Kashmir Signals Ignored

Rajan Gandhi
In Kashmir, signals were emanating for quite some time but were ignored time and again , hoping against hope that Jihadi’s will not dare to attack Shri Amarnathji Yatra as it is against all principles of humanity especially much propagated Kashmiriyat. The veil of so called Kashmiriat time and again has been used by all hawks to justify their actions and mislead everybody from common masses to Government. State Govern-ment itself has used this terminology of – Kashmiriyat , Jamuh-iriyat, Insaaniyat  to somehow shield the culprits by not giving free hand to forces to wipe out 200-300 militants who have taken the whole valley as hostage.
Signals were clear right after the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and the subsequent clashes, there have been trend at several places in recent time in which demonstrators in different parts of the region have attacked the houses of policemen. The house of Muhammad Ashraf , a police officer in-charge of a police post in South Kashmir, was attacked by protesters at Chandrigam area of Tral. Although, Asharaf was not present during the attack, his wife and daughter fainted and were later shifted to hospital. They broke windowpanes of the house as some miscreants diverted a protest rally towards his home in Tral. In 2016 July, father of an SHO in Kulgam, was forced by the public to tender a public apology over his son’s “misconduct”. During the early days of unrest, demonstrators at Ashmuqam, near the tourist destination of Pahalgam, attacked the residence of SDPO and later set it on fire. A police driver, Feroz Ahmad, was also killed after a mob pushed his mobile bunker vehicle into river Jhelum at Sangam in Anantnag district.
Amid the accusations that the police has been “killing” civilians in cold blood, the Jammu and Kashmir home department even fought a court battle to save a police officer, Yasir Qadri, from being booked under murder charges. In fact, for the first time in recent years, the separatist groups are publicly naming the police officials who have been involved in anti terrorist operations. The purpose of false writ for FIR was obviously to demoralize the strong force of 80,000 in the state. Outside Qadri’s home in Hazratbal area of Srinagar, a graffiti: “Yasir The Murderer”, conveys the aggressive street sentiment against the police. Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani for the first time, during the ongoing unrest, named a police official posted in South Kashmir, Touseef Mir, for committing “atrocities” in Anantnag district, describing him as a “criminal and butcher”. Earlier separatist groups had restrained themselves from publicly naming Kashmir police officials. Since 2008 and 2010 street demonstrations, police has come under intense criticism for detaining young men, teenagers and minors. But no action was taken against anyone.
Recently only, the death of Deputy Superintendent Moham-med Ayub Pandith at the hands of a lynching  mob highlights the dangerous mindset of the perpetrators of violence in the name of jihad and culprits in each incidents are either gun-wielding militants or local disgruntled radicalized youth. DSP Mohammad Ayub was attacked by the mob, cruelly stripped and stoned to death. The mob then went on a rampage, targeting empty security pickets in the area. Ironically, when the incident took place it was the night of Shab-e-Qadr, the night during the last week of Ramadan on which Muslims believe all their sins may be forgiven. It is a night of intense prayer. Equally ironic is the fact that the mob dragged Pandith’s body to the point beyond Khanyar Chowk from which a lane ends towards the shrine of Makhdoom Sahib, the patron Sufi saint of the city whom many Kashmiris have for centuries regarded as the real king of Kashmir. The gruesome lynching presents a contrast to the Sufi sentiments with which Kashmiris have been identified traditionally. The lynching also brings to mind parallels as well as differences with similar events from Kashmir’s history. The most obvious incident was the killing of the SHO of Maisuma on the road outside his police station in January 1990. His body remained on the road for a while before a civilian worker picked it up, not by the police, such was the terror .And that incident was the onset of militancy in Kashmir. The contrast between that event and this one is that militants used firearms to kill the SHO of Maisuma that time and this time it was lynching. The purpose is similar, to break the morale of the force. It can further be compared with a recent ambush during which the SHO and five other police personnel of Achabal police station were killed. Pandith, on the other hand, was beaten and kicked to death by a mob with vengeful anger.
The lynching carried an echo of the gruesome murder of 23 Pandits at Wandhama near Ganderbal in 1998. That too was the night of Shab-e-Qadr. Many Kashmiris find it tough to believe that any God-fearing Muslim would commit such a fiendish act on a holy night like Shab-e-Qadr. But this latest lynching was done by men who had specifically gone to the historic central mosque to beg forgiveness for their sins unlike Wandhama massacre where militants raided the village. The road on which the mob dragged Ayub’s body leads to Srinagar’s Central Jail. Eighty-six years ago, on 13 July 1931, another mob had carried bodies from the jail to the Jamia Masjid – before heading towards Maharaj Gunj to vandalize the shops of Kashmiri Pandits. All these emanating signals pointed that things are moving drastically to dangerous propositions and something major is bound to happen as in the past but authorities in power just ignored all and the hapless Shri Amarnathji Yatris have paid the price of this criminal ignorance.
The very fact that this bus carrying pilgrims from Gujarat to Shri Amarnathji was not registered but still managed to travel all the way from Lakhanpur Toll Tax to Shri Amarnath and was returning passing through Mir bazaar of Anantnag unchecked raises serious questions on the preparedness and so called foolproof arrangements for the yatra. With the highest threat perception on the occasion of death anniversary of slain militant Burhan Wani along with open challenge of Hizbul Chief Syed Sallahudin on TV channels , authorities just relaxed with the passing of the death anniversary day and the resultant tragic human loss is beyond any explanation by government. This is an open secret that by night all local police nakkas are removed and militants have fully utilized this big loop hole in our security apparatus. Any frequent visitor to Kashmir will vouch for this typical security lapse.
Dangerous is the trend followed by teenagers who reject any kind of nationalism or democracy. Former Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa personifies this trend and adds a radical Islamist touch to it. He has associated himself with the previously unheard-of ‘Kashmir Taliban’. Such radicalism has been evident in south Kashmir over the past few months. The hate-filled viciousness of the attack that killed Pandith in the heart of the city indicates this trend itself. However, this lynching and all previous ominous signals were time and again deliberately ignored with an attitude of who will bell the cat and ultimately the whole nation has paid the price. More than militants, it’s the overwhelming support for militancy, which is posing a bigger challenge for cops. The most disturbing aspect of the situation for local policemen is the hostile crowds which hamper any flush out operations and security forces have to retreat under pressure from politicians in power as well as in opposition. Such is the situation right now that policemen have to hide their identity when they go home, they don’t even wear uniform. At some places protesters have even set up check points to check out identity cards. More police personnel of Jammu and Kashmir have lost their lives in the defence of the country than any other state police force since the outbreak of the insurgency almost three decades ago. This year itself till June, more than 17 policemen of Jammu and Kashmir police have been killed, the highest for that period in last 20 years.
But with recent gunning down of pilgrims, another level of militancy has started and hopefully now the government wakes up from deep slumber and give free hand to forces to flush out the few militants and their sympathizers. Government has to act decisively sooner or later but the sooner it is, the better it will be for the whole nation before things spiral further out of hands. Jammu and Kashmir police has to be torch bearer of this crusade by providing vital timely intelligence from their underground and over ground sources to ultimately play main role in eliminating this curse called militancy.
“There are memories that time does not erase… Forever does not make loss forgettable, only bearable.”
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