Passions are running high since the targeted killing of Kashmiri Pandit Rahul Bhat in Kashmir’s Budgam district on Thursday. Bhat was a government employee in the Revenue Department in the Chadoora area of Budgam and, according to his wife, felt unsafe and had requested a transfer. Bhat, who is the father of a seven-year-old girl, was in his office when terrorists opened fire on him. Naturally, Kashmiri Pandits in the valley are struck by flashbacks of the genocide of the 1990s every time such a targeted killing takes place, and their anger and frustration against the administration’s shortcomings are not misplaced. However, awkwardly enough for the Kashmiri Pandits, a surprising and grossly unusual set of “allies” has cropped up to accentuate their resentment against the government.
A nauseatingly duplicitous class of individuals— those who were scrambling to label the film ‘Kashmir Files’ as false propaganda, those who were attacking the BJP for promoting the film and those who were denying the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus just weeks ago— are now engaged in histrionics to take potshots at the ruling BJP. Case in point being Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, several opposition leaders and the hardly liberal anti-Hindu contingent. Omar Abdullah, son of Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister who oversaw the build-up of Islamism in the Kashmir valley and resigned on 18 January, 1990, a day before terrorists unleashed a reign of terror resulting in the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, is now lamenting the death of Rahul Bhat.
The Abdullahs and the Muftis, who are known double-dealing politicians responsible for nurturing the flames of separatism and Pakistan-backed terrorism for decades are now “grieving” and talking about “normalcy” in the valley. Those who are guilty of lapping up the political and administrative system birthed by these double-dealing politicians and those who engaged in brazen gaslighting of Kashmiri Hindus for decades— blaming them for their own exodus from their homeland, minimising their suffering and harbouring a soft corner for Pakistan-backed terrorists in Kashmir— are now exhibiting the gall to lecture the government, virtually standing shoulder to shoulder with hapless Kashmiri Pandits. Virtually, of course. That’s as far as the pretence goes for most of them. But some go way overboard— for them, a film depicting the misery of Kashmiri Hindus, ergo the crimes of Islamist terrorists, is the reason why the terrorists do what they’ve been doing for decades. Quite a cognitive head-scratcher for the ordinary, but enough for the many defeated wranglers so starved of talking points, they could parrot just about anything. They must save the theatrics for another day.
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It is not lost on anyone that by doing so, the combined agenda of this class is not to actually seek the safety and rehabilitation of the displaced, but to discredit the government’s removal of Article 370 in 2019, write-off the impression made by the uptick in tourism that normalcy has returned to the valley and then go back to shielding Islamist terror. Those who accuse the ruling party of merely using the cause of Kashmiri Hindus for its politics, are doing the same now — having done nada themselves, and in fact having fought against their cause at every level. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
This, however, does not absolve the authorities of their duties and recent shortcomings. While terrorist sympathisers are wrong to think that deflecting the blame on authorities could help save face and divert attention from the obvious problem of Islamism in Kashmir, the conduct of authorities does come under question— Rahul Bhat was shot in the office premises, where was the security? When the community came out protesting, why were they tear-gassed and lathi-charged? The BJP has set the bar high leading to expectations being high. Only one major political party believed in the Kashmiri Pandits’ demand for removing Article 370, and delivered on the mammoth task after it was elected for a second term. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is all for the centre to revolutionise buttressed by the support of the majority of Indians. Time is of the essence and the opportunity at hand must not be squandered.
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The fact of the matter is that tourism in Jammu and Kashmir is booming under the current administration at levels not seen in over a decade. Both terrorists and the BJP’s most rabid political opponents are united in nullifying this achievement in their own ways. With investments slated to arrive, even from the UAE, growth opportunities growing and government schemes making their way to remote, previously neglected regions in J&K, the Modi government’s commitment to the UT is visible.
With the specific targeting of Kashmiri Hindus who seek resettlement and the overall assault on non-Muslims and security forces on the rise one more time in the valley, the administration must pull its socks up to the threats emerging this summer. Even though rehabilitation is a must, many Kashmiri Pandits are not comfortable being posted in districts of Kashmir knowing how a good day’s events can morph into a nightmare. Further, the risks involved outweigh the gains. The jobs aimed at uplifting them do not pay enough and the local security apparatus and other “trusted” institutions are neither impervious nor free of internal saboteurs— assets of Pakistan-backed terrorists. Government sources recently revealed that a Chemistry professor, a school teacher and a police constable were found to have links with terror groups. Government services in the UT are riddled with informants and brokers working for the other side— a factor consistent with the 80s and 90s. One can only wish that the cleanup process is fast-tracked. And finally, the elephant in the room, the civil society of Kashmir— the Kashmiri Muslims largely continue to tolerate Islamist terror. It is about time that the targeted killings of minorities, and Muslims in the security forces, move them in a big way. Most of the hope for Kashmir lies there.
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