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Mainstream, VOL LV No 30 New Delhi July 15, 2017

Bright and Dark

Sunday 16 July 2017, by SC


The incident in the evening of last Monday (July 10) at Batengoo on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in South Kashmir—that resulted in the killing of seven Amarnath pilgrims, including five women, while 15 were injured when militants attacked a bus carrying 56 passengers—has jolted not just the J&K polity but the country at large.

What did this attack signify? As The Indian Express editorially pointed out, the Amarnath shrine ”has been a powerful symbol of the syncretic culture” of Kashmir and the July 10 evening attack, as a “rare direct assault on pilgrims to the Shiva shrine in the nearly three decades of militancy in J&K, is evidence of the yatra’s importance” while the “terror strike... is a frontal, grave assault on the ethos” of that syncretic culture.

At the same time it must also be underscored that all sections of the people in Kashmir have been unequivocal in their condemnation of the killings. As The Indian Express graphically elucidated,

On Monday night, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rushed to Anantnag to meet survivors of the terrorist ambush and spent the night there, calling the attack a blot on Kashmir. Opposition leader Omar Abdullah used #NotInMyName—the hashtag used to protest incidents of lynching of minorities and Dalits across States earlier this month—in his denunciation of the attack. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the separatist Hurriyat Conference also made his abhorrence clear. In Srinagar, traders, students and civil society groups took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the attack and stand in solidarity with the victims.

Against this backdrop there is no reason why one should not be optimistic despite the gloomy political scenario in the Valley. The Times of India has aptly observed:

This is an opportune moment for the Central and State governments, Valley politicians, civil society and everyone with a stake in the return of normalcy in J&K to come together. A similar movement needs to happen in the rest of the country too, where Home Minister Rajnath Singh must ensure Kashmiris—especially students—living elsewhere do not face misguided retaliatory attacks, while beef lynchings and anti-minority hate crime are curbed with an iron hand.

Let the tragedy in South Kashmir unveil at long last a new dawn in the Valley. Maybe it is a tall order at this point in time. But there is no harm in hoping for the best in the days ahead as CM Mehbooba Mufti herself said on July 11 that the “massive public outrage cutting across ideological and party lines” in Kashmir against the July 10 killings was a “silver lining” and showed that the people of the Valley collectively reject such “despicable acts”.

However, despite such a hope the ground reality does not inspire confidence. Today itself a person was lynched in Nagpur for the crime of carrying meat that was thought to be beef. Thus the PM’s sharp criticism of gaurakshaks at Sabarmati Ashram on June 29 had little effect on such elements who are continuing their depredations without let or hindrance.

At the same time a documentary on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has run into trouble and may not be screened as the Central Board of Film Certification is refusing to clear it unless words like ‘Gujarat’, ‘cow’, ‘Hindu India’ and ‘Hindutva view of India’ in it are bleeped out and thus deleted.

All these reveal the bright and dark sides of today’s India alternating between hope and despair.

July 13 S.C.

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