Grim turn: On targeted killings in Kashmir

The removal of its special status has seen the beginning of fresh challenges in Kashmir

Updated - June 03, 2022 11:06 am IST

Published - June 03, 2022 12:20 am IST

Nine civilians have been killed in targeted killings by militants in the past 22 days in Kashmir, including a Kashmiri Pandit employee, a Hindu schoolteacher from Jammu and a bank manager from Rajasthan. This has triggered a wave of protests in the Valley from the minority communities. Protesting since May 12 when Rahul Bhat, a Pandit employee, was killed in his office, over 4,000 Pandit employees recruited under a special package are on the verge of another migration as in the 1990s. Their leaders say they are contemplating mass exodus and resignations unless relocated outside the Valley. The abominable terrorist violence and the predicament of the Pandits and Hindus denote a grim reversal of all the gains towards peace and reconciliation in the last decade or so. The Valley had welcomed a subtle and slow return of Kashmiri Pandits, a segment of those who left in the face of a surge in violence and targeted killings in the 1990s. Their return was encouraged by the comprehensive policy of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who in 2008 worked on a strategy: a political outreach to stakeholders of Kashmir’s political spectrum for creating a conducive atmosphere and, at the same time, extending permanent financial support to Pandits willing to return.

The Prime Minister’s Package for Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmir migrants not only offered jobs to Pandit youths but also doled out an initial financial assistance of ₹7.5 lakh per family, which was later increased to ₹20-₹25 lakh — in three instalments for those who settled in the Valley. It is not a mere coincidence that a turn for the worse coincided with the Centre’s new push to alter Kashmir’s relations with India, starting with the termination of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and special constitutional status in 2019. On December 31, 2020, a Hindu goldsmith was killed; a series of targeted killings of members of the minorities, including Kashmiri Pandits, started from October 6, 2021 when Makhan Lal Bindroo who ran the famous Bindroo Medicate was killed in his shop in Srinagar. Guest workers in the Valley from other parts of the country have also been felled. Policies implemented by the Centre regarding land and government jobs are perceived in Jammu and Kashmir as disadvantageous to locals, increasing the sense of alienation that is being exploited by separatists and Pakistan-backed terrorists. The Centre must take measures to ensure the security of Hindus, and migrant workers in the Valley, at any cost as an immediate response. It must also think afresh its Kashmir policy and create space for political dialogue. It seems the dilution of Article 370 was not the end of the problem but the beginning of fresh challenges in Kashmir, which need careful handling rather than just muscular triumphalism.

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