Sanjay Sharma’s murder by terrorist gunmen in Pulwama is the latest in a string of atrocities against the Valley’s minority community. After Janki Nath, who passed away in 1990 during the height of militancy, Sharma is the second Pandit to die as a result of terrorism in the Pulwama region. The murder indicates that security authorities have failed to sufficiently safeguard the area’s poor population, even if it may have been a terrorists’ planned plot to terrorise the minority community. The attacks are intended to elicit official retribution and repression, which will then fuel discontent and disaffection to attract more supporters to the cause, according to the radical forces who are targeting civilians.
Security officials declared that Sharma’s assailant had been killed on Tuesday during follow-up operations that resulted in the deaths of two terrorists and an Army jawan. But, this does little to lessen the anxiety that Pandits in the Valley and Pulwama in particular are experiencing. Last year, terrorist attacks prompted the exodus of 5,500 Pandit workers from the Valley as well as the deaths of 29 people, including three local Pandits, three other Hindus, and eight non – resident labourers.
All political parties including the separatists such as Hurriyat Conference, besides civil society organisations have condemned the attacks, but the repeated and brazen nature of the killings, at one level, point to a breakdown of relations between the administration and the citizenry, leading to the inability of the administration to anticipate and prevent such attacks. The fact that areas that were relatively safe for the minority community even during the peak of militancy have now become unsafe suggests that the administration must rethink its security-centric policies in the Valley.
The administration of the Union Territory and the Union government have argued that tough decisions like modifying Article 370 and severing the State in 2019 have reduced militancy and were vital to restore normalcy to the Valley. The frequent attacks on the minority community, however, suggest otherwise; extremist groups have tried to use the Valley’s discontent to further polarisation. Rebuilding trust between the government and the populace can only be done more effectively by a functional government led by elected representatives of the Valley’s citizens. The security forces in Kashmir will have less job to do and the extreme groups will be more easily isolated. Jammu & Kashmir’s restoration to statehood and efforts to hold Assembly elections are now clearly necessary.