Sticky Problem 

TWO blasts hit passenger buses in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur on Wednesday. The second blast occurred at 10:45 pm on a bus at Domail chowk near a petrol pump. Mercifully, the blasts occurred on empty buses when they were parked. Still, two people were injured. Other nearby vehicles were also damaged in the explosion. Though police are investigating the incident, there is no doubt that the twin attacks have been carried out by the militants to trigger a scare among the people and also create a fresh security challenge for the government. Lacking the capacity and the resources to take on the security forces, the militants are now looking to attack soft targets.

The investigation should soon reveal what triggered the blasts. There is a reason to believe that the sticky bombs – a  short name for Magnetic Improvised Explosive Devices – might have been used. They are stuck to vehicles, timed to blow up and destroy the vehicle, killing the passengers.  They have become a part of militant weaponry this year. Though magnetic mobs have mainly been in use in the Jammu division, in early September, security forces in the Valley recovered three sticky bombs from a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative in North Kashmir’s Sopore area.   During the Amarnath yatra, the magnetic IEDs emerged as a major threat to the safety of the yatris. The Jammu and Kashmir police advised people across the Union Territory to thoroughly check their vehicles for any foreign object before starting them.

That said, the fresh cases of the use of sticky bombs should be a cause of worry for the security agencies, for they threaten to destabilize the painstakingly earned calm in Kashmir.  That too, at a time when militancy is at its lowest ebb in the region. The number of active militants is now estimated at over a hundred. As a result, the security forces have been able to reign in the attacks on civilians and minorities to a large extent. But as things stand, the peace in Kashmir remains a work in progress. And at the same time, the peace so achieved remains perennially fragile. One or two sensational incidents and things go back to square one. This has been the story of the past three decades.

Though security forces have much to congratulate themselves on for the current state of uneasy peace, it will need much more effort to further stabilize the situation and usher in a genuine peace. And the responsibility for this doesn’t solely lie with the security agencies but the political class also. After four years of security-centric approach, Jammu and Kashmir desperately needs a political outreach.

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