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Targeted killing of popular Pandit chemist in Srinagar draws condemnation, demands robust response

Representational image. There were three fatal attacks in Jammu and Kashmir -- two in Srinagar and one in the Bandipora district in northern Kashmir

Gunmen, whose identity was not immediately known but are widely thought to be the separatist militants, spread a wave of terror across the Kashmir valley with three back-to-back civilian killings in 80 minutes on Tuesday evening. Those targeted in the three fatal attacks—two in Srinagar and one in the Bandipora district in northern Kashmir—include 60-year-old Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit chemist who refused to leave the valley in some extremely challenging situations in the last 31 years.

Seemingly part of a fresh chain of attacks, which began immediately after the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s belligerent address to the UN General Assembly session last month, the terrorists first gunned down Bindroo at his famous pharmacy, Bindroo Medicate, near Iqbal Park, in the heart of the capital city of Srinagar. The pharmacy is yards away from a military installation as well as the office of Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar at Haft Chinar.

In 30 minutes, the terrorists shot dead a bhel puri vendor, Virender Paswan, near Alamgari Bazar in the city interior. In the next 50 minutes, they also shot dead Mohammad Shafi Lone of Nayidkhai Sumbal at Shahgund in Hajan. Lone was a driver and president of the local union of cab drivers.

Even as over a dozen of such civilian and Policemen killings have taken place in Srinagar this year, Tuesday’s assassinations evoked condemnation from all quarters. The officials mentioned the killers as “terrorists” without identifying them in their tweets and the evening press releases.

In two separately issued statements, purportedly the spokespersons of two terror outfits—‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF) and ‘Freedom Seekers of Kashmir’ (FSK)—claimed that the cadres of their organisations had planned and executed the three attacks. According to the Police and the security forces, TRF is a front for the formidable jihadist organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyiba “so as to lend local and indigenous colour to a jihadist movement”. The statement issued on behalf of ‘United Liberation Front’ (ULF), Jammu and Kashmir’, mentioned Bindroo as “RSS stooge” while it alleged that Paswan and Lone had been functioning as the informers of the security forces.

The FSK, claiming responsibility for Lone’s killing in Hajan area today, alleged that the cab driver had been working as an informer with the security forces. It alleged that security forces had eliminated two active militants of the organisation on Lone’s tip off. However, friends and family members of the three slain civilians insisted that none of them had ever associated with the security forces or any extremist religious organisation.

While the Netizens came out with unequivocal condemnation to all the three civilian killings in the social media, the politicians maintained that such assassinations would only spread terror and multiply the hardships of the average Kashmiris.

Bindroo, with his first pharmacy near the Hanuman Mandir (Amirakadal) had refused to migrate to the safer cities of Jammu, Delhi et al, even as many of his friends and relatives, according to the family, had advised him to shut his businesses and settle somewhere outside the valley in 1990. His pharmacy had an unparalleled reputation of selling ‘only the original medicines’.

Even the separatist leaders were known to be the customers of Bindroo Medicate. Bindroo’s mannerism and relationship with the residents of Srinagar and other districts made him extremely popular. Bindroo’s daily sales, according to some traders, were the ‘highest in Kashmir’.

Early this year, Police had arrested a youth who had posted in social media that the owner of one pharmacy at Dalgate, also a resident Kashmiri Pandit, had helped the security forces in a counterinsurgency in which a top ranking terror commander had been killed. Both the Pandit pharmacy owners, according to the official sources, had been alerted by the Police against possible terror attacks on them.

Bindroo’s son Sidhartha, who lived with the family in the high security zone of Indira Nagar, is a doctor. A pall of gloom descended on the entire Srinagar when the residents heard that Bindroo had been shot dead mercilessly at his pharmacy.

Former Chief Minister and the senior National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: “What terrible news! He (Bindroo) was a very kind man. I’ve been told he never left during the height of militancy and remained with his shop open. I condemn this killing in the strongest possible terms & convey my heartfelt condolences to his family. God bless his soul.”

“No words are strong enough to condemn the cowardly and barbaric attack on owner of Bindroo Medicate in which he lost his life. May his soul rest in peace. We express our sympathies with the bereaved family”, Omar added. He also condemned the other civilian killings.

President of the Peoples Democratic Party and another former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Condemn the killing of Shri M L Bindroo who chose to stay back in Kashmir even during peak insurgency. Such acts of violence have no place in our society. May his family find the strength to deal with this loss”.

“The fatal attack against the owner of Bindroo medicates is outrageous and unacceptable. I knew the gentleman personally. He never left the valley. And terrorists made him pay for that. May he live in peace”, Peoples Conference chief and a former Minister in the PDP-BJP government, Sajad Lone, posted on Twitter. He too condemned Paswan’s and Lone’s killing while broadcasting the slain vendor’s picture on his handle.

Srinagar-based physician working in CRPF, Suneem Khan, who had a long time association with the Bindroos, especially Dr Sidhartha, expressed his emotions on Twitter: “Over a period of time, lot of emotions of a #Kashmiri had come to be attached with this name; #Bindroo. This would be the very second thought coming to a Kashmiri mind whenever a doctor wrote the prescription of a patient. All that stands mercilessly murdered today. Mercilessly!”

Social media was flooded with condemnations of the three civilian killings.

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