The Big Story: The Amarnath tragedy

For years now, Kashmir has prided itself on its hospitality to Amarnath pilgrims. Even in the towns and villages worst affected by militancy, Muslim residents will talk about how they helped out Hindu pilgrims stranded during the protests of 2016, how there is no need for such heavy security cover because no one will harm the yatris. On Monday evening, that faith was shattered.

Militants launched attacks in areas around the southern town of Anantnag. According to a police statement, they first shot at a police bunker and a police picket - both places saw retaliatory fire. A “tourist bus” was hit by bullets, killing seven, including five women, and injuring many others. The bus, travelling from Baltal to Jammu, was not part of the official convoy ferrying pilgrims. The episode marks a new low in the militancy that has revived in the Valley over the past few years. The victims of this attack were not men in uniform, able to return fire, but unarmed civilians making a journey that was sacred to them. This episode is reminiscent of the hellish decade of militancy that started in 1989, with militants proscribing the yatra on some years and issuing threats against pilgrims. In 2000, they attacked a pilgrim camp in Pahalgam, killing 25 people. Now, once again, the advancing tide of violence in Kashmir has engulfed innocent civilians.

In the days to come, there is another tragedy that is likely to play out. With hardliners on both sides growing vocal, these killings threaten to communalise the Kashmir conflict, setting Hindu-majority Jammu against Muslim-majority Kashmir, fuelling tensions between the two communities in other parts of the country. Already, the voices on prime time television are baying for revenge. The killings must be condemned. But Indians must guard against giving in to the very hate they were meant to provoke.

The Big Scroll

In the ‘Map of South Kashmir’ series, tracks how militancy and a year of protests have changed towns and villages in the region.


  1. In the Indian Express, Shamsu Islam notes that the Baduria and Basirhat areas of West Bengal have no history of communal violence.
  2. In the Hindu, Faizan Mustafa argues that the balance between fundamental rights and parliamentary privilege must be re-examined.
  3. In the Telegraph, Ruchir Joshi provides a list of similarities between India during the Emergency and India in the present day.


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Vrushal Pendharkar finds a recent study which explains how Indians have got it wrong on how to reduce human-animal conflicts:

Mitigation measures involve reactive strategies like fencing to protect crops and proactive schemes like relocation of affected communities outside protected reserves. Some of these are targeted at particular species like elephants, but most are broad-brushed for all animals – without understanding their behaviour or differences in landscapes. For this reason, the success of the measures vary. For example, fencing may work in some areas, while in others it might funnel animals to raid neighbouring farms. In other cases, fences might impede animal movements to other patches of forests.

In the short term, investments in mitigation measures could be a financial burden on economically weak farmers, while in the long run, continuation of conflict usually results in people turning against the animals.