Fear and Terror Grips Kashmir as Minorities Are Targeted and Killed
Fear and terror
Before shoving the staffers into the school principal’s room, the three men demanded to know their identities. For people trained to deal with impulsive school kids, the gun-toting ‘guests’ carried an aura of fear and terror, and they couldn’t refuse them.
It was around 11 am on Thursday, October 7.
The only two non-Muslims working at the school located in Srinagar’s Eidgah - the principal identified as Supinder Kour, a Sikh lady, and a Kashmiri Hindu, Deepak Chand, who worked as a teacher, were singled out and order to sit back.
It was a carefully scripted act with a clear agenda to send a message of terror to Kashmir’s minority community whose concerns have only mounted in recent years following the abrogation of J&K’s special status.
“They asked us (Muslims) to move out,” said a staffer, wishing to remain anonymous. “After some time, they brought out the principal ma’am and Deepak, and fired at them without showing mercy.”
In another part of the school, the morning tea session of some teachers, who had escaped the gaze of the assailants, was broken by the terrorising sound of gunshots.
“We could not muster courage to come out. We came out only when we found that the assailants had run away and locals were gathered in the school,” said another staffer.
As the assailants fled the scene, reportedly on motorbikes, and the dust had settled, two cold bodies were lying in a pool of blood, underscoring the worsening security scenario in Kashmir.
Some elderly men and youngsters in Eidgah neighbourhood, who were the first to watch the scene, felt broken and helpless.
“It has become difficult to live in this place. We don’t do big jobs. Some of us work as cashiers in banks, small traders or petty government employees, If they don’t allow us to earn, then how will we live in this place,” said Satwinder Singh, a trader in Srinagar’s Alochi Bagh.
A large crowd of Sikhs and some Muslims had gathered around the house of the school principal in Alochi Bagh to mourn the killing which comes barely 36 hours after three civilians were gunned down in a spate of targeted killings by militants.
“What was her mistake? Why was she killed?” a woman mourner kept asking repeatedly at Supinder’s house while other women tried to console her.
The slain is survived by husband, who is reportedly a banker, son and a daughter who are both students. Her last rites will be carried out on Friday at Batmaloo, family said.
The second victim, Deepak Chand, lives in Jammu region. Police said preparations were being made to send his mortal remains to his home.
The twin killings have heightened the sense of anxiety and fear among the minority community who seem to have turned into primary targets of militants as illustrated by the twin killings in Srinagar on Thursday.
According to official data, around 30 civilians have been gunned down in targeted attacks this year in Kashmir by various militants groups, even though the BJP’s central government has been projecting scenes of ‘Kashmir normalcy’ across the country for political mileage.
Many of these attacks have been claimed by The Resistance Front, which was founded by Abbas Sheikh, a recycled militant from Kulgam who was gunned down in an encounter earlier this year.
Before his killing, Abbas is reported to have played an influential role in recruiting overground workers and some militants for his outfit which security agencies believe is being used as a cover by Pakistan to escape the gaze of Financial Action Task Force while supporting militant groups in Kashmir.
Director General of J&K Police, Dilbagh Singh, said the attack in Eidgah was a “conspiracy to create terror and communal rift” in Kashmir.
“We won’t allow it to succeed. We have developed good leads in all the three (civilian killings) that took place on October 5,” he said, referring to the Tuesday’s incident while requesting “people of all faiths not to fall for this conspiracy."
A prominent Kashmiri Pandit chemist, ML Bindroo, and a street vendor, Ravinder Paswan, from Bihar, were among three civilians gunned down by militants in Kashmir on Tuesday. While two killings were reported from Srinagar, a local president of a drivers association was shot dead in Bandipora.
Even though the attacks have been condemned by political parties, the condemnations are unlikely to soothe the fears of minorities, especially Kashmiri Pandits whose return to Kashmir was one of the main unfulfilled agenda of the central government.
Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), a non-profit based in Srinagar which works for the cause of Pandits, said the killings have heightened the sense of fear in the community.
“I have been getting anxiety filled calls from Pandits who are based in Kashmir since Tuesday evening. I tell them not to roam around during evening or early morning. When those who have been living in Kashmir since ages are not safe, how can those who want to return,” KPSS president Sanjay Tickoo said.
Tickoo said the central government has failed to protect the minorities and the fear which expelled the community from Kashmir when insurgency erupted in early nineties, has returned to haunt them.
“I want to know from the government if everything is as good as they pretend it is, why are these killings taking place?“ he said.
All Photos BASIT ZARGAR