After Amarnath terror attack, Centre must build upon the spirit of Kashmiriyat
Both the PDP and the BJP spoke in one voice. Also, Rajnath Singh’s assertion has helped humanise the Kashmiris, who were being viewed as stone pelters and militants for longanalysis Updated: Jul 13, 2017 15:53 IST
A telephone call to a senior official in Anantnag, the district where seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed in a terror attack, elicited a weary response. “I am tired of looking at dead bodies, of yatris, of our own people [Kashmiris]. I’m just tired of the violence.’’ The official had stayed up all night, tending to the injured, getting them airlifted to Delhi and Surat and, equally importantly, ensuring that there was no communal flare-up.
Jammu and Kashmir passed through a fragile moment when news of the terror attack on the pilgrims first broke because by training their guns at the yatris, they had hoped to increase the gulf that exists between the two ideologically-opposed regions of Jammu and Kashmir. They had also hoped to create a wedge between the state’s coalition partners. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP came together to form a government in 2015 but have had more disagreements than agreements.
The strange bedfellows were, however, able to paper over their seemingly irreparable differences and handled the fallout of the terror attack with tact and maturity. Both spoke in one voice; and both emphasised the syncretic culture. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called the killings an attack on the state’s very ‘ethos and tradition’. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, from the BJP, walked an extra mile and when asked about the targeting of Hindus, told a television channel that in fact more Kashmiri Muslim civilians had been killed than Hindus.
It would not be wrong to say that the state government came out looking good for the first time. Trouble for the unlikely allies had started on the day of the swearing-in when PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed credited Pakistan for an election that saw less violence than was anticipated. The chasm between the two partners was visible at every step all through last year’s unrest. Mehbooba at one point even alluded to how she might have given Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani another chance if they had known that he was in the hideout in which he was killed. Wani’s killing and its fallout have had the Valley in a vice-like grip for a year now and the ramifications of the uprising that struck Kashmir like a thunderbolt in July last year had further widened the distance between Jammuites and Kashmiris.
The mature handling of the attack, however, has changed the political narrative and opened just the window of opportunity that an alienated and sullen Valley so badly needed. Home minister Rajnath Singh’s emphatic signalling – he even ticked off a tweeter baying for blood – that ‘all Kashmiris are not terrorists’ appears to have provided the balm needed by a society that has been shocked by the lynching of a police officer just before Eid and by the killing of yatris.
If Mufti Saeed had been alive, he would’ve been pleased with how the governments and the common citizens rose as one to condemn the attack. Just before he had signed the contentious agenda of alliance that binds the BJP and the PDP, Saeed had told this paper: “Ideologically we are North Pole and South Pole but the state has given us a historic opportunity to unite Jammu with Kashmir and to unite the state with India. It is important to connect the two regions and I believe I can do it. Let me tell you on record that I want to leave a legacy. I see an opportunity to mend the divide between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir and I will form a government only with the BJP, or I’m out.”
Mufti had the philosophical wisdom to explain the ‘unholy alliance’. The current mood has opened up a window of opportunity – however narrow – for a political outreach. Rajnath Singh must seize this opportunity and take his ‘all Kashmiris are not terrorists’ approach forward. The Centre has been of the view that it needs to contain militancy first but an outreach will be far more meaningful than any cordon-and-search operation that brings alienated Kashmiris out of their homes in protest. Singh’s unequivocal assertion helped humanise the Kashmiris, viewed for too long as stone pelters and militants by the rest of India.
The Amarnath tragedy has presented an opportunity. The solidarity that marked the response needs to be consolidated, for the majority, like the Anantnag official, are fatigued by the daily cycle of violence.