Killing of Kashmiri Pandit by suspected militants exposes BJP's narrative of normalcy in J&K

After J&K was stripped of its special status on August 2019 by BJP-led Union government, it has tried its utmost to create an impression that the move helped restore normalcy in the restive region

Representative photo (Lal Chowk, Srinagar)
Representative photo (Lal Chowk, Srinagar)

Gulzar Bhat

"The BJP government has undone UPA's good work," says an enraged Kashmiri Pandit in Budgam, protesting against the killing of a government employee hailing from his community, by suspected terrorists.

Armed militants shot dead Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit working for J&K administration in central Kashmir's Chadoora area, on Thursday. They had walked into the government office where Bhat worked and pumped him full of lead.

Incidentally, Bhat had got employment under the Prime Minister's rehabilitation package rolled out by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008. Under the package, 6,000 government jobs were created to rehabilitate the pandits back in Kashmir. The move was seen as the first tangible effort to rehabilitate the community after they were forced to leave the Valley during the troubled 1990s.

Bhat had got the job of a clerk in the revenue department and was posted at a Tehsil office in Chadoora area.

The killing of Bhat has laid bare the government's normalcy narrative in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the region was stripped of its special status on August 2019, the BJP-led Union government has been trying its utmost to create an impression that the move had helped in restoring normalcy in the Valley.

However, the targeted killings of the members of minority community has continued unabated since 2021.

Last October, at least eight persons from the minority community, including a prominent Srinagar businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo, were shot dead.

The targeted killing of non-locals began nearly 100 days after the abrogation of Article 370.

In October 2019, militants struck in two placid villages of south Kashmir's Shopian district and killed a non-local truck driver and a fruit trader. The incident had caused a precarious situation for thousands of apple growers and traders in the Valley.

On Thursday, after Bhat was shot dead, Kashmiri Pandits employed with the J&K govt and their families putting up at various transit camps, hit the streets at multiple locations across Kashmir and held protests against the BJP-led Union government and the J&K LG’s administration.

"The BJP government has completely failed to provide security to the minority communities," said one protester in Budgam.

Akshay Bhat, another govt employee hailing from the community, said that the government was peddling lies about ‘normalcy’ in the Valley.

"The situation is going downhill with every passing day. The government must provide us security or send us back," said Bhat.

The protests were also held in Srinagar and Anantnag districts.

The police resorted to tear gas shelling after the protesters tried to march towards the airport in Budgam. The peeved protesters could be seen wheezing and coughing on the streets, with the police pushing them back.

This is the first time since the Central government implemented the rehabilitation policy for Kashmiri Pandits that the members of minority community have held protests in the region.

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