FairPoint: Is there something under wraps in Kashmir

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The recent terror attacks in Jammu have sparked a wave of anxiety and panic among people in the region. The fact that terrorists can carry out heinous attacks anywhere and anytime has exposed chinks that need to be sealed.

The attack on a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in Reasi raises several questions — like how come the attackers knew the bus was carrying Hindu pilgrims or it would be travelling on that particular route at that time. Were they given the information? Who told them? The terrorists ambushed the bus on a stretch where traffic was less and as per those who survived, the attackers were there for almost 20 minutes.

Does this not indicate a kind of collusion with some local sympathisers? The questions may be part of the investigation being carried out, but they are reminiscent of the times when terrorism struck Kashmir in the early 1990s and most of the attacks were carried out after getting information from neighbours or colleagues and even local policemen. This was something which was even described in detail by Late Governor Jagmohan in his book, ‘Frozen Turbulence’.

The help at the local level could be out of fear or sympathy. With improved security situation and crackdown on separatist leaders, the atmosphere of fear is supposed to have been curbed. But, terror eruptions like the recent ones bring forth an ugly fact that rogue elements continue to exist and exert their presence from time to time.

These elements try to rear their heads when they deem fit or act on orders from across the border. Pakistan has not shut its terror factory and continues to infiltrate terrorists to carry out attacks. It believes that it is its right to keep J&K disturbed through such acts of violence.

J&K Director General of Police R. R. Swain recently said that 70-80 foreign terrorists are active in the Union Territory. An equal number is reported to be trying to sneakily cross the LoC/border from various launch pads in Pakistan.

With the security apparatus tight and strong in Kashmir, the terrorists have been trying to shift their activities to the Jammu region, in the south of Pir Panjal range. The region with dense forests is a difficult terrain where terrorists get enough space to hide. The Pakistan-backed terrorists are also now trying to go to those areas which have been relatively peaceful, and the Reasi attack is an example.

This is the challenge for security forces. The fact that terrorists are able to strike and vanish is something which is deeply worrying. The question again arises — is it possible for the attackers to just vanish or are there elements helping them in the UT?

The terror attacks cannot happen in isolation. There is always a local connect, whether it is in the form of a hybrid terrorist, an overground or underground worker or just simply doing it for money or getting exploited on the basis of religious sentiments.

Before the abrogation of Article 370, the separatists and the pro-Pakistani elements were successful in creating a network which was connected by Islamic sentiments. This link helped in organising stone-pelting sessions, targeted killings, attacks on minorities and security forces, etc.

After Article 370 ceased to exist, the valley has seen a drastic change. The pro-separatist network was demolished and a drastic reduction in violence, including stone-pelting, was noticed. The valley has been witnessing a massive and unprecedented flow of tourists.

Despite a majority wanting to live in peace, there is a hidden remnant of the motivated link that has been trying to gather itself by various means. These hidden elements show their presence through acts of terror, as was witnessed in three back-to-back attacks in Jammu, including the targeting of Hindu pilgrims in a bus in Reasi district.

The police have announced huge rewards for information about the attackers but days after the attack, no one has been arrested. The fact is that these hidden elements are able to get support — with moving around, hiding, food, weapons or pinpointed information about the subject of attack. This is something which should act as an alarm bell for the government.

The victory of Engineer Rashid, a leader with an inclination towards the separatist agenda, in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, is again a pointer to something brewing in the valley.

Rashid has been in Tihar jail for the past five years in connection with a terror funding case. In 2015, when he was an MLA, he organised a party at his official residence where beef was cooked. He has also repeatedly raised his voice for the “right to self-determination” in the then J&K Assembly.

Recently, when he won the Lok Sabha elections, eyebrows were raised as to how he managed to secure the win despite being in jail. His campaign was led by his 26-year-old son Abrar Rashid.

Much on the lines of AAP head and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign in the general elections, where he appealed to people to vote for him to keep him out of jail, Abrar Rashid adopted a similar strategy. His short speeches — “Your vote can get my father released…,” struck a chord and translated into victory.

If Engineer Rashid enters Parliament, will he raise his voice for self-determination as he used to do when he was an MLA.

The question is troubling, is there some under-wraps agenda that is now gradually unfolding? The separatists, by fielding proxies even if the Jamaat-e-Islami, JKLF and others are banned organisations, plan to enter the system. Is there an effort to implode the system by entering the system legitimately?

The questions may seem hypothetical currently, but Kashmir has a lot hidden.

(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at [email protected])



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