THE targeted killings of minority Kashmiri pandits, migrant workers and employees from other states after similar attacks in October 2021 have rocked the valley. Hundreds of families and workers have fled to the safety of Jammu and their home states. In May and the first week of June 2020, hardline Islamist elements in the Valley, in a despicable act, killed unsuspecting civilians at point-blank range, including off-duty cops. One of the victims was Amreen Bhat, a television entertainer and performer and a local Kashmiri woman.
The Resistance Front (TRF), a shadow organization of the banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Kashmir Freedom Fighters (KFF), has claimed responsibility for multiple recent attacks. It is surprising that these groups escaped early detection and response after coming to light in October 2021. Their avowed agenda is to scuttle any attempt by the central government to populate the Union Territory which they believe will alter its demography. The outfit threatened that “anyone involved in Kashmir’s demographic change will meet the same fate”.
Migrant workers from all over the country number over one million in J&K’s union territory. Hailing from different states of India, they are engaged in various fields ranging from infrastructure, construction to manufacturing, hospitality, orchards, domestic help, etc. These migrant workers have been part of the economy of the territory of the Union for more than four decades. Singling them out by the illogical militant groups and killing them can easily destabilize J&K’s trade and commerce, which negatively impacts its GDP. Any mass exodus of these migrant workers can paralyze Kashmir.
The number of terrorist incidents and the presence of militants have registered a downward trend. Trade and tourism are flourishing in the union territory with nearly one million tourists having already visited the state and another two lakh registered for Amarnath Yatra. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and local people participated in the Kheer Bhawani mela immediately after the killings. The return of grassroots democracy through elections to local bodies, increased trade and tourism, reduction in violent incidents and general prosperity must be like a thorn in the flesh of Pakistan and its deep state. After the regime change in Pakistan, the ISI seems to have upped the ante in Kashmir.
Ethnic cleansing in the valley always seems to be on the minds of the jihadist groups operating there. If mass murder, rape and arson were the tools in the 1990s, extremists have now adopted a more sophisticated modus operandi of shooting and scampering, killing one and terrorizing thousands. The recent methodical cold-blooded murders indicate radicalized, highly motivated and trained sleeper cells ready to come out of cover under orders from their masters through the Line of Control. These are evil acts of Islamic jihadist elements.
The callous murder of Amreen Bhat and her message went unnoticed. Militants have attempted to force the Taliban-style program of cultural cleansing and banning performing arts and music in the Kashmir Valley. Female athletes could be the next target. Will Kashmiryat with its eclectic and syncretic culture, music and folk dances be trampled on by the ultra-puritan jihadist agenda?
The people of Kashmir must realize that now is the time to consolidate the dividends of peace rather than allowing fringe radical groups to push them back into the sordid period of peak militancy and unrest that hampers their daily lives. . Another exodus, whether minor or large scale, will also surely raise questions about the majority community in UT as to their acceptance of Kashmiri Pandits upon their return to their homeland.
Condemnation of the murders has been low-key and ambivalent. No political party joined the minority protesters in Lal Chowk and elsewhere. Most local and national parties have been busy finding fault with the incumbent government rather than calling out Pakistan and terrorist groups for targeting peace and friendship at J&K.
The valley’s major political parties and their leaders generally transact business from their fortified residences in Srinagar, Jammu or Delhi. They no longer represent the voice of the multitudes. Their call for a multi-party meeting on these events may be a good idea. Better would be an all-party demonstration in Lal Chowk and in all district headquarters condemning these terrorist acts in unequivocal terms.
Kashmir has long prided itself on the Sufi nature of its Islam. The majority of Muslims in the valley are peaceful. But their deafening silence gives indirect encouragement to those anti-national elements who are determined to destroy peace and prosperity in the paradise of Firdaus. There is a need for them to show solidarity with the minorities who have stoically lived in or returned to the valley, as well as to protect normal trade, tourism and other activities for the benefit and prosperity of all strata of the society.
J&K police have the unenviable task of maintaining continuous surveillance of these youngsters, sharpening their beat-level intelligence, and working closely with central intelligence agencies to pick up ‘chatter’ pointing to such arrangements. harmful. No security system in the world can monitor every window and every door and monitor every citizen. It is necessary to create a database of likely recruits and suspects and update it constantly.
Support from local communities, political parties, NGOs, women’s groups, etc. should also be asked to create local defense and brotherhood/goodwill committees in each vulnerable area in order to instil a sense of security and build confidence in the minorities.
In recent years, thousands of Kashmiris have returned to Union territory. Their number will not change the demographics of UT. The significant gains made in strengthening the multicultural and plural fabric of Kashmir must not be lost in the face of recent despicable militant acts.