By Rohit E David
After 7 pilgrims were killed and several injured in the first terrorist attack on the Amarnath yatra in over a decade, Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir spoke to Rohit E David on questions being raised on security lapses, the political fallout of the terror attacks and how local Kashmiris from across the religious and political divide came together to condemn the violence.
This gruesome attack on the Amarnath yatra is the first such terror attack on pilgrims in over a decade. Why do you think terrorist groups changed strategy this time?
This attack happened on an Amarnath yatra bus. This vehicle was not part of the routine yatra convoy. The people who were onboard this particular bus had their darshan on July 8 and while coming back they stopped at Srinagar. What happened was that from this point they started on their own without informing the police.
Over the last few years militants have been trying to attack the yatra but they were not succeeding. This attack on the Amarnath yatra has been mounted by terrorists to gain the attention of the world. Militants are showing that they are desperate.
A few militants have been killed in the last couple of days. We are after the terrorists who have massacred these innocent people. This is a proxy war which is backed by Pakistan. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi completely isolated Pakistan diplomatically, this desperation is being shown by the militants.
BJP general secretary and the party’s Kashmir point-person Ram Madhav has said that there was no security lapse but a senior CRPF official and J&K CM herself has said that a security lapse has happened. How do you explain this dichotomy?
The pilgrims who were attacked started on their own and didn’t follow the standard procedure. Yes, there was a security lapse. The travellers in the bus had passed through a police post; they should have been stopped over there. Minutes after that, the tyre of the bus burst. It took time for them to fix it and there was no security check post after that in the area, which led to this attack.
Doesn’t this attack demonstrate that Kashmir is going from bad to worse?
No, absolutely not. Now, Kashmir is slowly returning to normalcy. We are fighting against terrorism at the highest level. There is no compromise on terrorism and separatism. The Kashmiri people are coming out in favour of peace. This government has provided an atmosphere of development in the state. J&K police is tackling terrorism head on. There has been a positive change: a number of Kashmiri youth are coming forward to join army and police force. More jobs are being created for the youngsters. We are ensuring that students get adequate facilities at the school level. Around ten polytechnic colleges are being built in the state. Tourism infrastructure is getting special attention because it is the main source of income in the state. We are trying to give round-the-clock electricity to the locals.
Could the attack on Amarnath yatris deepen Hindu-Muslim tensions?
No. After the attack it was the Kashmiri people who came out to help the injured. The Muslim community in the state has condemned the attack on the Amarnath yatra. They have come out with placards saying this is an attack on humanity. Islam is not for what has happened. Such militants are defaming Islam.
But why are large parts of Jammu and Kashmir turning into havens for terrorists?
It was in south Kashmir where militants had such hideouts. Now, they are on the run. Terrorists are not able to survive at one place for a longer period. The Kashmiri people are informing the police about miscreants.
Doesn’t Kashmir need a more mature political approach?
Definitely, everything has to be sorted out on the talks table. We are prepared to listen to everyone who wants to speak within the framework of the Indian constitution – even with the separatists – but they have to abide by our structure. However, these people need to stop supporting and glorifying terrorists.
Senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia has demanded the dismissal of the PDP-BJP government in the state after this attack. Your views?
I will not comment on this.
Times of India, July 15, 2017