Reasi terror act — Asking the correct questions is critical - Hindustan Times
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Reasi terror act — Asking the correct questions is critical

Jun 11, 2024 07:41 PM IST

Anchors, analysts and politicians harped on the role of Pakistan in the attack. However, such inferences have become repetitive with a shelf life of a few days

Coinciding with the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in New Delhi on June 9, a bus carrying pilgrims from Shiv Khori, a Hindu religious shrine to Katra, was attacked by terrorists in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The act of terror left at least nine killed and about 40 injured.

The bus carrying the Hindu pilgrims ambushed by gunmen in Kashmir, is pictured in Reasi on June 10, 2024. Soldiers in India-administered Kashmir carried out a large-scale manhunt on June 10, the government said, a day after nine Hindu pilgrims were killed in one of the deadliest recent attacks on civilians, around an hour before Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a third term in the capital New Delhi on June 9 evening. (Photo by AFP)(AFP) PREMIUM
The bus carrying the Hindu pilgrims ambushed by gunmen in Kashmir, is pictured in Reasi on June 10, 2024. Soldiers in India-administered Kashmir carried out a large-scale manhunt on June 10, the government said, a day after nine Hindu pilgrims were killed in one of the deadliest recent attacks on civilians, around an hour before Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a third term in the capital New Delhi on June 9 evening. (Photo by AFP)(AFP)

The details of the attack and the expected reactions from various quarters have been covered extensively in media over the last couple of days. A nuanced analysis of this act of terror is pertinent with a two-fold aim of delving into its attributes and making sense of the course ahead.

District Reasi is situated in the Jammu region to the south of the Pir Panjal ranges, abutting the districts of Rajouri and Poonch towards the Line of Control (LoC) and Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban (DKR) region, astride the Jammu - Srinagar national highway. Reasi district, like DKR, has a balanced ethnic composition with almost equal representation of Hindus and Muslims.

Given the non-dominance of a particular ethnicity, from the 90s onwards, terrorists operating in the region have attempted to drive a communal divide among the local population in the region.

In a bid to do the same, targeted massacres of Hindus emerged as one of the courses resorted to by terrorist groups. In Reasi on June 9, a similar bloodbath seemed to have been the intent of the terrorists had the bus not veered into a nearby deep gorge, and, ironically, saved lives.

The difference in the Reasi attack was that the victims were not locals but pilgrims from outside J&K. Terrorists always intend to send a ‘message’ through such attacks, and the attempted ‘message’ through the Reasi attack could have been to deter pilgrims travelling to the region, an annual occurrence.

In the context of the ensuing pilgrim season through this very region with the Amarnath Yatra merely weeks away, the Reasi attack is bound to have a deterrent effect. The dispensation shall have to take measures at the soonest — to instil confidence amongst the people through long-established practices of providing security to pilgrims.

Over debates and discussions in the media, anchors, analysts and politicians harped on the role of Pakistan and its intelligence wing, the ISI, and correctly so, behind the attack. However, such inferences have become repetitive and ritualistic with a shelf life of not more than a few days before it’s back to business as usual.

What is not discussed is what can be done in the short as well as in the mid-term. Often, the Pakistan factor distracts us from introspection by providing a convenient alibi.

It is beyond doubt that such acts — including the pattern that has emerged from Rajouri-Poonch over the last couple of years — do not take place in a vacuum.

The local population is critical as far as logistic and intelligence support to terrorists is concerned. Fortunately, people, the ‘centre of gravity’ in counter-insurgencies, south of Pir Panjal have traditionally been supportive of security forces, unless they perceive to have been wronged.

The questions to be asked while investigating the roots of the present challenge are, “Have the people been wronged?” and “Do the people perceive to have been wronged?”. Identifying accurate questions is imperative to arrive at correct answers. The factors behind the alienation of the local population could range from political to social to possible high-handedness of security agencies. It is a matter of details and the onus of addressing these issues lies with the government.

The strength that we looked for, by reviving village defence committees (VDC) in this region, does not seem to be paying off as desired. Human intelligence as well as civil and military intelligence — in the backdrop of such incidents – appear to be drying up. Such challenges, like the drying up of intelligence from the ground, are merely the tip of the iceberg and need to be addressed on priority.

This is not to suggest that the aspects mentioned above, like lack of intelligence and perception management, are not being given due attention; rather this is to flag that continuous improvement is critical and that these endeavours are never complete in counter-insurgencies.

Lastly, vis-a-vis the responsibility of the Reasi terror attack, shadow groups associated with the LeT and JeM initially claimed responsibility for the attack. But in the face of widespread condemnation and outrage, the groups retracted their statements (Hindustan Times, June 11). This is indicative of the crucial power that people’s opinion possesses.

Rather than dividing the communities on ethnic lines, these events have the potential to bring people together. Social media handles of designated government agencies are required to infuse more vigour into perception management initiatives, based on credibility and truth. The new social media trend of "all eyes on Reasi" could very well be the harbinger for things ahead.

Colonel Shashank Ranjan is a retired Infantry officer who has served extensively in Jammu and Kashmir while operating in counter-insurgency environment. He currently teaches in OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana

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