In Kashmir, the idea of suicide bombing has never gained social sanction as a means of political struggle. This perhaps explains why even the new age militants, mostly homegrown, have stayed away from it. That is also the reason why the Lethpora attack is only the second ever suicide car bomb attack carried out by a Kashmiri, in the history of conflict in Valley.
There have been IED blasts in Kashmir since then, but not a car bomb attack. In most of other Fidayeen attacks, which were mostly carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad, all the attackers were Pakistani natThis perhaps explains why even the new age militants, mostly homegrown, have stayed away from itionals.
"Kashmir can’t sustain this kind of violence, which we see in places like Afghanistan," said Noor Mohammed Baba, a Srinagar-based political analyst. "But unfortunately the discourse of violence, and the way Kashmir has been dealt with in recent years, has worsened the situation."
After the armed insurgency erupted in late eighties, Kashmir based militants, despite their numbers running into thousands, hardly carried out any suicide attack, which usually culminate in massive casualties for security forces and civilians. Then Jaish-e-Mohammad arrived on the scene after its founder, Masood Azhar, was released from an Indian prison in 1999. The first man who drove a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) was also the Valley’s first human bomb. Aafaq Shah, a resident of Srinagar, made the deafening announcement of the arrival of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Kashmir by detonating his car ahead of the Badami Bagh Cantonment in 2000.
Then in 2001, the last time a car bombing of such magnitude happened, a Jaish-e-Mohammad militant carried out a suicide bomb attack outside the Srinagar Assembly killing 38 people and injuring 40 others. The attack was also condemned by Pakistan, showing how JeM may have slipped under its control.
In the third such attack, a British born Muslim, Abdullah, drove a Maruti car fitted with explosives, to attack the headquarters of the Indian Army. But this attack, like the one in 2000, failed to cause much damage. However, Thursday's attack is the biggest in the history of Kashmir insurgency in terms of the casualties it inflicted on security forces.
But the family of the attacker, Abdul Rashid Dar, who was a 22-year-old youth staying just 10 kilometres away from the site of attack, is unable to make sense of the tragedy.
"If you want me explain why he did this, I have no answer. Suicide is unIslamic. I am unable to understand why he did this," Abdul Rashid Dar, who sells chicken for living and is the uncle of Pulwama suicide bomber, Aadil Ahmad Dar, said
Rashid’s elder son, Manzoor Ahmad Dar, had also taken up militancy and was killed by forces on 30 June 2016 by security forces. Fifty one days later, Aadil, the suicide bomber, had received a bullet in his leg during the 2016 street protests in Kashmir.
"If you ask me if it was revenge, I don’t think so. Because Islam doesn't permit revenge and killings are unacceptable; it doesn't matter who kills whom," he added.
However, security forces fear that the 'success' of the Lethpora attack may attract youth towards Jaish-e-Mohammad’s suicide squad, which has managed to inflict maximum number of casualties on security forces in Kashmir. Militant outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad are ready to tap into them. Dar, the Lethpora bomber, waited for a year before carrying out Thursday's attack.
Last year 250 militants were killed by forces, but not a single group of militants managed to inflict any major casualty on the security forces beyond few deaths. But looking at the devastation caused by Thursday’s bombing, militants may use the same path to inflict heavy casualties on the other side, a police officer based in south Kashmir. "It will attract other young men. And unfortunately this terror group would get emboldened," the officer said.
However, many Kashmiris wonder if this was the right way to carry forward a political movement.
"Is this happening in Kashmir? Where are we going? It looks like Afghanistan? We should condemn every single killing of innocents. This is horrible," said Javed Nabi, a Kashmiri in a Facebook post.
Suicide bombing is a low-cost, highly effective operation which guarantees heavy casualties. Unlike other attacks carried out by militants, there is an advantage in suicide bombing that a militant doesn't have to map his exit routes. The only way out is death.
Surprisingly, like Aadil, who carried the Lethpora bombing, Shah, the first Kashmiri suicide bomber, too was very shy and introverted when he killed himself at the age of 17. He was studying to become a doctor. He, however, failed to inflict any casualties on the army.
"It is really a chilling incident I still can’t believe he could pull this kind of attack. But this is Kashmir. Anything is possible now," Ashiq Ahmad, a resident of GandiBagh in Kakpora area of Pulwama, from where Aadil hails, said during his in-absentia funeral on Thursday.
"We saw his video and we knew it was him," Rashid, Aadil’s uncle, said.
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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2019 11:43:29 IST