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Amarnath killings: Hardliners must desist from communalising terror attacks

The terrorist bullets that killed the pilgrims in Amarnath Yatra 2017 also took aim at a government, which has two unlikely parties as allies: The soft-separatist People’s Democratic Party and the right-wing BJP

editorials Updated: Jul 11, 2017 18:04 IST
Security force personnel (R) check the bag of a man near a base camp of Hindu pilgrimage to the cave of Amarnath after seven pilgrims were killed in a gunbattle between Indian police and militants on Monday. (REUTERS)

The terror attack that killed seven Amarnath shrine pilgrims is a deadly reminder of how fragile peace is in Kashmir. The attack is also a blow to the state’s syncretic traditions that bind Hindus and Muslims. The cave-shrine was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in 1850 and his family and Hindu priests together were its custodians for decades till the state government set up a board to regulate the yatra in 2000. The yatra, in fact, is incomplete without both communities and local logistics are all provided for by the Muslims. The pilgrimage has come under threat on several occasions since terrorism reared its head in the Valley in 1989 but even through the 1990s — when violence was at an all-time high and Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee their homes — the pilgrimage has not once been suspended. To the contrary, villages worst affected by militancy have opened their homes and gone out of their way to make the yatris comfortable.

The killing of seven pilgrims on Monday has cast a deep shadow over the Valley. The timing couldn’t have been worse: The attack has taken place at a time when the state is already reeling under the impact of an unprecedented uprising that followed the death of militant commander Burhan Wani. The security establishment is stretched and has to now ensure that there is no communal flare-up in the ideologically opposed regions of Jammu and the Valley. The terrorist bullets that killed the pilgrims also took aim at a government, which has two unlikely parties as allies: The soft-separatist People’s Democratic Party and the right-wing BJP. It is imperative for the alliance partners to behave maturely and hold the peace that is already tentative.

The most-heartening signals of Kashmiriyat not taking a beating in the face of extreme provocation are coming from the state’s common citizens. In an important signalling, a fresh batch of 3,000 yatris left Jammu a day after the terror attack. Kashmiris, too, are deeply disturbed by the killing of the pilgrims. The separatists from the Hurriyat Conference were quick to condemn the attack. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that the pilgrims will always be respected guests. It is important to remember that the same separatists were silent when militants killed policemen and government employees.

As the state braces for testing times ahead and as the bodies of the pilgrims reach their homes in Gujarat and Maharashtra, political hardliners must desist from communalising the killings.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 16:19 IST