Jammu and Kashmir: Killing of civilians sparks militancy fear

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Riyaz Masroor

Siddharth Bindroo, 40, was on his way to a restau-rant in Kashmir’s main city Srinagar when he re-ceived a call. “Papa is dead,” said the caller – leav-ing Mr Bindroo, a noted endocrinologist in the re-gion, shocked.

Some men allegedly entered their family-run medicine store on 5 October and shot his father, Makhan Lal Bindroo, thrice.

ML Bindroo, 68, was the son of Kashmir’s fa-mous medical practitioner and pharmacist Rakeshwar Nath Bindroo. The family runs a famous pharmacy chain which is known for selling life-saving drugs in the region.

The Bindroos were among more than 800 fami-lies of Kashmiri-speaking Hindus – locally called Pandits – who chose to stay when hundreds of thou-sands of them fled for safety to other Indian cities during an armed insurgency in the Muslim majority-region in the 1990s.

The militants, seeking inde-pendence from India, often targeted the minority Hindus and accused them of working with the secu-rity forces.

Now, a spate of killings of civilians in recent days in Indian-administered Kashmir has again led to widespread unease, particularly among the re-gion’s religious minorities.

Kashmir: Outrage over settlements for displaced Hindus Kashmiri Hindus: Driven out and insignificant On the day ML Bindroo was killed, two other civilians were also murdered – a Hindu street vendor from the eastern state of Bihar and a Muslim cab driver, both of whom were fatally shot by unknown men. Earlier on 2 October, two Kashmiri Muslims were killed in a similar fashion.

Bindroos Siddharth Bindroo consoles his mother after she heard the news of the death of her husband Barely two days later, assailants stormed a government-run school in Srinagar’s isolated San-gam area, killing the principal and a teacher – a Sikh and a Hindu.

The spate of targeted killings has triggered widespread fear, especially among the minority communities of Kashmir, which has seen a decades-long armed insurgency against Delhi.

Many Hindu families are now leaving the tense region, leading to comparisons with the situation in the 1990s.

It has also brought the government’s claims of peace into question. Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, but ruled in parts by the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Relations between the two countries have always been tense, but reached a new low when Delhi revoked the region’s special autonomy in 2019.

The move was followed by a months-long communications blockade and a slew of administra-tive changes, which locals say are aimed to bring demographic changes in India’s only Muslim-majority region.

The rise of homegrown militancy in Kashmir What happened in Kashmir and why it matters
Ramreshpal Singh, husband of Supinder Kour, the school principal killed last week, said he could not speak for two days after his wife’s death.

“I could not ask for the details about how she was killed,” Mr Singh said. “I saw my wife dead and everything else lost meaning for me.”

Police and eyewitnesses have confirmed that armed attackers barged into the school, summoned all staff members and asked for their identities.

Ac-cording to initial police reports, the principal and the teacher had been separated from the rest of the staff. They were later shot dead.

“Supinder was like my sister,” said her neighbour Majeed. “She was so generous that she had adopted a Muslim orphan girl and would spend part of her salary on her upkeep.”

Kashmir funeral
Supinder Kour’s funeral was attended by a large number of Sikhs living in Kashmir The killings of ML Bindroo and Supinder Kour add to some of the targeted attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs in the last two decades.

In March 2000, unknown at-tackers shot dead more than 35 Sikhs in a village in Anantnag district. And in 2003, more than 20 Kashmiri Pandits were killed at Nadimarg, a remote village in Pulwama district.

The most recent murders – seven in a week – happened at a time when more than 70 ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government took turns to visit Kashmir.

The ministers were sent to highlight the “benefits of removing article 370” from the In-dian constitution on 5 August 2019.

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