Spectre of return to 1990s militancy hangs over Kashmir Valley following killing of prominent Kashmiri Pandit

Well-known pharmacist Makhan Lal Bindroo was among the few Kashmiri Pandit families who chose to stay back after most of the community fled Kashmir following break out of militancy in the early 1990s

Makhanlal Bindroo's  last rites in Kashmir
Makhanlal Bindroo's last rites in Kashmir

Gulzar Bhat

"If you have courage and guts, come in front of me and have a debate....I'm Makhan Lal Bindroo's Kashmiri Hindu daughter," said his daughter Shardha Bindroo, fulminating with rage, after the well-known pharmacist was gunned down in Srinagar on Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening, most of the alleys in Srinagar were teeming with people. Shoppers flocked near street vendors selling their wares at multiple locations in the city. But soon, the news about Bindroo’s killing, spread through WhatsApp messages and other social media platforms, sending shockwaves through the entire Valley.

Some unidentified gunmen just walked into his pharmacy and shot him. A little later, a non-local vendor in Lal Bazar area of the city too was pumped with full of lead. At around 8.30 pm, in Shah Gund Hajin village, some 35 km north of Srinagar, another civilian was shot dead.

Bindroo was living along with his family in Indira Nagar locality of the city and was among the few Kashmiri Pandit families who chose to stay put after most of the community fled the Valley following the break out of militancy in the Himalayan region in the early 1990s.

He, along with his wife, was running two famous pharmacies in the city and was known for keeping a wide range of medicines.

"My father was a great man. He gave 40 years to the service of Kashmir," said Siddharth Bindroo, his son. He said that condolences were pouring in from people of all faiths.

The police said that Bindroo was shot at by militants near one of his shops, adding that he was grievously injured and later succumbed to his injuries.

Bindroo is the third Kashmiri Pandit who has been shot dead since 2020 in the Valley. On June 2, Rakesh Pandit, a BJP leader, was killed by militants in Tral area, while Ajay Pandit, a Congress party Sarpanch, was gunned down in Anantnag district last year.

According to official data, at least 10 non-local residents have been killed in the Valley since the BJP-led Central dispensation put paid to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

Prominent Valley based political analyst Professor Noor Ahmad Baba said, "I don't see any communal angle in it. Bindroo has been in Kashmir all through the troubled years and nobody ever touched him".

Baba said that a dangerous situation was unfolding in Kashmir and he himself felt scared too.

Impact on rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits

Political observers believe that the recent killings will have serious implications on the Central government's much-hyped rehabilitation policy of Kashmiri Pandits.

"The killings will stymie the government's rehabilitation plans," said a political observer, who declined to be quoted. He said that the government had made Kashmiri Pandits more vulnerable after it took away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir two years ago.

"The immediate upshot of the government’s radical move was attacks on non-local lorry drivers in the Valley in October 2019," he pointed out.

On February 13, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the government would resettle the displaced community back in the Valley by 2022. Last month, Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal laid the foundation stone for a transit accommodation facility for the community in north Baramulla area.

Emboldened by Taliban’s return to power?

The security situation in the Valley is going downhill with each passing day. The recent killings raises the spectre of the return of a situation similar to the nineties, when hundreds of civilians lost their lives to the bullets of unknown gunmen.

At least 23 civilians, including three non-local residents and two Kashmiri Pandits, have been gunned down since the beginning of this year.

The security establishment is said to be apprehensive that the triumph of Taliban in Afghanistan may have encourageg local militants in Kashmir.

Former Director General of Police Shesh Paul Ved had recently pointed out that the developments in Afghanistan may encourage militancy in Kashmir.

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