Targeted killings in J&K may spur another wave of migration by minority populace, say observers

A bank manager on Thursday became second member of minority Hindu community to be killed in Kashmir over 72 hours. Last month, five civilians were shot dead by suspected militants

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Gulzar Bhat

The Valley is reeling from the shock of the killing of yet another member of the minority community on Thursday morning by an unidentified gunman.

At around 11 AM, social media burst forth with the news that Vijay Kumar (26), a bank manager, had been shot dead in south Kashmir's Kulgam district.

Kumar, who hailed from Rajasthan, was working with Elaqahi Dehati Bank in Arreh Mohanpora village, some six kilometres from Kulgam town.

CCTV footage of the incident shows a young man walking into the bank and pumping bullets into Kumar. He was immediately taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Kumar is the second member of the minority Hindu community to be killed in the Valley over the past 72 hours.

Last month, a total of five civilians, including a popular woman artiste from central Kashmir's Budgam district, were shot dead by militants.

Despite the Centre’s narrative about ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir, there appears to be no end to the targeted killings of the members of the minority community. The abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to put paid to bloodletting in the Valley.

The latest spurt in killings have brought Kashmiri Pandits — who returned to the Valley under the Prime Minister’s special employment package, rolled out by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government in 2008 — on the streets, demanding their relocation.

Although the J&K Lieutenant Governor’s administration has assured employees hailing from the minority community that they would be posted at safer locations by next week, it has failed to instill a sense of security among them.

“The government must send us back; there is no other option. The situation is worse than the troubled 1990s and is only getting worse with each passing day,” said Akash Koul, a Kashmiri Pandit employed under the PM's package.

Another employee from the community said that moving them to ‘secured accommodations’ or posting them at ‘safer locations’ would not keep them safe.

“No place is safe in the Valley. Is there any district which is militancy-free? Members of our community have been killed even in Srinagar city, which is considered comparatively safe,” he said.

There is apprehension among political observers and analysts that these attacks may spur another wave of migration by members of the minority community.

“If government fails to contain such targeted killings, the Kashmiri Pandit families which stayed put during the troubled 1990s will also leave the Valley this time, let alone those employed under PM package schemes,” said a political observer, who declined to be quoted.

“These attacks have triggered a wave of fear even in the majority community,” he added.

He said a reach-out by Kashmiri mainstream to alleviate fears among the minority community will help.

“They could lend courage to people to rise against such killings. Writing off such incidents as insignificant would be a monumental blunder,” he said.

Kashmiri mainstream political leaders have unequivocally condemned such attacks. The leaders of People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomeration of key political parties, last month called on J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and enjoined him to ensure the security of the minorities.

On Tuesday, National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah had said that just deploying security forces cannot contain the situation, and the government needed to reach out to opposition political parties to find out ways to try resolve the prevailing situation.

“The security situation in the Valley may well worsen in the coming days due to the intransigent approach of the ruling dispensation at the Centre,” the observer opined.

Meanwhile, hours after Kumar was shot, suspected terrorists shot dead a migrant labourer in Budgam. Another worker was injured in the attack and had to be shifted to a hospital.

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    Published: 02 Jun 2022, 9:00 PM