A recent terrorist attack has fuelled retaliatory aggression against the Kashmiri Muslim ethnic group in India as last Thursday, 20-year-old Adil Dar drove his explosive-ridden car into a convoy of paramilitary forces in the Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a Pakistan-based jihadist group fighting for the independence of Kashmir claimed responsibility for the attack which killed 42 people — the deadliest attack witnessed in almost 30 years of the Kashmir conflict.
The backlash against the Kashmir community has been severe across the country. Many living outside Kashmir have been threatened, attacked, or forced out of their homes. A student from Dehradum informed Al Jazeera under the pseudonym, Nisar Ahmed, that “… two Kashmiri students were ruthlessly beaten by a mob in Sudhowala,” and that other students are afraid to leave their accommodation. Others remain on the run without food, after violent mobs threatened students to flee over loudspeakers.
In the city of Patna, Kashmiri traders likewise faced such brutality. One Trader, Bashir Ahmed, divulged to New Delhi TV (NDTV) that he did not know about the Pulwama attack until a group of men with sticks “… destroyed [my] goods and beat me and the workers.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) advised all states and union territories (UT) to take “necessary measures” to ensure the safety and security of their communities, reported NDTV. However, the responses from local governments has been subpar. Police have been unable to disperse mobs, while some victims claim the police have looked the other way. The Indian government has accused Pakistan of orchestrating the attack, resulting in retaliatory measures, including the withdrawing of the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status granted to Pakistan previously, and hiking customs duties on all imports up to 200 per cent, wrote the New York times.
While the attack by JeM is horrific and unforgivable, responding with violence is never an effective solution, especially against innocent individuals. The government-level response has been inadequate in helping those affected by violence, as well as in discouraging retaliation against the Kashmir community.
While the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is offering their aid, rising aggression towards Kashmiris has likely been exacerbated by the CRPF’s promise to avenge the deaths caused by the suicide bombing, according to NDTV. The CRPF needs to set the precedent that violent counterattacks will not be tolerated, as they currently seem to be doing the opposite.
On a positive note, a CRPF 24/7 helpline called ‘Madadgaar’ had been introduced in mid-2017 for Kashmiris around the country, which is now being used exclusively for attacks related to the current tension. According to Indian Times Now News, the service has received 71 calls on Saturday alone. While the hotline alerts officials in the nearest locations, it is not known how effective local officials are in responding to and helping Kashmiris. According to the Washington Post, more protection is needed for their already vulnerable population of 14 million, who have faced persecution and countless tragedies for nearly 30 years. While it is important to have effective responses in place to help those in need, it is equally as important for local and central governments to discourage and punish any hate crimes.
Those threatening the safety of Kashmiris must understand that the process of finding and imprisoning those responsible is not aided or accelerated by attacking innocent groups. If anything, hate crimes detract the focus and attention of the government and defence forces away from successfully reprimanding those responsible. Meanwhile, Kashmiris afraid or affected may find solace in the few assistance services available, until the government finds a more lasting solution to the conflict.