Who to blame for Sopore Killings?

Over the past some days, two civilians associated with telecom trade have been killed in Sopore and the adjoining areas of the Baramulla district. This has caused a communication breakdown in North Kashmir. Hitherto unknown outfit Lashker-i-Islam has been threatening Telecom operators to close down their business or face consequences. Posters in Sopore town surfaced following reports that a device installed on a telecom tower by suspected militants was removed by the officials of a telecom company. Soon attacks began and an employee of the BSNL franchise was killed and two others were injured on Monday. And on Wednesday, the unidentified gunmen barged into a house in Dooru village and killed the house owner in whose lawn a telecom tower was installed. The killings have puzzled everybody in Kashmir. Separatists as well as army has flayed the mysterious attacks. On its face, killing and attacking people for renting out their land for telecom towers seems weird, something that defies any rational explanation. Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani thinks the killings hint at the new fangled policy of “New Delhi using terrorists to kill terrorists”. The attacks have come in the wake of the defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent visit to the state, during which he talked about “pro-active steps” to meet any threat to the country. And one such step was the elimination of the terrorists by the terrorists, the latter one impliedly supported by the government – the strategy of “Kante se Kanta Nikalna”. Since militant amalgam UJC has condemned the attacks, JKLF supremo Yasin Malik has urged Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin to probe the attacks and identify the people responsible for “barbaric acts”.  The separatist and the militant condemnations of the incidents have only added to the confusion.

There is little clarity on what is happening with the government blaming militants and the latter holding government agencies responsible. The situation is an eerie throwback to the nineties when ambiguity about the perpetrators was the hallmark of many a killing of innocent people. The killings then often took place for no apparent reason. But that was then. Kashmir has come a long way since. Compared with the reigning violence  of the nineties, Kashmir is a normal place now. The militancy is down to a trickle and confined to a few urban pockets in Sopore, Tral and Shopian.  According to police figures, the number of militants is down to a hundred or thereabouts. Hence the added concern about the Sopore attacks. More so, when there seems no context in which they could be explained – if at all there should be any context to justify killings of innocent men.   This is why there is an urgent need to get to the bottom of the incidents in Sopore. But the tragedy of Kashmir is that nobody could be trusted with a credible probe. More so, in case of the mysterious killings of people.  And this is what, in part, makes Kashmir such a dangerous place for its inhabitants. But we hope against hope, that the ongoing incidents are somehow explained and the killers are identified for the people. This is what the many minders of the people of the state owe to them. At least.

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