Centre Fears Hot Summer In Kashmir But Tourism Could Drive Peace

Centre Fears Hot Summer In Kashmir But Tourism Could Drive Peace

13 March 2013
The Hindustan Times
Aloke Tikku

Srinagar: The security establishment is gearing up for a hot summer in the Kashmir valley with terrorists from across the border and Valley-based separatists determined to make their presence felt. Government sources said Wednesday’s terrorist attack on CRPF personnel – the first in three years – was part of the terror plan to keep Kashmir on the boil. Security agencies have intercepted messages from Pakistan over the last few weeks, prodding terrorist elements to hit the headlines. Security agencies have been able to keep peace in Kashmir over the last two summers. But Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging has given the separatists a handle that they are reluctant to let go. It is in this context that hardline separatist elements have been calling for bandhs on one pretext or the other to keep Afzal’s case alive. The shutdown in the Valley on Wednesday was on account of Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s clearly rejecting demands for exhuming Afzal’s body for hand over to his family. An emphasis on ensuring central police forces use non-lethal weapons while controlling street protests has helped. It was a lesson that the security establishment learnt at a heavy cost in 2010 when more than a 100 civilians were killed in police firing to control mobs. Each body brought more protesters on the streets. A home ministry official said they had their hopes on the tourist season that will begin this month-end. A booming tourist season during the past two years has demonstrated the dividends of peace for a large number of people in Kashmir. It is this constituency for peace that would restrain the separatists from encouraging violence. It is in recognition of this reality that Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq this week called people harassing tourists as “anti-movement” and asked to identify these elements. But officials concede that such sentiments would lose their voice if the security forces including the Army were careless. Wednesday’s killing of a 22-year-old Altaf Hussain Wani by CRPF personnel is an example, he said. The CRPF personnel – on their way to the hospital to donate blood for a colleague – opened fire to clear a group of stone-pelters blocking the road.