The brutal gunning down of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the daily Rising Kashmir on the eve of the festival of Eid is a desperate attempt by the terrorists to prevent peace from returning to the troubled Kashmir valley. The fact that the Pakistan army has always had a stake in continuing turmoil in the valley makes one wonder whether the cold-blooded murder of Kashmir’s best-known journalist had the support of the Pakistani establishment, especially the army. When the ceasefire by the Indian army was announced by the Centre at the behest of the Mehbooba Mufti government at the start of the Ramazan month, Kashmiris in general, who are exasperated by the unending cycle of violence were relieved. Yet, there was an element of wariness because of the ruthlessness of the Kashmir terrorists and their hand-in-glove relationship with the Pakistan army. Even as the period of Ramzan fasting was coming to an end, there was grim foreboding that the terror machine would strike to foil any attempts to restore normalcy in the Kashmir valley. As often in the past, Indian intelligence failed to get wind of the terrorist plan, assuming that the killing was the handiwork of terrorist outfits that draw their sustenance from forces across the border.
The much-alienated common man in Kashmir was yearning for peace and was beginning to see the diabolical hand of terrorist outfits and their godfathers in Pakistan when the powerful and influential Shujaat Bukhari was targeted by the terrorists to strike terror in the minds of people at large. Shujaat represented the voice of reason and had welcomed the ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Centre. Such was the people’s desire for peace that even former chief minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference had lashed out at the terror outfits recently. It is now incumbent on the Centre to show wisdom in the wake of the provocative action and not go berserk against all and sundry. Terrorist groups must be targeted strongly but the olive branch to the local misguided youth must not be given up. The Hurriyat leaders deserve no soft approach because time and again they have shown their true colours of being in cahoots with the Pakistani establishment and traitors to the Indian cause, much as they have enjoyed Indian perks and concessions.
Significantly, the escalation in exported violence with Shujaat being gunned down, a jawan being killed after being abducted while he was on way home for Eid and another in gunbattle has coincided with the release of a report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a “comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”. To put up a charade of even-handedness, the report has also suggested an inquiry into rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. There is a deceptive call made for respecting the rights of the people of Kashmir to self-determination, echoing a Pakistani demand that has long been discounted by the international community on strong grounds cited by India. Instructively, the UN human rights body is currently headed by Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, a cousin of the King of Jordan who predictably must have been tutored by the Pakistanis.
While the Narendra Modi government has categorically rejected the UN report, describing it as ‘fallacious’ and pointing out that it is violative of UN’s own resolutions on the Indian state and on definition of terror, the Pakistani designs must be frustrated comprehensively. There are reports that once the Amarnath Yatra starts, militants would strike terror in efforts to sabotage the yatra. Home Minister Rajnath Singh must ensure that the designs of the saboteurs are duly frustrated. For that, he would need to streamline intelligence considerably and to build up a squad to undertake punitive action. At the same time, there is need for an international diplomatic offensive to remind countries that what the Indian army is fighting in Kashmir is the collusive action of a neighbour’s army and intelligence apparatus that needs to be unmasked and combated effectively. An army that is fighting insurgency that is aided and abetted by a recalcitrant neighbour can hardly be expected to deal with the insurgency with kid gloves.