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Kashmir 2006, a look back

J&K was salvaged from becoming another Iraq in Asia in 2006, writes Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2006 14:52 IST
Arun Joshi

Jammu and Kashmir was salvaged from becoming another Iraq in Asia in 2006. But as it steps into 2007, the threat is far from over.

It was the high quality of violence that made difference this year and despite the Indo-Pak dialogue process moving towards its desired goal posts, the terror machine of pan-Islamic groups is moving ceaselessly. The number of  violent incidents is down, but the nature of targets and attacks had brought an Iraq-like situation closer to the Valley.

Twice it was attempted in 2006. First it was in May when Second Round Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir was held. Three months later, it was the anger instigated and generated over the  death warrants of Afzal Guru, the convict in the December 13, 2001 attack on the Parliament.

On May 21, terrorists exhibited their plans to assassinate the top political leadership of Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, including Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at a rally in Srinagar on May 21.

A delay of 15-minutes to leave his residence for a commemorative rally on the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi made all the difference.

"I stopped for taking my food, and that is what saved me from reaching the line of fire," Azad told Hindustan Times.

Nine were killed and scores of others wounded on the day.

Terrorists carried out their plans of exploding car bombs. More than  a dozen fidayeen were on parole in Srinagar - the summer capital - that hosted Second Round Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir.

Strict security measures were put in place. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who presided over the RTC, had to cut short his visit by a day, because of the tough security steps to thwart terrorists’ murderous plans, were also hurting the local population and tourists’ movements.

"They had plans to turn Srinagar into Baghdad. That is why there were so many strict security measures," Chief Minister said.

"It was the biggest challenge of my career," said Director General of Police Gopal Sharma, who has seen and handled the militancy from the day one.

But this mood of satisfaction was soured by the killing of tourists.

Five Gujarati tourists were killed and several others wounded within hours after PM left for Delhi on May 25.

Jammu and Kashmir was on boil in October. Within a day after a Delhi court announced Afzal Guru's death sentence on October 20, streets in Jammu and Kashmir were filled with protestors. Separatists, without an issue, wanted to throw Jammu and Kashmir back to the days of 1990, when street protests used to be huge. And at times, panicky security forces would open fire.

The second and the most deadly phase in their plans was that once the hanging takes place, terrorists would strike at airports, army establishments, government institutions, dragging security forces and the Centre into a highly explosive situation.

"It was a difficult situation," conceded Azad.

But, the daily incidents of violence, fidayeen attacks and gun battles that last for days together, show that the elements that want to keep pot boiling in Jammu and Kashmir are kicking and alive, no matter how the people at large are yearning for peace day in and day out.

Email Arun Joshi: a_joshi957@rediffmail.com

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