Dwarika Prasad Sharma
The fatal terrorist attack on senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari has closed the option for extending the unilateral suspension of internal Kashmir operations by the security forces that was announced for the month of Ramzan. Any thought of an extension is now an open and shut proposition.
The Amarnath Yatra is beginning on June 28, and it would be foolhardy to entertain any wishful thinking that it would be secure even after intensive sanitisation operations around the route, and redoubled static and patrol guard.
There is no room for pretending that there have been social gains from the cessation of operations. On the security side, there has been a downhill slippage, with violence reportedly increasing three times when the Ramzan month is compared with the previous month. Terrorists got a chance for emotional homecomings in the month of self-purification, prayers and forgiveness- seeking, and, from the cosy comfort of home, making forays to throw grenades at security forces personnel, attack policemen to snatch their weapons, and kidnap and kill a Muslim army man going home for Eid, and much more.
Though there have been attacks on journalists in Kashmir earlier also, these have been few in number, as the terrorists have broadly followed an unwritten guideline to leave the fourth estate alone. They consider it as their potential amplifier — most of the Kashmiri Press does not disappoint them— and they would be led in extremely exceptional cases to attack anyone of its members. They would do that only in a sharply opposite poles scenario.
It is reported that Shujaat has survived three attempts on his life since 2000, and has been with armed police escort since then. One analyst, attempting to determine the possible motive for the fatal attack this time, said that a conference in Dubai last year, in which political and civil society figures from both sides of the LoC, including Shujaat, had participated, had concluded that militancy was not a solution to the Kashmir problem and called for its abandonment.
According to the analysis, the call had got the goat of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, who said that the participants were on the “payroll” (of Indian agencies?). The Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan had seconded him.
Terrorists have no religion, it does not beg repetition. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Ramzan,roza, rozadar, iftar, month of self- purification and seeking forgiveness from Allah, are one and the same thing for them— balderdash! What good has the ceasefire brought, when the aftermath is staring at conditions when the security forces will be put to greater test by the regrouped terrorists, and there is going to be more violence? It is just like the tale of the sadhu bathing in the Ganga, who, on seeing a scorpion writhing in the water, picks it up in his hand, gets bitten and reflexively shakes it off his hand, picks it up again… It is a no-brainer that the sadhu was bitten again, till he could bear it no longer.
After the initial expression of shock at the attack on Shujaat, and commiserating with his family, the politicians will be back at lectures to the Union government to talk to the separatists, to talk to Pakistan. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also expressed shock, but for obvious reasons cannot be expected to condemn the fountainhead of the violence.
The Union Government should take decisions on security-related issues and on amnesties after taking the security forces fully on board, so that they do not have to suffer greater losses. Varying opinions were openly expressed at the highest level of the Union government before the ceasefire was (surprisingly?) announced. It is obvious that the BJP leadership is beholden to the Mufti family for striking up a coalition deal with the party, but they should try to prevail on Mehbooba where security issues are concerned, and not to pay court to her.
There is another big issue regarding Kashmir that has the potential of fettering the decision of the Union government regarding restarting operation all-out. It is the UN report that alleges human rights violations in Kashmir. The Union government has rejected the report, but lower-rung PDP and NC men say they endorse it. India’s denial of the report is strong, even questioning the credentials of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, but this country has a record of acting highly sensitive to its human rights record being questioned in world forums.
The credentials of the UN human rights chief have been questioned by other countries as well, but the report is out, and its timing, incidentally, comes at a time when most security experts want another all-out operation against the terrorists to be mounted with redoubled vigour.
The obviously-biased report does list, almost in passing, abuses by the terrorists. The fatal attack on Shujaat and other atrocities of the terrorists during the suspension of operations by the security forces over Ramzan should be highlighted to offset the effect of the UN report.
(The writer is a Senior Journalist)
Dwarika Prasad Sharma