Of Exploding Gas Cylinders & Grenades

By claiming that the “militants killed in Pulwama gunfight were involved in the Bijbehara grenade blast,” the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) may feel that it has added yet another feather to its cap. However, it has failed to realise that by making this claim (which completely contradicts its earlier version), the JKP has only created confusion but unwittingly also eroded its already tottering credibility amongst the public. 

The State government and the JKP have been regularly feeding us with ‘encouraging’ news that J&K is fast returning to normalcy. Using statistical data to ‘authenticate’ their optimism, they want us to believe that even though 118 terrorist incidents have been recorded during the period January to November this year (which means an average of one incident every third day), not only is militancy on the wane but that certain areas are even ‘militancy free’. And even though one invariably finds locals not only amongst the slain militants of the Kashmir based Hizbul Mujahideen but also the Pakistan based outfits like the Lashkar- e- Toiba, they tell us us that the local youth is no more attracted towards militancy!

Of late, it also seems that the JKP has suddenly acquired the expertise in ‘hunting down’ hard core militants involved in various ‘high profile’ attacks. In December alone, the following ‘notorious’ militants, who ranked high in the ‘most wanted’ list, were killed:

  • 20 December- Shakir Hussain Sheikh alias ‘Chota Hafiz’ allegedly involved in the 2011 blast outside Delhi High Court in which 16 people were killed.
  • 24 December- Mudasir Ahmad Sheikh and his associate Tamim allegedly involved in a shootout at hotel Silver-Star in Srinagar on October 19 this year in which two hotel employees lost their lives.
  • 28 December– Imtiyaz Ahmed Teli alias Fahadullah who was allegedly involved in the grenade attack at Narwal in November in which one person was killed and five others were injuredThe Police also claim that the slain militants were involved in the Bijbehara grenade attack in which four tourist ladies were killed in July this year.

So, while the JKP must have created a record of sorts in successfully ‘closing’ three ‘high profile’ as well as ‘blind’ cases (cases with no leads) of militant violence in a matter of just eight days, its sudden revelation on the blast which occurred in Bijbehara is indeed intriguing. Readers may recall that when this incident occurred, IANS quoted a senior police official as saying that, “Militants tossed a hand grenade at a Tavera taxi carrying tourists in Bijbehara town, 45 km from here. The grenade exploded inside the vehicle resulting in the death of two tourists and injured four others.” No sooner had this statement appeared in the press, the Police quickly issued another statement which read, “A cylinder exploded in a vehicle, bearing registration number JK02AP/0676 and which was on way from Srinagar to Pahalgam, at Zuripora (Anantnag), falling under the jurisdiction of police station Bijbehara, in which six passengers were injured, of whom two died.”

While the local media reported the initial grenade blast version of the Police and faithfully followed it up with the gas cylinder explosion version given subsequently by the JKP, the national media gave wide publicity only to the initial grenade blast statement and thereafter lost interest in the case. Due to this, the grenade blast version of the incident generated an extremely hostile response in the national media. Selective reporting of the incident by the national media naturally left the local media in Kashmir aghast at what it considered to be deliberate propaganda and a ploy to ‘disturb’ peace in Kashmir by projecting it as a ‘dangerous place’ and thereby discouraging tourists. And now that the JKP has suddenly reverted back to its ‘grenade blast’ theory, the local media is naturally bound to feel piqued for having been led up the garden path!

One does not have to be a forensic expert to discern whether an explosion has been caused by a gas cylinder blast or a grenade, since each leaves behind distinctive traces that makes it as easily distinguishable as sugar from salt. A gas cylinder blast occurs only when the LPG within ignites and this causes fire and leaves behind large debris of the LPG container which is not the case when a grenade explodes. So, why was this done? While no official communication on this can be expected, one can hazard a guess- readers will recall that this incident occurred not only during the peak tourist season but also when the Defence Minister AK Antony was in the Valley to review the proposal for lifting AFSPA from certain areas of the State. So, could it be that this was a ‘well meaning’ attempt in ‘local public interests’ on the part of the State government and the JKP to ensure that tourists are not ‘discouraged’ from visiting Kashmir or was it a deliberate act to portray to the Defence Minister Antony that ‘all is well’ in Kashmir and thus reinforce the partial AFSPA removal plan? Once again, your guess is as good as mine!


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