Hindu teacher shot dead at Kulgam school as Kashmir sees 7th targeted killing this month

The victim has been identified as Rajni Bala from Samba district.

May 31, 2022 11:40 am | Updated 08:44 pm IST - Srinagar

Army jawans stand guard in South Kashmir Kulgam District. File

Army jawans stand guard in South Kashmir Kulgam District. File | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

A Hindu teacher from Jammu’s Samba district, posted in Kashmir Valley’s Kulgam, was shot dead just outside the school by militants on Tuesday morning. Target killings have left seven civilians dead this month in the Valley.

Two local Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants were shot dead in an anti-militancy operation in Pulwama, taking their death toll to around 27 this month. 

Officials said militants fired from close range at Rajni Bala, 36, around 10 a.m. The staff and students of the Government High School, Gopalpora in Kulgam were about to finish the morning assembly when militants intercepted Ms. Bala outside the school, which is located around eight km away from the Kulgam town at a secluded place with orchards around. 

“The gunmen shot Ms. Balal in her head,” the officials stated.

The police said Ms. Bala was shifted to a hospital in critical condition but died of her injuries. She was recruited under the Schedule Caste (SC) quota five years ago and was posted in Kashmir. 

In October last, a teacher from Jammu, also recruited under the SC category, was shot dead inside a school in Srinagar’s Eidgah locality.

“The government should do something about targeted killings. We want justice in our case. My sister-in-law was here (Samba) two months ago. She never complained of any threat, though she did talk about lurking fear of late,” a relative of Ms. Bala said in Samba.

Six civilians killed

Earlier this month, militants killed six civilians, including a Kashmiri Pandit employee, a woman artist, a wine shop employee and three policemen, in six separate targeted attacks in the Valley.

The killing of policeman Saifullah Qadri outside his house on May 24 in Srinagar’s Soura saw the security forces stepping up operations against militants. Sixteen militants have been killed since then in the Valley. The police claimed that among the slain militants included those behind four target killings, including the cases of Kashmiri Pandit employee Rahul Bhat, artist Amreen Bhat and two policemen. Besides, the module behind the wine shop attack in Baramulla was also busted.  

Two local JeM militants were killed in an overnight gunfight in Pulwama’s Rajpora village. “The killed militants were identified as Shahid Rather of Tral and Umar Yousuf of Shopian. Besides other terror crimes, Shahid was involved in the killing of a woman, Shakeela of Aripal, and government employee Javid Ahmed of Lurgam Tral,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said.

A total of around 27 militants were killed in Kashmir this month, taking their death toll to around 90 for this year, as militancy shows no let-up despite stringent security measures and back-to-back anti-militancy operations. 

Fresh wave of fear in Valley

The woman teacher’s killing has sparked a fresh wave of fears among the migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees, recruited under the Prime Minister’s special rehabilitation package, and the Hindu employees from Jammu recruited under the SC quota and posted in the Valley.

“The administration is more bothered about Kashmiri Pandits employees selected under the PM package but not the Hindu employees selected under the SC quota. I was posted in the Valley 2007 and since then no transfer policy has been drafted for the SC employees. We are left to get killed in the Valley,” a Hindu employee, posted in Kulgam, said.

Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits blocked highways in Kulgam and Srinagar to press the demand for relocation from the Valley. They shouted anti-Lieutenant Governor (LG) slogans and demanded justice.  

“We met the LG a few days ago and demanded our relocation from the Kashmir Valley. Even the Inspector General of Police said on record it will take two to three years to wipe out terrorism in Kashmir. The LG administration should shift us till then. We should not be left behind to die,” a Pandit, who participated in a protest in Srinagar’s Shivpora, said. 

Scores of protesting Pandits threatened to go on a mass migration in case the government fails to transfer them outside the Valley.

“The administration is threatening us to hold our salaries if we leave the station. They are forcing us to rejoin offices in the Valley. We should not be sacrificed so cheaply,” another Pandit protester said.

Marching on the roads in the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits shouted slogans like “Only solution, relocation”.

J&K parties condemn teacher’s killing

LG Manoj Sinha and top leaders of parties in unison condemned the schoolteacher’s killing.

Mr. Sinha said the terrorists and their sympathisers would be given unforgettable response for the dastardly attack.

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said, “This is yet another targeted killing in a long list of recent attacks directed at unarmed civilians. Words of condemnation and condolence ring hollow as do the assurances of the government that they will not rest till the situation normalises”.

Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said, “Despite GOIs (Government of India) fake claims about Kashmir being normal it’s obvious that targeted civilian killings are on the rise and a deep cause of concern. Condemn this act of cowardice which sadly plays into the vicious anti-Muslim narrative spun by the BJP.”

CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said there seemed to be no end to the bloodletting. “The incident is tragic and unfortunate. The administration must post these employees in safer places and provide them secure accommodation,” he stated.

Peoples Conference (PC) chief Sajad Lone said, “Cowardice has yet again plummeted to shameless depths. A teacher- an innocent female hailing from Samba has been shot dead in Kulgam. May her soul rest in peace.”

BJP State president Ravinder Raina said Pakistani terrorists were behind the “inhuman and ugly” act of killing. “The way the killers of Rahul Bhat and Amreen were brought to justice, these killers will also be neutralised soon, even if they try to hide. These Pakistanis will not be spared,” he remarked.

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