The killings in Kashmir

India has a hard task ahead. Boost security, nab terrorists, ensure communal peace. Figure out a Kashmir strategy that combines democracy, dignity, and rights for all
Relatives of ML Bindroo mourn his death at his residence in Srinagar, October 6, 2021. Bindroo was shot dead Tuesday evening near his shop by militants (PTI) PREMIUM
Relatives of ML Bindroo mourn his death at his residence in Srinagar, October 6, 2021. Bindroo was shot dead Tuesday evening near his shop by militants (PTI)
Updated on Oct 08, 2021 08:50 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

A Kashmiri Sikh school principal, a Dogra school teacher, a Kashmiri Pandit chemist, two Kashmiri Muslims, and a worker from Bihar in Kashmir have been shot dead in Srinagar in the past week. Each killing is a tragedy, but when each killing is possibly a part of a larger design — to impose a fanatical agenda, to destroy the communal fabric, to trigger a response which would only lead to more bloodshed, and to deepen a conflict — it is not just a tragedy but a larger game-plan, possibly hatched by Pakistan, which has a track record of sponsoring terror, which must be resisted.

Four features of the killings stand out. One, minorities in Kashmir are being targeted for just that — being minorities. This is an eerie reminder of the dark days of 1990 when Kashmiri Pandits were killed, threatened and forced to flee. Two, irrespective of the exact terror organisation that is behind the current set of attacks, its aim is to both challenge Indian sovereignty in the Valley and impose an extreme, violent, and intolerant brand of religious homogeneity. Three, Pakistan or at the very least, some section of the Pakistani establishment, would have, in the most charitable of explanations, been aware of the killings, or in the more likely of explanations, encouraged it. And four, this could well mark the beginning of a season of turbulence in Kashmir. The winter may offer a reprieve but the summer of 2022 will perhaps be vulnerable from the security point of view. Some of the factors behind this are internal: Lack of a mainstream regional political buffer, potential for radicalisation and indoctrination of the young, the fact that terrorists can quite easily generate a sense of fear making the work of security forces difficult. And some are external -- an emboldened Pakistan, a more powerful Inter-Services Intelligence than it has been in decades, a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with terror affiliates thrilled to shift focus to Kashmir.

India has a hard task ahead. It has to sharpen its domestic and external intelligence collection. It has to trace the logistical and financial support system which is enabling these attacks. It has to bolster security arrangements, especially in areas with minority presence. It has to ensure that the killings do not deepen religious and regional divisions — and prevent any attacks, in the name of retaliation, against innocent Kashmiri Muslims. And it has to figure out a Kashmir strategy that combines democracy, dignity, and rights for all with the imperatives of security in an adverse geopolitical setting.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021