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India mulls befitting response after Pakistan steps up targeted killing of Hindus in Kashmir

Home Minister Amit Shah chairing a review meeting on the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir along with Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other senior officers in February (PIB photo)

An unceasing chain of targeted killings—as many as seven in May and that of Vijay Kumar, a bank manager from Rajasthan on June 2 at Kulgam—has warranted the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s detailed review of the Kashmir situation, his second in a month. On June 3, Shah is scheduled to preside over a high- level meeting on the security scenario of Jammu and Kashmir which would be, among others, attended by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Union Territory’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. 

Like the one on May 17, senior officers of the security and intelligence apparatus, including J&K’s Financial Commissioner for Home, R.K. Goyal, and Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, are expected to attend the meeting with their presentations on the current situation. Those killed in the targeted terror attacks in May included three off-duty Police personnel, one Kashmiri Pandit teacher, one wine shop salesman, one Hindu lady teacher from Jammu and a female TV artiste. 

Of the 17 members of the minority communities killed in different terror attacks since January 2021, five were resident and displaced Kashmiri Pandits. Two, including chairman of Block Development Council Khag (Budgam), Bhupinder Singh, and the government schoolteacher Supinder Kaur, were Sikhs. Some of the victims were non-local workers from UP and Bihar. Three were resident Hindus and two Dogra Hindus from Jammu recruited as teachers from the Scheduled Castes.

Even as an identical killing spree was witnessed around the Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to J&K in October 2021, the Police and security forces have, for the first time after the year 2000, begun to perceive the threat of one or more possible attacks on the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. As many as 32 people, including 21 Hindu pilgrims, were killed in the biggest terror attack on the Amarnath Yatra at Pahalgam on 2 August 2000. Thereafter, there were no major attempts or attacks on the pilgrimage which also sustained the local Muslim shopkeepers and other service providers.

In recent times, 8 Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 18 injured when terrorists ambushed a bus on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Botengo, on the outskirts of Anantnag district headquarters, on 10 July 2017. 

Significantly, terror groups have issued a couple of statements in May, indicating their plans to target the pilgrimage. They are objecting to the government’s plans to increase the number of pilgrims to 8 lakhs, the highest ever. The pilgrimage is scheduled to start on 30 June. 

Even as attacks on the Kashmiri Pandits have taken place largely in 1990 and intermittently thereafter, it is for the first time in the last over 20 years that members of the Hindu community are being targeted—after abrogation of the Article 370 in August 2019. Thirty-six-year old government schoolteacher, Rajni Bala of Samba, Jammu, who was posted in the terror hub of Kulgam, is the latest victim of such targeted killings.

Bala lived at a rented private house at Chawalgam, on the outskirts of the district headquarters of Kulgam, in South Kashmir, with her husband Raj Kumar who was also appointed as a teacher from the reserved category. Kumar’s posting was in Mirhama.

Following Rajni’s death on Tuesday, 31 May, Kumar revealed to the media that the couple had requested the Chief Education Officer Kulgam multiple times their transfer to a “safe place” after a resident Rajput Satish Kumar Singh’s assassination at Kakran on 13 April 2022.

The CEO refused to oblige the couple and allegedly threatened a worse posting to Kumar and his wife. Even after Divisional Commissioner’s instructions, following the Pandit official Rahul Bhat’s killing at Chadoora Budgam on 12 May 2022, the CEO Kulgam didn’t transfer the lady teacher till she fell to a terrorist’s bullets on Tuesday.

An identical lack of empathy was reported from Budgam where the Revenue official Rahul Bhat had been transferred from Budgam to Chadoora. Bhat’s wife subsequently claimed that the couple had multiple times requested DC Budgam to shift Bhat back to Budgam or any other safe place. However, his transfer order was not issued till he was felled at Tehsildar’s office.

Before the resident Rajput Satish Kumar Singh’s killings, terrorists launched two successful targeted attacks on the resident Hindus. Jeweller Satpal Nischal was gunned down near his shop at Sarai Bala, Hari Singh High Street, on 1 January 2021. Krishna Dhaba owner’s son Akash Mehra was shot dead inside the eatery, close to the UNMOGIP Srinagar headquarters at Sonwar on 28 February 2021.

Subsequently, schoolteacher Deepak Chand of Jammu, was shot dead along with his Principal Supinder Kaur at a government higher secondary school in Iddgah area of Srinagar on 7 October 2021.

In view of the unabated killing spree, unusually targeting members of the Hindu community, in addition to the Kashmiri Pandits, authorities have employed high definition surveillance including a system of identification of the pilgrims through a radio frequency chip this year. Reinforcement of around 300 paramilitary companies is being deployed for smooth conduct of the yatra.

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