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Attack on Amarnath yatris likely to deepen Hindu-Muslim divide: Kashmir should prepare for more bloodshed

The brutal attack carried out by suspected militants on Amarnath yatris on Monday in Kashmir's Anantnag district is going to change the rules of engagement between the security forces, the militants and sympathisers of new age militancy in the Valley.

The dastardly attack, which left seven people dead — six of them women — and more than dozen injured, was carried out by militants in pitch dark at 8.25 pm. The pilgrims were sleeping inside a vehicle parked on the national highway in the Botengoo area of Anantnag after their car was punctured.

The attack seems to be a reaction to a sustained counterinsurgency campaign launched by security forces against militants in recent weeks during which more than two dozen militants have been killed.

A massive crackdown against militants and militancy sympathisers in the coming days is likely to follow after the attack as pressure builds on the security apparatus to deliver justice to the perpetrators of the act.

There is no denying in the fact that militants have crossed a redline in the Valley. In August 2000 30 pilgrims were killed when militants attacked a base camp in Pahalgam area of south Kashmir. Similar attacks were carried out in 2001, 2002 and 2006.

“In coming days we will go after them and get them even if they are hiding in pigeon holes," a senior army officer based in Anantnag told Firstpost on Tuesday morning.

“This also applies for the people who have been sheltering and sympathising with their cause,” he added.

The attack is going to have far reaching implications not just on Kashmiris living in the Valley, but outside too. For more than two decades, the culture ethos of Kashmiris was already stained with the forced migration of Kashmiri pandits in early 1990s. This attacks is likely to further deepen the already widening divide between Kashmir and Jammu as it will pit a Hindu majority Jammu against the Muslim majority Kashmir. Traders in Jammu have already called for a strike on Tuesday.

Seven Amarnath yatris were killed in the attack on Monday night. PTI

Seven Amarnath yatris were killed in the attack on Monday night. PTI

That is the reason why Kashmiri across the political, religious and ideological spectrum have condemned the attack. There is a wave of anger and shock over the deaths of the innocent pilgrims.

The attack has come weeks after Zakir Moosa, a former Hizbul Mujahideen commander, started talking about establishing an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir. Although the investigation in the case is at the primary stage, it is already seen as an attack on Hindu Indians by Muslims of Kashmir. This is exactly the reason why majority of the people in the Valley had all along been in favour of separating religion from the political movement in the Valley.

Although nothing much is going to change on the ground when it comes to the support that militancy enjoys in the Valley, but ask anyone in Kashmir, and irrespective of their political affiliation — separatist or mainstream — they will tell you that those who perpetrated the attack are not humans.

The attack on Amarnath yatris also raises few uncomfortable questions on security arrangements in Kashmir. Despite a strict vigil on the national highway, the attack shows how much ground has been lost to militants in south Kashmir, particularly after the new age militancy erupted in Valley after the killing of Burhan Wani. The fact that militants could come and attack despite such a huge security blanket is a complete security failure and one of the biggest breach in the Valley in recent years.

Militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba has condemned Amarnath attack in south Kashmir, and called it “highly reprehensible act".

Hardly any militant group will take responsibility for the attack as an attack on Amarnath yatris is already seen as an attack on thousands of Kashmiris, who have been associated with this annual pilgrimage for decades. The Amarnath Yatra the very symbol of Kashmiri culture.

Kashmiris have been very conscious about the political fallout of an attack happening on the Amarnath Yatra for years. During 2008 and 2010, when the Kashmir was simmering under an unrest, not even a single Amarnath yatri was attacked or killed. That was the case despite a massive rioting on the streets. Just last week pictures of young Kashmiri boys removing pilgrims from a bus, which meet with an accident in the same district, had gone viral on social media.

Although, senior ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government have been emphasising that the bus that attacked on Monday was not part of a regular convoy of pilgrimage, and was not registered with the shrine board, that doesn’t absolve both the state and the central government from its failure to protect the innocent pilgrims.

For a devotee's yatra to be escorted, one has to first come to the Jammu base camp, from where security forces travel along with the pilgrims' vehicles. More than 21,000 security forces personnel are deployed for the Amarnath Yatra to be an eventless affair.

Senior army officers in south Kashmir say they had still been taking precautions while dealing with civilian population who throng encounter sites to give safe passage to militants but that is likely to change now. Kashmir is likely to witness another bloodshed this summer.

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 10:07 AM

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