The pattern is unmistakable and a reminder of the horrors that gripped the Valley in the early 1990s, when a spate of killings led to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
The Resistance Front (TRF), which is believed to be a splinter formation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and is supported by Pakistan’s deep state, has claimed responsibility for shooting down Bindroo and has threatened more such action. The big question, of course, is what has led to the targeting of innocent civilians now? One explanation is that the choice of soft targets, which does not require explosives, suicides bombers or sophisticated weaponry, is a result of the difficulty in persisting with large-scale terror attacks in the Valley, which has brought Pakistan’s role to international scrutiny and placed the cash-strapped country in the FATF sanctions list. The ‘new’ approach could also be a result of the Jammu and Kashmir government’s recent moves to kick-start the efforts to restore thousands of ancestral properties, mainly belonging to Kashmiri Pandits, which have been encroached upon and occupied.
For security agencies, the soft-target approach is much more difficult to deal with. There is no predictability of when the next attack will be carried out, where it will be staged, or who it will be directed at. The only effective way of dealing with this in the long term is with the support of the larger civilian community, many members of which have been horrified by the recent turn of events. There is an innate realisation that what has transpired over the past few days is neither a result of resistance nor is it driven by any sense of ideology, religious or otherwise.
Mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir must take the lead in condemning the murderous attacks and ensure that the State is not further divided on communal lines. The latter is exactly what the terrorists want. This is a time for outright condemnation of what happened. It is unfortunate that the tendency to make a ritual denunciation and then link the killings, either directly or obliquely, to the sense of alienation among the Kashmiri people, still persists among some leaders in the Valley. There is much that needs to be politically addressed in Kashmir, and the Centre needs to be held accountable for the many decisions that it has taken. But at this juncture, there is nothing more important than rallying together and damning the cowardly attacks.