In the Lethpora area of Pulwama, on Thursday, 14th February, 2019, a car rigged with explosives driven by a suicide bomber rammed into a 78-vehicle convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The ensuing explosion ripped through one of the buses and hit a second bus.
Debris and bloodshed spread across the highway. Shopkeepers and pedestrians fled for their lives, as the explosion was followed by firing.
49 CRPF personnel were killed, more than 70 injured.
The Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)had claimed responsibility for the attack, and Adil Ahmad Dar was identified as the bomber.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that perpetrators of Pulwama terror attack act will be punished. He has warned the perpetrators and those aiding and abetting terrorists that they have made a big mistake and will have to pay a heavy price. 1 The Indian government reiterated the need for the nations of the world to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist.
The international community responded promptly with condolences and sympathies. “The US Mission in India strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster said. 2 The White House called for Pakistan to take action against havens of terror. 3
Russia, France and UK too stated that they stand in solidarity with India, agreeing on the need to combat such inhuman acts of terror. Countries like Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, and Turkey, and India’s neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka too condemned the attack.
“Those who ordered it and carried it out must undoubtedly be duly punished. I would like to reaffirm our readiness to further promote antiterrorist cooperation with our Indian partners,” wrote Russian President Putin in his letter of condolence. 4
While China made a statement on the same, conspicuously missing was any mention of Azhar or the JeM, showing that China remains unchanged in its stance of blocking India’s efforts to get the global community to recognize Azhar as a terrorist.
Another troubling response has been the one right at home— among the thousands taking to social media and other platforms to express their grief and anger, there are some, citizens and leaders alike, who call for ‘revenge’. There have even been reports of attacks on Kashmiris following the news of the attack and the stories of shops and business in parts of Pulwama being closed in mourning for the suicide bomber.
While the cries for revenge at this point may sound like empty threats, the attacks on innocent, unrelated Kashmiris is quite troubling. It is this very hatred and distancing that creates room for ideologies like that of the JeM to take root in the first place. In fact, the entire question of terrorism boils down to a choice between ideologies. In the face of being singled out, and being treated as separate from the rest of India, the youth in places of conflict like Kashmir will turn to anything besides that which oppresses them— and militant ideologies show up as a convenient solution. When this culminates in acts of terror, we fuel it further by sending more youngsters into the spiral of militancy by attacking them or their kin.
While it is true that terrorism cannot be tolerated in any form, and violent non-state actors must be efficiently dealt with, the solution does not lie in creating further rifts. It lies in the somewhat idealistic yet achievable act of working in unity with the locals. How can you fight a problem in an area, without working with the people of that area? Terrorism and related militancy being so elusive a problem, fighting these requires precise, structural actions and programmes, and not a disorganised clamour for revenge, bloodshed and war, putting in peril the lives of more soldiers and policemen.
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