After the Pulwama attack, the Centre took recourse to unusual steps in order to give the impression that it was serious about fighting terrorism.
It is cause for gratification that Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost no time in criticising the right-wing elements who attacked two Kashmiri dry fruit sellers in Lucknow earlier this week and sought to revile them as terrorists. The PM could have used stronger language to censure those who beat up Kashmiri-origin Muslims without provocation. He called them sirphirey, or wrong-headed or crazy, which doesn't quite address the gravity of their action, especially in today's political circumstances when all of Kashmir valley is upset and angry.
After the Pulwama attack, the Centre took recourse to unusual steps in order to give the impression that it was serious about fighting terrorism. These included preventing the movement of civilian traffic on the state's roads when convoys of military or paramilitary forces were moving (which is a lot of the time), fresh induction of the BSF in the valley after a gap of about a decade-and-a-half, the detention of separatist politicians, and not letting schools open on schedule at the end of winter holidays.
At the same time, J&K governor Satya Pal Malik made statements purported to taunt the mainstream political parties in the valley as backers of terrorism, a proposition that is so obviously false. The combined effect of all of this was to drive Kashmiris further into a sense of psychological isolation and alienation, and unhealthy rumours began to do the rounds. The murmurings in the valley were loud enough to make the governor issue a placating statement to quell the disquiet.
It was in this situation that Kashmiri students and traders were first attacked in several parts of the country, notably Dehradun in Uttarakhand and Aligarh in UP, both BJP-run states, but were treated with kid gloves by the police. The attacks stopped only after Mr. Modi, at a speech in Tonk in Rajasthan, declared that India’s fight was against “terrorism”, not against “Kashmir or Kashmiris”. The attacks might have ceased earlier if the PM had intervened earlier.
After the attack on the Kashmiris in Lucknow, however, the PM intervened almost immediately. This has had a salutary effect. The attackers were rounded up by the police on the basis of video footage quite quickly (possibly on receiving a quiet nudge from New Delhi). This is how it should be. Indians travel to all parts of the country for work or education. The cause of the nation’s unity suffers when any section is singled out for discrimination or assault on grounds of language, religion or ethnicity (as has happened in Mumbai in the past). We can't let this happen, especially in volatile border regions.
If the Centre had taken firm action against the Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy for calling for the social and economic boycott of Kashmiris, and dismissed him forthwith, it is conceivable that some of the ugliness witnessed later may have been pre-empted.