Grenade Attack at Jehangir Chowk 

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A botched up militant grenade attack on a police party in Srinagar’s busy Jehangir chowk on last Thursday claimed the life of one Maqsood Ahmad Shah and left 17 others wounded, some critically. In his thirties, Maqsood was talented artiste and a member of the local Damali Dance Centre who performed in cultural events. However, due to the ongoing violence in Kashmir, cultural functions have become things of a bygone era and thus Maqsood had to seek a more regular source of income and he did so by taking up to carpentry. On that fateful Thursday, he was on his way back home from work when a grenade hurled at police men missed the intended target and cut short his life. Maqsood was the sole breadwinner of his family and he leaves behind his father, a wife and two children who are less than 10 years of age. 

Another victim of the Jehangir chowk grenade is Kupwara resident Fayaz Ahmed. Critically injured, he has been put on life support system and is battling for life at SMHS hospital. Just like Maqsood, he too happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whereas compulsions of earning a livelihood made Maqsood transit through Jehangir chowk, on that fateful day it was Fayaz’s intense desire to meet his sister who lives in Budgam that brought him here. When the grenade burst, his wife who was accompanying him was also injured; but luckily didn’t suffer life threatening injuries. However, with her husband in a critical state and two small children in tow, the mental agony that the wife of Fayaz is enduring can be well understood.

This isn’t the first time civilians have been killed or injured in a grenade attack by militants, but the tragedy is despite the high probability this happening, militants continue to carry out such attacks in crowded areas and busy market places teeming with people!

As expected, the Lashkar-Toiba (LeT) has denounced the Jehangir chowk grenade blast with its spokesperson Mahmood Shah once cautioning the perpetrators that “they are in our sight.” Like many others, what I too have always found most intriguing is that when the LeT knows who the culprits are then why isn’t it ‘disciplining’ them? Here we have a situation where a dozen and half innocent Kashmiris have been subjected to a gruesome grenade attack and all the LeT has done is to merely warn the perpetrators of this dastardly act that “they must stop their treachery otherwise they will be exposed before the public.” Mahmood Shah Sahib, sorry to say so but we’ve been hearing the LeT issuing a whole lot of threats for quite some time- when will these empty threats graduate into some concrete action?

Yet it would be unfair to only blame the LeT for doing nothing to arrest the trend of innocent civilians being killed, maimed or injured during attacks on security forces because the separatist leadership too prefers to maintain a stoic silence on serious incidents in which civilian casualties occur and where the role of militants is suspected. The Hurriyat leadership makes it a point to offer funeral prayers for slain militants and call for protests, but they don’t even seem to even find the time to offer a few words condolences to the bereaved family members of innocent civilians killed in incidents like the Jehangir chowk grenade attack.  The martyrdom of ‘freedom fighters’ undoubtedly deserves full respect and due recognition, but why do our leaders treat ordinary Kashmiris killed by suspected militants as nonentities?

The Hurriyat has been raising the issue of civilians being killed and injured by security forces to prove New Delhi’s ‘state sponsored’ repression in Kashmir and Islamabad is also repeatedly raising this issue at the UN and other international forums. However, despite all these appeals, the international community hasn’t been paying any heed and the separatist conglomerate needs to seriously introspect on what are the real reasons behind this sorry state of affairs. Could this be due to its duplicitous policy of maintaining a stoic silence on violence when it is perpetuated by militants while strongly condemning loss of life and injuries suffered in retaliatory actions by security forces and law enforcing agencies? While running with the hare and hunting with the hounds may work on the domestic front, this attitude does alienate the international community.

The US State Department declaring Hizbul Mujahideen(HM) a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organisation’ and it chief Syed Salahuddin a ‘Global terrorist’ is a clear indication that Washington is no longer willing to turn a blind eye on the HM’s activities just because it is an indigenous Kashmiri militant group. Similarly, China joining other BRICS nations in naming and condemning Pak based terror groups including the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist groups marks a major shift in Beijing’s diplomatic approach. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has recently made some important terrorism related statements. Admitting that are terrorist groups were present on its soil and action was needed against them so that the international community believes Islamabad’s claims of acting against terror groups. 

By saying that Islamabad can no longer afford to test its friends such as China on the issue of terrorism, Pakistani Foreign Minister Islamabad has acknowledged that the LeT and JeM cadres are terrorists and not “freedom fighters’ and outrightly contradicts its earlier stance regarding the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. This is a clear cut indication that even nations have to change with the times and so in case the Hurriyat wants to remain relevant and be heard by the international community, then it too needs to read the writing on the wall and change accordingly. 

The Hurriyat has been raising the issue of civilians being killed and injured by security forces to prove New Delhi’s ‘state sponsored’ repression in Kashmir and Islamabad is also repeatedly raising this issue at the UN and other international forums. However, despite all these appeals, the international community hasn’t been paying any heed and the separatist conglomerate needs to seriously introspect on what are the real reasons behind this sorry state of affairs.
 

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