Neither impassioned statements of condemnation, nor detailed “explanations” from the security services can camouflage the extreme incompetence and laxity that enabled militants to carry out their dastardly strike that cost the lives of at least six Amarnath pilgrims ~ the condition of some of the injured was grave ~ on Monday night.

The pilgrimage had been identified as a target when intelligence reports pointed to plans to “celebrate” the anniversary of Burhan Wani’s being gunned down. The union home minister had taken a special review meeting, additional central forces were deployed ~ to no effect.

After Rajnath Singh took an “initiative” he must assume a degree of moral responsibility for the shameful failure: New Delhi cannot collect the bouquets and duck the brickbats. Passing the buck to the state government, in which the BJP is a partner, is craven. A thorough overhaul of North Block is overdue, bringing J-K under Goveror’s Rule cannot be deferred any further.

And clearly NN Vohra is past his prime. Mere cosmetic changes in the state police and the leadership of the central forces in the Valley will not suffice: an entirely fresh approach to “managing” Jammu and Kashmir is unavoidable. The first step would be the NDA government (Mehbooba’s administration included) admitting to abject failure at both strategic and tactical levels.

A government that cannot protect pilgrims has no right to make tall claims of efficiency. More “muscle” is hardly the answer, there is need for “grey matter” too. Reports from the ground point to a relaxation in security drills when the pilgrims were on their return journey. It defies explanation how an “unregistered” bus could make the better part of the trip, worse ply on its own (not part of the escorted convoy), that too after the 7 p.m. “curfew”.

When the police post at Batengoo came under attack why was the road not sealed immediately? Had the militantss potted an unescorted bus, picked it out as an easy target, and mounted a few stray incidents to divert the attention of the amateurish forces? These queries may be answered by a competent inquiry, but that will neither bring back the lives of the pilgrims killed, nor unfortunately ensure upgraded preventive action in the future.

There have been too many probes to inspire confidence. This nation is paying a high price for neglecting its police forces, be it in J-K, across the Maoist corridor, or even in the way it fails to stop gau rakshaks when they unleash their frenzied forays.

It would definitely be unfair to point an accusing finger at the NDA government alone, there has been a collective failure of past and present Central and state governments to improve police functioning, the focus has been on using the cops as political weapons. Tears over the pilgrims will not wash away that sin.