Audio podcast: In Kashmir, it’s time for minds and hearts, not guns and handcuffs

Ashraf Engineer

October 23, 2021

Hello and welcome to All Indians Matter. I am Ashraf Engineer.

Kashmir has witnessed a surge in violence over the past few weeks with a steep rise in militant attacks on civilians and a wide-ranging offensive by security forces that has left more than 33 dead. These include civilians, militants and armed forces personnel. The latest killings were targeted at migrant workers, Sikhs and Hindus. Among them were the owner of a pharmacy and teachers shot inside a government school. Since October 6, at least 11 civilians have been murdered in cold blood. When Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated and the state carved up, the Narendra Modi government had said it would help erase terror and make the region more secure. That claim lies in tatters.


The latest killings are said to have been carried out by The Resistance Front, which was relatively unknown. Some say it has it has its roots in the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Hizbul Mujahideen. The security apparatus launched a crackdown in response, rounding up more than 300 people – a move that sparked condemnation and which is expected to intensify the disgruntlement in the Valley. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction, merely meant to show that the government is acting. In reality, it doesn’t seem to have made much headway in improving the overall security situation.

The killings of civilians have, naturally, sparked panic with migrant workers fleeing either to their hometowns in states like Bihar or to Jammu.

Political leaders have condemned the killings in unison and questioned the effectiveness of the Central Government.

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “One wonders what will it take for GOI (government of India) to realise that its policies have been a monumental failure in J&K & at what cost?”

Pointing out that, this year, 28 civilians have died in terror attacks, Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and leader of the National Conference, tore into the Central Government for trying to “score propaganda and public relations victories rather than focus on the ground realities”. He advised it to “take a long hard look at why we have reached where we have”.

Now there are fears of a fresh exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs. Abdullah warned of this and stressed the need to prevent it. “Whatever can be done to stem this and to restore the sense of security to these communities must be done,” he said in a media interview.

Let’s talk about why these attacks could happen in the first place. Some say it was an intelligence failure but the attacks have been building up over time, so that’s unlikely. It’s more likely, as Abdullah says, a failure to act on the intelligence available. There has been, he said, chatter about targeted attacks. Abdullah reasons that if he, who has no access to intelligence reports, had heard about it then surely government agencies would have too.

On June 24 this year, Prime Minister Modi spoke of removing “dil ki doori” and “Dilli ki doori”, that is, removing distance between hearts and between Delhi and Srinagar. That clearly has not happened. If anything, there seems to have been a regression from 2014 by when central and northern Kashmir had been cleared of terrorists and their supporters.

It’s clear, then, that the Central Government needs a rethink of the way it has handled Kashmir and why there is a resurgence in militant violence. The corrective measures it takes cannot be cosmetic, ones that will only alienate the population further and have a domino effect on the security of the country as a whole. If it’s minds and hearts Delhi wants to win, it needs to act with its mind and heart, not with guns and handcuffs.

Thank you all for listening. Please visit for more columns and audio podcasts. You can follow me on Twitter at @AshrafEngineer and @AllIndiansCount. Search for the All Indians Matter page on Facebook. On Instagram, the handle is @AllIndiansMatter. Email me at Catch you again soon.