Amarnath yatra attack: Politics after protests as Kashmir hunts for killers
A political blame game broke out on Wednesday over this week’s militant attack on Amarnath pilgrims, even as government forces launched a hunt for Pakistani national Abu Ismail, the alleged mastermind of the deadly assault.
Using the hashtag #AmarnathTerrorAttack, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi unleashed a series of strongly worded tweets that accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of pursuing policies that had “created space for terrorists in Kashmir”.
He also attacked the BJP’s ruling alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party in Kashmir, saying the association forged for “short term political gain” has cost India massively.
“Modi’s personal gain = India’s strategic loss + sacrifice of innocent Indian blood,” one of his tweets said, referring to Monday’s attack in which seven pilgrims were shot dead and 15 injured when a bus carrying them back from Amarnath was attacked by militants.
In response, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi asked the Congress vice president to read the history of his family, saying they were responsible for the problems in Kashmir.
Pressure over the attack has grown on state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who has struggled to control an upsurge in street protests as well as militant violence since last July when security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani.
But on Wednesday, Union minister Jitendra Singh defended the state government’s response to the attack and praised Mufti’s handling of the situation.
He also sought to deflect criticism of the government and said it must be left to the security forces and experts to find out how the attack occurred.
“No political functionary, however highly placed, enjoys the prerogative to sit on judgement on security related matters,” Singh said.
The opposition Congress, however, accused the government of issuing contradictory statements.
“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’,” party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.
Kashmir has been on the edge for the past year as violent anti-India protests have engulfed the region saddled with a decades-long separatist movement.
But most Kashmiris condemned the attack on the pilgrims, saying the cowardly act hurt Kashmir’s ethos.
Mufti and Singh highlighted the outpouring of condemnation to say the Amarnath attack proves no one can kill Kashmiriyat.
“I salute the people of the country for being patient,” the chief minister said, adding the militants failed in their motive to pit people against each other and provoke communal riots.
Singh said as much, as he congratulated the people of Kashmir “for the kind of resilience and discipline they have maintained over the past 25 years”.
Besides, the Union minister said hi-tech methods such as the use of warning gadgets were being discussed to secure the 40-day pilgrimage.
Jammu and Kashmir police have formed a special investigation team (SIT) to catch the people behind the attack amid a hunt to find Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Ismail, a Pakistani.
“Investigations point to the role of Ismail. Two local militants are believed to be part of the team,” inspector general police (Kashmir Range), Muneer Khan, said.
The banned outfit had denied its role in the attack.
Not much is known about Ismail, probably in his 30s, though he is said to be active in Kashmir for several years. He didn’t figure on the army’s latest list of 12 “most wanted” militants.
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