21 July 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: An overwhelming public opinion against violence has made the perpetrators of murder and mayhem desperate. Militants are hurling grenades at political meetings at every available opportunity. The latest in which Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, his two ministerial colleagues Ghulam Ahmad Mir and Sharif Niaz and a senior Pradesh Congress functionary had a narrow escape is no exception. One should express a sense of relief that all of them have escaped unhurt. It is extremely unfortunate, however, that six persons - one of them a chief engineer - were killed and about 35, including senior district police and administrative functionaries, were injured in the attack in the Dooru area in the south of the Valley that has witnessed quite a few political killings in the past. The militants' vicious strategy has been to frighten the politicians as well as the ordinary citizens into submission. They are evidently alarmed by the fillip in the popular response to the gatherings of the mainstream leaders. Much to their chagrin the people have also been listening to the national-level leaders including the big ones belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party after they had given up their mulish mindset vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. So far as the Deputy Chief Minister is concerned he has been lucky the second time - he had had a close shave in Srinagar's Budshah Chowk only a week ago. He is one of the least controversial personalities and does not evoke the ire of even the most virulent critic of his party but in this instance he can't escape the danger to which he is equally exposed like the other members of his ilk. By virtue of his position he is exposed to a greater risk and should be heavily protected when he moves around in the State's interiors in particular. As often argued in these columns there can but only be one way to deal with these terrorists. This land must be exorcised of them. The people at large have already made their preference known for peace and development. It is a tribute to them that two successive tourist seasons have passed off with high degree of success notably in the Valley - the second during this summer in the wake of a lot of target practice by the terrorists during which they did not spare even the visitors sitting in a restaurant in Pahalgam. It is the people's perception that has compelled nearly all militant outfits to alter their policies and settle for peaceful resolution of their grievances. Clearly there are some, the majority of them foreign mercenaries, who are not willing to learn. It is possible these elements feel they have no other option but to die or die. With Pakistan sincerely cooperating in the observance of the cease- fire along the Line of Control and the International Border they can't go back to the nurseries that have nurtured them. They may be better off if they surrender.