Punjab terror strike revives memories of violence in Kashmir (News Analysis)

Srinagar, July 27 (IANS) The terror strike in Punjab’s Gurdaspur area on Monday has revived memories of similar strikes in Jammu and Kashmir, besides sending shock waves on whether Sikh terrorism is again on its revival.

The fact that terrorists managed to carry out such a deadly attack near the international border and in close proximity of the violence-affected Jammu and Kashmir has thrown up challenges for the security and intelligence agencies.

That the flames of Sikh separatism had not been fully doused was proved when posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were removed by police in Jammu city last month on the anniversary Operation Blue Star when the Indian Army evicted heavily-armed militants from Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

One person died in violent clashes which erupted when police removed the poster in Satwari area of Jammu city. The situation worsened so much that curfew had to be imposed in as many Sikhs took strong exception to such an act by the police.

Tempers were cooled only when the police officer who removed the controversial posters was suspended and the entire police set-up in Jammu district was overhauled.

The immediate Sikh agitation was calmed, but it remained bruised as opinion and religious leaders of the community took exception to the police action.

“He was a religious saint whose sainthood was declared by the Akal Takht. No matter what others say about him, he is a hero of Sikh community”, these words of a Sikh religious leaders in Kashmir may not grant universal acceptance to Bhindranwale’s sainthood, but the respect for a Sikh militant leader threw a dark shadow on the wisdom of people who spoke of violence in Punjab in the past tense.

The backlash among the younger generation of the Sikh community was palpable as they came out wearing shirts that bore his images.

Whether the borders in Kashmir and Punjab are porous enough for militants to cross over and carry suicide attacks at will might be denied by the security agencies. That there had been no intelligence inputs on today’s attack proves there should be no occasion for the intelligence agencies to lower their guard even if things have appeared to be peaceful for long in Punjab or for a while in Kashmir.

Former Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reacted to the Gurdaspur attack by saying on his one-million-follower-strong Twitter account: “Will be very interested to see what emerges about the identity of the terrorists…The timing of the attack, methodology & location are all eerily similar to attacks in the border belt of Jammu.”

What worries people is that if such an attack can occur in the otherwise peaceful town of Gurdaspur, what is in store for neighbouring Kashmir, where senior army officers have gone on record to admit that ultra-terrorist groups like the Islamic State are trying hard to establish a foothold,

Intelligence agencies already say the sponsors of separatist violence are desperately trying to give violence a final push in the beleaguered state.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

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