Indian security forces inspect the remains of a vehicle following an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy that killed at least 16 troopers and injured several others near Awantipur town in the Lethpora area of Kashmir about 30km south of Srinagar on February 14, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Thursday’s deadly bombing in the Kashmir Valley has bruised India’s soul. A suicide bomber struck in south Kashmir’s Pulwama area, killing at least 42 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and wounding many others. The scale and planning of the attack makes it one of the most gruesome in the conflict-affected state. In an election season it is possible that Government of India’s response might be tough. There is outrage in the country, further fuelled by non-stop hyperventilation from a shrill electronic media.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has issued a stern warning that those responsible for the Pulwama attack would pay a “very heavy price”. In unusually sharp words Modi said that he wanted to tell the terrorists that they have made a big mistake. “You will have to pay a very heavy price ... I assure everyone that the forces behind the attack ... we will bring them to justice,” he added.

Given the public mood in India, it is fair to assume that the nation is at the end of its tether, but as the country rightfully mourns and grieves the loss of its soldiers, this tragedy also calls for some introspection. Before taking any drastic military or political step, India must weigh its options and choose with care. There is also a need to re-look the country’s domestic security policy and evaluate the reasons why the conflict in Kashmir, a vexed political issue, has taken such a sinister turn.

The country reserves the right to be tough with those who indulge in violence and it enjoys the support of the global community in this regard. Hours after Thursday’s Kashmir attack, several countries, including the UAE and the United States, unequivocally condemned the bombing and expressed their full support for India. With the weight of the global community firmly behind it, Government of India must consult the country’s Opposition to deal with this grave issue. A cool-headed stock of the serious situation is need of the hour.

There is also fear that in this fluid situation, mob attacks on innocent people because of their ethnicity (reported on Friday from Jammu and other areas) may go unnoticed. Such reports are deeply worrying. While ensuring that the planners of Pulwama attack face justice, Modi must also make sure that this dastardly act does not disturb India’s communal harmony. India must unite, and not scuffle, in this moment of grief.