Battling terror in Jammu and Kashmir | HT Editorial

On Monday, Ajay Pandita — an elected sarpanch in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district — was shot dead by terrorists. This is the second targeted killing of a local grassroots leader, after another sarpanch was shot dead in November. Pandita’s killing is a reminder of political and security challenges in the Valley.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic spreading widely in Pakistan and devastating its economy, its military-intelligence complex has not let go of its sponsorship of terror across the border. Be it through constant attempts at infiltration, stoking tensions across the Line of Control, or spreading fear through terror proxies in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Pakistan continues to seek to destabilise India. New Delhi will have to remain vigilant, ensure sharper intelligence collection, keep its security personnel on high alert, and protect its citizens and political leaders in J&K. Along with stepping up its security preparedness, the government should also consider opening up the political space in Kashmir, releasing mainstream leaders still under detention, opening channels of communication with all stakeholders who remain committed to India’s unity and believe in peaceful politics, and providing a road map for eventual elections. Expanding the democratic space will strengthen the pro-India constituency in J&K, which in turn, will provide strong local political, intelligence and administrative networks to defeat terror.

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