Targeted killings in Kashmir

Terrorists shot dead a woman school principal from the Kashmiri Sikh community and a Kashmiri Pandit teacher after demanding to see their identity cards inside a government-run campus in the city’s Eidgah locality on Thursday. The killings come two days after a prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman and a migrant roadside vendor from Bihar were gunned down within hours.

Three pistol-wielding terrorists barged into Sangam Eidgah Boys’ Higher Secondary School at 10.30am and singled out 44-year-old Supinder Kour and her colleague Deepak Chand after confirming who were from any community other than Kashmiri Muslims, eyewitnesses said. Both were taken out of the building and shot multiple times.

Chand died instantly while Kour died on way to hospital. No students were present as offline classes have not resumed; only staff members are required to be present for a few hours every day.

Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba affiliate The Resistance Front claimed responsibility for the killings, and said these had nothing to do with the victims’ religion. “Our fight is to safeguard our freedom...Domicile holders, stooges and collaborators, regardless of religion, are enemies of the Kashmir struggle and will not be spared,” it said, specifying that the school principal and her colleague had been targeted because they pressured students to attend the Independence Day function on the campus on August 15.

The outfit had also issued a statement after shooting dead Makhan Lal Bindroo, the owner of Srinagar’s landmark Bindroo Medicate pharmacy, and bhelpuri vendor Virender Paswan in the city on Tuesday. The outfit’s third victim that day, Mohammad Shafi Lone of Hajin in Bandipora, was a native Kashmiri.

The renewed cycle of attacks targeting non-Muslim minorities, starting with Congress sarpanch Ajay Pandita being shot dead in his orchard in Anantnag in June 2020, bears the stamp of the early 90s, when thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee a cleansing by terror outfits.

Slain schoolteacher Chand’s family had been among the hundreds who migrated from the Valley to Jammu during the exodus three decades ago. He returned to Srinagar after getting the job in October 2018 as part of a special recruitment drive announced by PM Modi. Chand recently became father to a baby girl.

School principal Kour, a mother of two school going children, hailed from Aloocha Bagh in uptown Srinagar. Her husband is a probationary officer with J&K Bank.

DGP Dilbag Singh termed the wave of terror attacks on civilians in Srinagar — six people have been killed in a week, two of them Kashmiri Muslims — part of a strategy “to damage the age-old traditional communal harmony in Kashmir and defame local Muslims”. Singh said the police and the people of Kashmir would collectively defeat those attacking the “ethos and values” of the Valley.

“On my part, I am making a heartfelt appeal to all those who will be thinking of leaving the valley out of fear. Please don’t. We can’t let the perpetrators of these terror attacks succeed in their evil designs by driving you out. The overwhelmingly majority of us don’t want you to go,” National Conference vice-president and ex-CM Omar Abdullah tweeted.

PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, also a former CM, blamed the Centre for “a minuscule minority” becoming terror targets. “GOI’s claims of building a Naya Kashmir has actually turned it into a hellhole. It’s sole interest is to use Kashmir as a milch cow for its electoral interests,” she alleged.

Mufti had issued a similar statement after prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo was shot dead in his Srinagar pharmacy on Tuesday, saying “an utterly desensitised govt has devalued human lives & pushed J&K into further peril & chaos by its ruthless policies of collective punishment, all in the garb of security”.

Union minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assured minority communities in J&K that the Centre was committed to its “national duty” of protecting their lives and safeguarding their interest. “Wherever the killers are hiding, they will be tracked down and punished,” he told reporters in Srinagar.

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