The spurt in targeted civilian killings in Kashmir confirms the worst fears that the developments in Afghanistan could embolden the terrorist outfits bent upon creating trouble in India with the active support from their Pakistani handlers. The brutal killing of a Sikh principal and a Hindu teacher at a government school in Srinagar’s Eidgah area, after they were separated from their Muslim colleagues, has triggered widespread outrage. This was the third such targeted attack in a week, leaving eight dead including a prominent chemist and a street food vendor from Bihar. The pattern of killings suggests a throwback to the 1990s, a decade marked by mayhem leading to the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. As many as 25 civilians have been shot dead by terrorists this year so far. The dangerous trend of selective killings reflects a macabre strategy to send out a message that there is no room for non-Muslims and non-locals in Kashmir. This xenophobic impulse has a larger connotation of hatred against minorities. Soon after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the release of several prisoners belonging to a myriad of terror outfits, there were clear indications that attempts would be made to revive militancy in a big way in Kashmir. No amount of sugar-coating would hide the fact that radicalisation of the Azadi movement is now complete. Radical elements have been targeting those who are serving the Army, paramilitary forces and the State police. They are now going after teachers, small businessmen and other sections to generate more outrage.
With Pakistan backing both Taliban and terrorists in Kashmir, there are fears that the terror tactics, adopted by the Taliban to drive out minorities from small towns in Afghanistan, could be replicated in Kashmir. Moreover, the targeted killings will allow Pakistan the luxury of deniability and to portray the violence in Kashmir as local. Known for long for their syncretic, liberal Islam and tolerance, the Kashmiris are now being dragged away from their cultural and moral ethos to accept the violent tools being employed by barbaric organisations like ISIS. However, the battle against ideological indoctrination cannot be won by military crackdown alone. Only a political initiative can serve as a balm to the bruised Valley. The sudden surge in terror attacks exposes the hollowness of the Centre’s claim that normalcy has been restored in the region and that the abrogation of Article 370 has had the desired effect. The continued detention of the leaders of mainstream political parties would not serve any service. The absence of any political activity has created a political vacuum, which compounds an already worsening security situation. It is time to involve them in finding lasting peace.
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