In the deadliest attack on Amarnath Yatra since 2001, Pakistan-backed terrorists killed seven Hindu pilgrims and injured around 20 others in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag on Monday evening. The news of the cowardly attack attracted widespread condemnation from across the country including from Kashmir as well as outside India. All Indian media identified the incident as a terror attack. Jammu and Kashmir police even said the attack was carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and masterminded by Pakistani terrorist Abu Ismail. However, most of the leading foreign publications referred to the ghastly incident as an attack by “militants” or “gunmen”.
“Gunmen opened fire on a busload of Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir on Monday, killing at least seven people and threatening to ignite tensions in a region already deeply divided between Hindus and Muslims,” reported The New York Times. The report mentioned the condemnation of the incident by leaders of different parties, including the separatists in Kashmir. It also highlighted how the yatra has been going on peacefully for years despite growing militancy in the Valley.
BBC.com said seven pilgrims have been “killed in a militant attack after their bus apparently got caught in the crossfire.” It quoted police as saying that target of the attack “appeared to be” nearby security forces’ base. The BBC report, however, is quite different from what has been reported by the Indian media and officials which say the terrorists had opened fired at the bus after surrounding it from three sides.
The Indian Express today reported the driver of the bus Saleem Sheikh as saying that the vehicle was surrounded by terrorists at around 8 pm. They first fired from the front to kill Sheikh but he “ducked sideways to escape the bullet and drove ahead.” Even as the terrorists resorted to indiscriminate firing, Sheikh hold his nerves and drove for around 2 KM until he reached an army camp.
India’s NDTV.com, however, reported the bus was fired at by the terrorists near the security check post after they surrounded it from three sides. Before attacking the bus, the same terrorists had fired at an armoured police vehicle at around 8.30 pm, it said.
The foreign media reports on their websites have missed to report the Lashkar hand behind the attack.
The Atlantic quoted BBC, “A police source later told BBC that the attack targeted police vehicles, not Hindu civilians.”
The Guardian reported, “Seven Hindu pilgrims have died in a firefight between militants and police in Kashmir during a highly sensitive religious procession.” It goes on to claim that the attack came “amidst heightened religious tensions across northern India and another summer of violence in Kashmir.”
While Kashmir has been witnessing violence for some time, the claim of heightened religious tension across northern India is exaggerated. A few incidents of attacks by cow vigilantes recently have made civil society groups protest against this trend but overall all communities in northern India are living peacefully.
The Washington Post published an Associated Press copy on the attack. It started the report as: “Gunmen sprayed bullets on a passenger bus bringing Hindu pilgrims back from a cave shrine…” Refraining from calling it a terror attack, AP reported an unnamed police officer as saying the attack was carried out by “Muslim militants” fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir.
AP claimed a police statement as saying that the “militants” had first attacked a police vehicle and the officers returned fire. “Thereafter, the militants again fired at a police patrol in which a passenger bus was hit by bullets.”
The Washington Post also published an article by senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt in which she argued that the “terrorist attack on Hindu pilgrims could change everything for Kashmir.”
“Terrorists have ruined Kashmir. Now they want to start communal riots in India by driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims,” Dutt wrote. She also urged Kashmiri people to “rise up and say Not In Our Name; or else be complicit in another example of the withering away of humanity.”