Kashmiris protest violence by militants

22 July 2008
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: For the first time since militancy broke out in Kashmir, people in Jammu organised bandhs and rallies against the violence perpetrated by militants in the Valley. The protests come lose on the heels of the recent grenade explosions and shootouts that killed tourists and threatened to harm Amarnath pilgrims. Till now, bandhs and rallies used to be held to protest against excesses committed by the security forces. On Monday, the tourist resort townships of Gulmarg of Ganderbal observed a complete shutdown. In Gulmarg, a tourist and a local boy were killed and six visitors injured in a grenade attack recently. In Ganderbal a militant attack on Amarnath pilgrims was foiled on Sunday. People poured out into the streets to protest against the violence that has damaged Kashmir's image of hospitality and hurt the local economy. The highway town of Banihal the route which the tourists and pilgrims take to the Kashmir Valley had observed a similar shutdown and witnessed massive protests against the grenade explosion that injured more than 30 civilians and CRPF personnel. Former Tourism Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who represented the Gulmarg-Tangmarg constituency in the dissolved Assembly, said this was a trend which asserted people's aversion to violence. This is their way of protesting against violence of all sorts because it affects their livelihoods and dents the image of their culture of hospitality, he said. Kashmiris, who had been subjugated by violence and had remained mute witnesses to militancy-related violence while vocally condemning atrocities by the security forces, have now stopped making any distinction between the perpetrators, political analysts said. The shutdowns in Banihal, Ganderbal, Gulmarg and Tangmarg say it all, they said.