Why Naved Is Not Kasab 2

Terrorism once again reared its ugly head in Jammu and Kashmir this week with an attack on a bus of the Border Security Force, killing two jawans and injuring many more. It wasn’t the attack per se that was surprising, because attacks of this nature have taken place in the Valley from time to time over the years, fortunately with declining frequency. In this case, the worrying aspect was the location of the attack – south of the Jawahar tunnel on the National Highway in the Udhampur area.

This was an area that had been freed of militancy and hadn’t seen an attack in more than a decade. The National Highway is the lifeline of the Valley, with almost all its needs trucked in using this route. It’s the route of choice for a majority of tourists, yatris and security forces as well as the residents of the state. Any vulnerability on this crucial road has very serious consequences.

The fact that two terrorists managed to infiltrate from across the Line of Control is not surprising, nor is the fact that they spent a considerable amount of time in the Valley. What should worry us, however, is the ease with which they made the journey from the Valley to Udhampur. It appears that a sense of complacency has over taken us, with the check points along the Highway not doing what they were set up to do. The Road Opening Party (ROP) tasked with sanitizing the Highway in the early hours of the morning, as well as the deployments along the Highway all failed to detect the presence of these two armed individuals.

It’s worth noting that security along the Highway is supposed to be in a heightened state of alert because of the Amarnath Yatra which is considered  a high-value target.

The combined bravery of the jawans of the BSF, as also the local boys taken hostage after the attack, meant that we got away with far fewer deaths than we otherwise could have had to contend with. I dare say a more battle-hardened terrorist, determined not to be taken alive, could have changed the narrative quite drastically. That having been said, we now have one of the terrorists in captivity – and from all accounts he’s singing like a canary, including obliging us with his father’s phone number.

I must confess to being rather surprised at the correlation drawn between Naved and Kasab. The mushrooming of hashtags on social media and mainstream media alike calling Naved the “new Kasab” were misplaced to say the least. It’s almost as if newsrooms had concluded that he was the first such terrorist to be captured alive after 2008. The truth is that we have a number of Pakistani terrorists in prison in the state. If my memory serves me correctly, we caught a fidayeen after an attempted suicide attack on the CRPF in Srinagar in 2012. So Naved isn’t the first Pakistani we have managed to catch since 26/11, though he could be the first one caught by unarmed civilians. The only thing Kasab and Naved have in common is that they were both taken alive. Naved, from what one saw of him on the TV channels, looked like a bit of a bumbling idiot rather than a hard-core fidayeen. I doubt we will get much useful information from him except perhaps getting him to identify the point where he crossed the LoC. Pakistan, true to form and based on past experience, is certainly not going to own up to having sent him across.

The risk with writing a piece like this one is that to some, it will appear like a case of sour grapes – having lost the elections a few months ago, I’m now setting out to belittle the efforts of my successor. Needless to say, my intention is anything but. The fact is, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir appears to be drifting dangerously, with little or no effort to grasp the implications of recent developments.

Taken in isolation, none of the incidents I’m using to draw my conclusions would ring any alarm bells, but taken together, they can only be ignored at one’s peril. I’ll discount the recent flurry of flag unfurling, whether ISIS or Pakistani; while the frequency of such incidents has certainly increased, I believe this is more a result of the amount of publicity they attract with very little risk attached. Deprive them of the oxygen of prime time outrage, and you will find they will soon tire of waving these flags. ISIS has no presence in J&K and I’ll stick my neck out to say that it’s unlikely they ever will.

That having been said, the issues that should worry us do not seem to be receiving the attention they deserve. These include the recent spurt in young educated men in Kashmir joining the militant ranks. I was astounded to see photographs of a large group of youngsters in camouflage fatigues posing for a camera. There were  number of worrying aspects to that photograph, including the fact that they were all recent recruits, and seem completely relaxed in this new avatar; their confidence is evidenced by the fact that only one amongst them bothered to hide his identity behind a handkerchief.

The state government, with its trademark ostrich approach, decided the best way to approach this problem was to blame me for the problem. The fact that more than 60 youngsters seem to have waited for my government to be voted out of power before joining the ranks of active militants to protest the policies of my government didn’t seem at all inexplicable –  or at the very least, strange –  to the spokespersons of the PDP-BJP government. They have not felt the need to try and understand, much less explain, why the overwhelming majority of these new recruits to militancy belong to South Kashmir, the bastion of the People’s Democratic Party and Parliamentary constituency from where the President of the party was elected last year.

The effort to spread militancy to hitherto peaceful areas is another area of concern. It’s very possible that the second incident in Udhampur, the firing at a police station on Thursday, was not a militant strike, but instead, a case of accidental firing. Even if that is so, it doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the attack on the National Highway. We can’t afford to let these areas become vulnerable again.

Finally, the continued tension along the LoC and International Border remains a matter of concern. Civilian areas are being targeted with injuries and deaths are regularly reported. I do not believe enough is being done for the people living within easy range of enemy guns and mortar shells.

Can we expect a coherent response from Chief Minister who isn’t able to chair a cabinet meeting? It’s shocking that with all the developments in the state, Mufti Syed hasn’t seen it fit to call a single cabinet meeting since the 18th of May. I chaired a cabinet meeting, on average, three times a month during my last few years in office. At the very least, it gave my Ministers and me the chance to reflect on events and consider responses where necessary. J&K is drifting dangerously and no one in the present government seems to be willing to recognize this, much less do anything about it. –Ndtv.com

Omar Abdullah is National Conference leader and former Chief Minister 

The risk with writing a piece like this one is that to some, it will appear like a case of sour grapes – having lost the elections a few months ago, I’m now setting out to belittle the efforts of my successor. Needless to say, my intention is anything but. The fact is, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir appears to be drifting dangerously, with little or no effort to grasp the implications of recent developments.

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