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Amarnath Yatra terror attack: Politics after assault reduces tragedy to rhetoric but flags pertinent issues

As the dust settles on the Monday night's dastardly attack on Amarnath pilgrims, politics of blame-game unfurled in Jammu and Kashmir, with far reaching effects on the rest of the country.

While on one hand, the Opposition is determined to put the government on mat over the apparent 'security breach', the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government at the Centre has shot down criticism of the 'lapses' calling out its opponents for politicising a tragedy.  All this while, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti government remained a soft target, facing the heat over rising insurgency in the Valley.

Politics of blame game

The nitpicking started hours after the attack with the Congress spokesperson blaming the government for the 'serious security lapse.' However, the politicking spurred on Wednesday with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's scathing tweets pinning the blame on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's politics of "short-term political gain."

Rahul was critical of the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, which he claimed was forged only for political gain. The tweets elicited an equally critical reaction from the BJP, which asked the Congress vice-president to "rise to the occasion" and not do politics over the Amarnath terror strike. BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi slammed Rahul adding that his comments showed his "immature mind."

One of the Amarnath pilgrims, injured in the attack, after being brought to Surat on Tuesday. PTI

One of the Amarnath pilgrims, injured in the attack, after being brought to Surat on Tuesday. PTI

"What personal benefit can anyone draw out of bloodshed, but it only shows an immature mind who does not know the history of his own family. Because, if anybody is singularly responsible for the mess that we are watching in Jammu and Kashmir, it is the Nehru family," BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi told reporters.

BJP leader GVL Narsimha Rao mocked Rahul adding that a desperate Congress was perhaps speaking the Pakistani tongue in the hope to gather some supporters at least from across the border.

"Rahul Gandhi has lost hope of reviving his party in India and therefore is using this language of Pakistan to possibly get some followers on twitter from Pakistan," he said.

The BJP also sought to defend its ally in the Valley and praised chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's handling of the event. Union minister Hansraj Ahir said the way Mehbooba handled the situation has inspired the whole country. "She met the injured and spoke to them. The whole country has been inspired by it. The nation saw how a chief minister fulfilled her responsibility," he said.

Mehbooba has been in the line of Opposition's fire for 'losing grip on the state,' since the unrest following death of ‎Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in the summer of 2016.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also fired salvos at the BJP for 'dividing the country from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari.'

"I feel bad today. Even Amarnath yatris are being killed. This central government can't give protection to its people. There only job is to divide the country between Hindus and Muslims. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, whole country is burning because of them," an India Today report quoted Banerjee as saying.

Left parties also criticised the government over its 'mishandling' of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We demand accountability from the BJP government which has mishandled the state, and has now led to loss of innocent lives in Kashmir,” The Indian Express quoted CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury as saying.

Congress also accused the government for contradictions in the statements by two junior ministers after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

"MoS Home Hansraj Ahir said 'we will look into the security lapses and will fill in the gaps', while MoS PMO Jitendra Singh showered praises on the Prime Minister and said that 'he is personally monitoring the situation...," Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

"Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nirmal Singh is conceding that 'there was definitely a lapse in security', while BJP General Secretary in-charge of the state Ram Madhav sharply contradicted them and said 'there was no security lapse'," he remarked.

"Why is the BJP speaking in multiple contradictory, antithetical and discrepant voices?" asked Singhvi.

"We want to ask the BJP government why no concrete preventive steps were taken even after a specific intelligence tip off," Singhvi asked.

Demands for Governor's Rule

Asserting that the PDP-BJP alliance government is in a shambles, senior Congress leader Karan Singh demanded imposition of the Governor's Rule in the state. Considering the situation that has developed in the last few months, "my personal view is that the next step has to be the immediate imposition of the Governor's rule so that the entire security, political and regional situation can be revisited", he said in a statement.

The Panun Kashmir, an organisation for displaced Kashmiri Pandits, also demanded the sacking of the Jammu and Kashmir Governor and the state government over its "failure" to provide security to the people and curb terrorism.

"We urge the government of India to sack the Mehbooba Mufti government and also remove Governor NN Vohra for his failure," the organisation's convenor, Agni Shakhar, said.

Civil society stands united

As the politicking over the attacks picked up, Kashmiris stood united in condemning the attack. Even a hardliner separatist, Hurriyat Conference came forward in condemning the attack. The Kashmiri separatist leaders hailed the people of the Valley for showing their deep resentment against the attack, adding that "all bloodshed on all sides is uncalled for."

Interestingly, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant organisation suspected to be behind the attack, has also issued public condemnation of the attack. Lashkar has not only distanced itself from the attack on Amarnath pilgrims but also condemned the attack. LeT spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi, while condemning the attack on pilgrims, has said, "It is against Islamic teachings". "The attack on the pilgrims is highly reprehensible act. Islam does not allow violence against any faith," he said.

LeT's statement only indicate that the militant group is well aware of widespread resentment in average Kashmiris over the attack on Amarnath Yatra, which they percieve to be a symbol of Kashmiri syncretism. While the attack may have served a strategic purpose for the terror group in distracting and irking Indian forces, which had upped the ante against militancy, LeT knows the sentiment in Valley too well to openly associate itself with such an act.

Some unanswered questions

While the political fallout of the attack has reduced the critical situation in Kashmir to mere rhetoric, the debate around it also raised few pertinent questions. "Despite specific inputs from the IB and other intelligence agencies, why did the government not act on such a specific intel input?

"How did the terrorists manage to attack the bus twice during curfew hours?" asked Singhvi. "Why was the fateful bus left out of the convoy? Why was adequate security not provided to it to ensure safety of the passengers, when it was past 7 p.m. in view of the security threat?

"How were 60 pilgrims visiting the shrine travelling without security? How did this major security lapse happen?," the Opposition parties asked the government.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 15:09 PM

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