Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and the state government that he heads are squarely responsible for the current situation in the Kashmir Valley, where protests over killing of four persons during a mob attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) outpost have resulted in imposition of curfew in most major towns and the halting of the Amarnath Yatra. The chain of events started when the BSF jawans handed over a person moving around in suspicious circumstances in Ramban district to state police. Instead of handling the situation, the local police allowed rumours to reign free and did nothing to prevent a large mob from gathering and attacking the BSF outpost. According to BSF officials the armed protesters launched a blistering attack on the BSF men, injuring two constables, and tried to force their way into the armoury, forcing the security forces to fire in self-defence.
The chief minister has himself admitted that the tension escalated as a result of exaggerated reports about the incident in a section of the media and rumours. As law and order is the state’s responsibility, it was for his government to take adequate steps to dispel rumours and ensure such violent attacks on the installations of central security forces do not occur. Instead of doing his job, Abdullah, however, has raised an accusing finger at the BSF and renewed his demand for scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has already announced a probe into allegations of excessive use of force by the BSF. At a time when security forces are increasingly under attack from jihadi groups masquerading as civilians, they cannot be expected to remain passive. Instead of targeting the security forces, the chief minister should concentrate on toning up law and order. He must ask the civilian administration and police to effectively stop rumour-mongering by separatists and deal sternly with troublemakers to prevent recurrence of such attacks.