
According to the CRPF, the gunmen had first fired at a combined picket of CRPF and state police, after which they attacked the bus and later fired upon a camp at Arwani. The investigative report of the state police’s CID contradicted this, suggesting that the bus was attacked by two sets of terrorists, first at a petrol pump in Batengoo at 8:17 p.m and again a few minutes later after which the bus was escorted by a police patrol van to police lines in Anantnag.
The white coloured bus number plate (GJ09Z9979) at which the firing took place carried about 50 pilgrims. It was reported that the attack was carried out by 3-5 terrorists at the location of Khanabal. Though the bus contained more than 50 people, a larger number of casualties were prevented to a great extent due to the actions of the bus driver named “Saleem Mirza”. Despite the bus being fired on by the bullets from all directions, the bus driver continued driving the bus in a calm manner for about 1 km before stopping at an intersection.
The Inspector General Muneer Khan was definite that Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba, founded by Hafiz Saeed was behind the attack. But there are reports that Hizbul Mujahideen too was involved.
Suspicion is that LeT commander and most wanted terrorist by Indian security agencies –they announced a reward— Abu Ismail’s own group tied up with the dissident Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, who has called on Indian Muslims to “do jihad against these kafirs” was also involved. Like Ismail, Musa too had a motive: restore his shattered credentials before his new collaborators.
The actual strike, sources say, might also have been carried out by Hizb units in the Kulgam area, a possibility built on the fact that the road from the area where the pilgrims’ bus was shot at leads to the south Kashmir town.
The latest terrorists’ diabolical assault on the Amarnath yatris cannot be treated as one more in the bloody history of murderous attacks since 17 years on Amarnath yatris. It would be a fatal mistake. For this latest carnage, masterminded by Abu Ismail of LeT module, is clearly a part of the overall Pakistan’s plan to keep Kashmir on the boil. And trigger protests and violence in parts of India, which will not only split the communities, but lead to a communal inferno. If that happened both social and political balance will be adversely affected.
Pakistan knows very well that there is an inexplicable sensitivity in India about killing or harming pilgrims and that is what the mastermind of the latest attack on the yatris must have weighed. As it is its use of religion, albeit subtly, has helped Pakistan to destroy the spirit of Kashmiriyat—social-cultural co-existence, multi-culturalism, tolerance, compassion and a syncretic inter—faith existence. Every terror attack has dealt a body blow to the communal harmony; luckily so far it is limited within the valley. But this time there were protests in Gujarat, any more provocations; it won’t take much for protests to escalate to violence.
It’s obvious that now Pakistan, is either worried that it does not have much time to make at least South Kashmir its launching pad for all its evil designs to create instability and destroy India’s blooming economy, India is able to crush the infrastructure built by its modules in the valley, and ‘neutralise’ ISI paid locals who have been indulging in subversion or providing safe hideouts to armed intruders from across the border. And consequently it has activated all anti-India outfits to do all that could trigger communal disharmony and instability in Hindu India. Or and it’s a big or, Pakistan is all out to stir up as much trouble as possible, knowing that India has a major security problem with the face-off with the PLA in Bhutan.
Whatever it might be, Pakistan has succeeded in convincing the youth in the valley that but for India they would have been ‘azad’. The stone pelting at the security forces engaged in operations against infiltrators is the proof that Pakistan has converted the youth to fight its proxy war, from within. And the number of such foot soldiers has been growing, because the more severe action against them enrages others and they step in, we have seen in the recent past that girls came out from colleges to show their solidarity with the stone pelters.
India has no friend in the valley, even those who are not actively involved in any anti-India operations, have no sympathy for the country that feeds them. Now that the government has started to use strong-arms tactics, it is expected that Pakistan would use all possible means to counter India’s cleanse Kashmir of terrorism multi-pronged operation in the valley.
Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser, has said that, ‘This time it is fight to the finish. It is not about containing terror any more. It is about destroying the roots of terrorism and the infrastructure that supports it.’ But it will need sniping the link between Pakistan and its ‘foot soldiers’. One security source said a list of about 220 home grown terrorists has been drawn up out of which 20 have been eliminated. How are we sure they have not already been replaced? As a Maj. Gen (retd) said Pakistan has no dearth of gun-fodder.
Yes, this latest shooting could prove to be a fatal misadventure of Pak-backed terrorist groups.
A recent write up by Waheed ur Rehman Para, president of the youth wing of the People’s Democratic Party gives the right perceptive of the ground reality and will be of some use in getting rid of Pakistan recruited traitors and ending Islamabad’s dream of avenging India’s truncating East Pakistan from the west and thus laming it for all the time to come.
Home-grown Pak-paid saboteurs
Kashmir is the most pampered region, yet the people in the valley do not even consider themselves as part of India. In fact, the youth have virtually become foot soldiers of Pakistan and have been hampering operations by security forces against intruders from across the border. Many have let terrorists hide in their houses.
Such traitors have been given in grants Rs.1.14 lakh crore in over sixteen years. This is 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population, an analysis by <The Hindu> of Central and State finances shows.
In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 per cent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 per cent of Central grants in 2000-16. That means J&K, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs.91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs.4,300 per person over the same period.
We are paying almost Rs One lakh to keep in comfort even to those who while accepting largess from India have pledged loyalty to its arch enemy. And they laugh at us, we deserve it.
Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of Central assistance. As mentioned earlier the state received Rs.1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the Union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the Central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period. “In general, the special category states get a higher share of central grants, and Jammu and Kashmir being one of them will also get such treatment,” Tapas Sen, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), and a long-time researcher on state finances, told The Hindu.
“But even among them, Jammu and Kashmir is getting a higher share due to its disturbed status and its border with Pakistan.”
The argument advanced is that such large amount of subsidy has helped ensure that the state remains with India. In plain words this means we are paying bribe to keep the valley people with us, how is it then that stone pelters and other saboteurs have double crossed for a paltry Rs1000 and Rs1500?
They have been told that this ‘income’ will dry up soon. The money used to come through hawala to Hurriyat leaders, but they are in trouble and their bank accounts are likely to be sealed. And worse their subversive activities have damaged state’s economy severely–(according to CAG) debt level has risen to Rs 55,358 crore at the end of 2015-16, close to five times of its tax and non-tax revenue.
For long, the state’s economy has been in a poor state, for being the playground of terrorists, separatists and stone-pelters. The frequent curfews, internet bans and travel restrictions have nearly paralysed the economic activities there. Already in shambles, the industry in the Valley is now almost stagnant.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir’s economic survey 2016, the industrial activity came to halt due to the ongoing turmoil last year. “The industrial units in industrial estate Lachipora, Khonmoh, Baghi Ali Mardan khan, Rangret, Anantag , Aischan, Chittipora, Baramulla, Bijbehara, Kupwara, HMT etc came to halt which resulted in the idle payment of wages to the skilled labour for more than 4 months and loss of production in Kashmir valley,” it said.
That brought an estimated loss of Rs 13,291 crore during the last year comprising Rs 6,548.00-crore from private sector and Rs 6,713.00 crore from the government sector on account of hartals/curfews (130 days). Without much industrial activity, the Valley is heavily dependent on pilgrims and tourists for revenues and employment. This sector has been a saviour for even unskilled workers as it provides direct employment to guides, ponywallas, sledgewallas, travel agents; jobs in hotels/houseboats, besides those working in allied sectors like handicrafts, handlooms and transport.
But, an increasingly hostile situation in the Valley has worsened the economic scenario. According to the Jammu and Kashmir’s Economic Survey, total number of tourists in Kashmir Valley was 15.15 lakhs in 2013, which declined to 6.2 lakhs in 2016, including 2.2 lakhs Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. In 2013, the number of yatris alone was 3.53 lakhs. The 2016 survey noted that even though the tourist season, which started during 2016 in April, was in full swing up to end of 7 July, 2016, the remaining about 4 months remained completely tense and registered closure of all activities due to turmoil resulting in almost zero arrival of tourists in the Valley.
“The disappearance of tourists in the Valley during four peak months resulted in loss of business to hoteliers, restaurants, houseboats, handicrafts, poniwallas, transporters and shikara wallas etc. Due to the continuous hartals, stone throwing and curfews, there has been a loss of 64 per cent of the tourist season. The economic loss caused to economy of the state due to hartals/curfews in the Valley is estimated to about more than Rs 16,000 crore,” the survey said.
This trend is dangerous. More job losses are predicted. The terrorists might feel buoyed that they succeeded in their diabolical plan, not realising that whatever number of tourists are still trickling into the valley will dry up and that will further hurt the economy.
A bit of unsolicited advice, the saboteurs and militants beware if not the Indian security forces, the failed economy will strangle, those who are truly namak harams.
Rehman said that, ‘Over the past three decades our society has been going through a difficult phase. Death, destruction and denial of justice has resulted in a complicated situation. But what is most disturbing is the break-down of societal structures. Religious fanaticism, indiscipline, and lack of considerate secular values have constricted the space once held by dialogue and debate……
‘The very idea behind the dastardly acts of violence that was behind the Anantnag Attack is to further fracture the harmony of Kashmir’s space and social fabric. The intention is to invite conflict not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the entire country, to further polarise the already conflicted communal situation. But in reality the only message that the terrorists send across by killing innocents is that they are not against a nation or a religion but against the very people of Kashmir and their glorious past.
While these terrorists may feel buoyed by every such heinous crime that they commit, in effect they are losing any foothold they may have had in the Valley, as there remains no discernible legitimacy for violence anywhere in the world. The majority of the people in Kashmir have unsubscribed to this ideology of separatism and above all want the madness to stop.
In this unsettling environment, it was heartening to see the entire Kashmiri civil society rise up and unequivocally denounce the killing of Amarnath Yatris, by uniting against this odious act of terror and speaking vociferously against it. The overwhelming condemnation shown by everyone should serve as an eye opener to those who harbour hate and glorify violence.
The people of Kashmir have made it clear that these killings are a matter of disgrace and go against every tenet of Kashmiriyat, against the essence of Islam, and against humanity at large. This constituency of peace and love has to be strengthened and supported for a peaceful and developed Jammu and Kashmir.
Finally this fills us with a sense of hope that Kashmir is on its way to reclaiming its once-celebrated past by defeating the agents of animosity and delinquency….
The biggest tribute to the victims of violence at this point is for the society to remain steadfast with its faith in justice and in humanity, and isolate the divisive forces, which is exactly what Kashmiris everywhere are doing right now.
True, one can say Divine wrath will end the long run of the ungodly. But before the divine intervention Delhi must abrogate Art 370. Nothing more can happen than one has been witnessing for quite some time.
We don’t know what Israelis suggested to resolve the Kashmir tangle but Moshe Dyan, Defence Minister had reportedly conveyed to Morarji Desai, then Prime Minister, that the demography of the valley must be changed otherwise it may be very difficult to resolve the Kashmir problem, especially with Pakistan next door to stir up trouble.
The blatant attack on the pilgrims has given once in a lifetime opportunity to revoke the Art 370, no one can dare raise any objection. Call it Amarnath’s Armageddon.
By Vijay Dutt