Amarnath Yatra attack: Can't let Hindutva hardliners hijack discourse; sober voices must speak louder

In the dark of the night on the first Monday of the Shravana, Khanabal village in south Kashmir's Anantnag saw a vicious attack on a bus with pilgrims returning from the Amarnath yatra, killing at least seven and grievously wounding nineteen others.

No outfit, terrorist or otherwise, has claimed responsibility yet; ironically, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), dubbed as the primary suspect by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police, issued one of the earliest condemnations, calling the attack 'un-Islamic' and reprehensible.

Hasuben Ratila Patal, Surakha Ben, Patal Lakshmiben, Usha Mohanla Sonkar, Thakor Nirmalaben, Ratan Zina Bhai Patal, and Patal Lakshmi Ben are the seven who lost their lives and in whose names we mourn the tragedy. It remains unclear as of now if the attack was only or primarily religious in character. Given the fact that a police check post was attacked before the bus, Inspector General of Police Munir Khan suggested that the attack on the bus was an unfortunate casualty after militants opened fire indiscriminately.

Amarnath. Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

An acknowledgement of the aforesaid, however, must not denote denial. Only earlier this year, former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa chided separatists for calling the Kashmir question a problem of politics, urging the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir.

The question of Kashmiri Pandits is one that unceasingly haunts the Valley, and to that end, casts deep aspersions on the nature of the Kashmiri resistance. Those democratic and secular in orientation see the resistance as themselves, often preferring to look the other way when the unease of such questions is invoked.

That the Kashmiri resistance is marred with elements of fundamentalism should cause no uneasiness if the objective is to voice the region's rightful discontentment. It should not lead us to believe that imaginations and desires cannot be reoriented, or that which is heinous is all there is. In looking the other way, as many recently did after the lynching of DSP Ayub Pandith in Srinagar, we betray that we know little of Kashmir or its resistance.

A recourse to silence in the wake of the Amarnath yatra tragedy would thus be antithetical to the democratic. It would cede critical political space to Hindutva, a process already underway as the tragedy is appropriated in the fustian of the perpetually persecuted Hindu. One is only to access social media to trace the unfolding of its insidiousness.

Revenge is the call and it is asked for in immediacy. The Kashmiri appears as the fundamental adversary, the 'them' of otherness in dire need of repressive measures. Wrestler Geeta Phogat recently tweeted, "Enough of condemning terror, we need to burn them alive now."

As Abhishek Saha writes in this Hindustan Times piece, citing his childhood friend's Facebook post – that read, "Do not shoot them. Kick them. Belch them. Cut them. Slice them. Desecrate them. Destroy them. Piece by piece. Hit them where it hurts the most. Kill them all."

"... it is unclear who (he) means by 'them' (in the post) – militants believed to be behind the killings or the common Kashmiri, often vilified in popular Indian narrative for having sympathies for militants and holding secessionist views," Saha wrote.

Already a nation navigating the spiral of attacks on Muslims across the country, it would not be unreasonable to expect more such instances following the mobilisation around the Amarnath tragedy – none of which will ever be condemned by those now commissioning condemnations.

It is in these vitiated times that the Kashmiri has been the kernel of hope. Even beyond social media, where ordinary Kashmiris refused to be silent against the attack, public figures from the region's political milieu have been steadfast in condemnation.

In a joint statement, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik deplored the incident as 'against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos.' Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, offered similar condemnation in the vein of Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat.

What spoke most profoundly was the reaction of the Kashmiri civil society, as demonstrations were staged across Srinagar against the attack and a demand for a probe was articulated. In a stunning display of understanding, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted:

Such were the reverberations of the Kashmiri outpouring of mourning that the public has taken notice. Whether it fosters empathic imagination towards the Kashmiris is our challenge and a test of our conscience.

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 13:28 PM

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