Since the time Buta Malik, a Kashmiri Muslim and a shepherd, discovered the Amarnath Shrine some 150 years ago, Kashmiris have been associated with the holy pilgrimage from beginning till it’s conclusion; be it maintaining the road leading to the cave, arranging logistics like ponies or carrying old pilgrims on their backs to the cave shrine, year after year, in times good and bad, Kashmiris, including those serving in J&K Police, remain at the forefront to ensure that the pilgrimage remains incident-free and pilgrims don’t face any hassles.
In spite of grave provocations on account of ecological impact of the pilgrimage on the fragile environs of Himalayas, the disaster wreaked on the water bodies like Lidder due to waste products from pilgrims, near suspension of the traditional tourist influx to Pahalgam and Sonmarg, the two routes adopted by pilgrims to reach the shrine in upper Himalayas, Kashmiris have been very gladly contributing their bit to preserve the rich culture of hospitality and religious harmony that is inherent to the state.
In the light of these facts, the attack in Anantnag should be seen as an aberration. The dastardly act also deserves unequivocal condemnation. But it needs to be investigated why our security agencies fail and whether they were caught unprepared, like in the past; be it August 2000, July 2001, August 2002, or the latest episode at Botengo, wrongs, if any, must be accepted and loopholes plugged. Remember the latest attack took place in a highly garrisoned area with an Army camp barely some hundred metres away.
Nevertheless, the attack has reinforced the belief that humanity transcends nationalities and religions. Had it not been the case, Kashmiris would not have volunteered to donate blood to complete strangers who were injured in the attack. They would not have gone out of way to condemn the perpetrators and extend their sympathies with those affected in the tragedy. They would not have felt sorry about the state of affairs in Kashmir.
In this, there is a lesson for the class of patronising liberals in India who show up on our tv screens, night after night, and accuse Kashmiris of being anything from a Pakistani-backed terrorist to a Saudi-propped Wahabi. And also a lesson for those who demonise Kashmir and Kashmiris to whip up passions in the country so that they could stay ahead in the race for TRPs.
The sheer ourtage with which Kashmiris of all hues, regardless of their political or religious affiliations, reacted to the horror in Anantnag, must serve as an example for those who want to divide people of Kashmir on socio-politico-economic lines in order to serve their ‘national interest’.
Long live Kashmir.