Targeted killings: Not Kashmir of 1990s, but New Kashmir

Photo: The medical store of the Kashmiri Pandit Makhan Lal Bindroo killed by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists on Oct. 5.

(Editor’s Note: The views are that of the author’s. For the writer’s other interests, read the credit line at the end of the article.)

By Hitesh Tikoo

On Oct. 5, 2021, three civilians were killed in cold blood by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Of those killed that day, one was a pharmacy shop owner, Makhan Lal Bindroo. A respected, minority Kashmiri Pandit, Bindroo’s pharmacy — Srinagar’s most famous — served the people of Kashmir: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, all of them. This seems to have not gone down well with the Pakistani agenda.

Within an hour of killing Bindroo, terrorists targeted Virendra Paswan, another civilian, a non-Kashmiri, non-local Hindu street vendor from the state of Bihar. Paswan earned his daily bread by selling street food in Srinagar.

Two days after these two innocents were gunned down, terrorists targeted and killed two school teachers in the heart of Srinagar. One was a 44-year-old Sikh woman and the other, her colleague, a Hindu man. It was particularly gruesome because of the eyewitness accounts describing the terrorists’ behaviour.

On Oct. 7, 2021, three pistol-wielding terrorists barged into Sangam Eidgah Boys’ Higher Secondary School, Srinagar, around 10.30 am and singled out the 44-year-old Supinder Kour (a minority Sikh by faith) and her colleague Deepak Chand (a minority Hindu) after confirming their identity cards in a line-up of the school staffers.

Both were then escorted out of the building and shot multiple times at point-blank range before the terrorists walked out of the campus. Deepak Chand died instantly while Kour succumbed to her injuries enroute to a hospital. People say she got the most bullets because she lunged to protect Deepak Chand.

After the protests, while the minority Kashmiri Hindu and Sikh communities mourned their loved ones, killed by terrorists, aided and abetted by Over Ground Workers of Pakistan-backed terror outfits, the communities also displayed enormous outrage and courage to stay behind this time and to avoid another exodus.

While the minorities have vowed to stay back, they are concerned about their physical security and are wary because of the false promises made to them over the decades.

The security situation for the minorities is unlikely to change unless New Delhi rethinks its approach towards the Kashmiri Hindu cause and the security of minority Sikhs and other denominations.

The Government of India has to stop using minorities merely as fodder for its interests and do something about their plight. One should ask what happened to the false promises made by successive governments to build settlements for the Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir and rehabilitate them? Does “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” not apply to the minorities of Kashmir?

It’s a known fact that minorities in Kashmir are never going to be completely safe. There is always going to be a sense of fear as long as Pakistan’s Jihad or known by its official name, ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind‘, is operational in Jammu and Kashmir.

Right now, the only option from the security point of view is hunt down the terrorists, who carried out the attacks, which means action after the incident. However, in my opinion, this is not a decisive long-term strategy.

We live in the age of information, so every terror incident in today’s times is an intelligence failure. Our intelligence system and the entire intelligence network apparatus has to be strengthened so that we get our hands on the bad guys before they carry out another attack. Pre-emptive strikes are a must to reduce the threat and civilian casualties.

The government must protect its citizens at all costs. However, considering it’s not easy to combat terrorism and not just the duty of the government, it should consider equipping the vulnerable with licensed arms.

The government can properly vet the applicants and decide who needs it and who doesn’t. The effect of this will be manifold. The vulnerable can protect their own and the terrorists will know there can be retaliatory firing.

It can be a decisive psychological tool against terrorists. It’s been practiced in ISIS attack vulnerable countries and more and more democracies are considering this tested strategy.

Taliban‘s takeover of Kabul has emboldened Pakistan’s terrorist proxies like the Taliban, the Haqqanis, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, and others who continue to perpetrate jihad against India in Jammu and Kashmir.

A top Haqqani leader recently recalled Mahmud of Ghazni, a Muslim invader who smashed the idols of Somnath Hindu Temple of India. So Pakistani proxies who once carried out jihad against the Americans can very well carry out attacks against India, as their words and actions indicate. India cannot afford to lower its guard on the intelligence and security front.

Kashmiri Hindus have become forgotten victims of Pakistan’s proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, which began in the late 1980s and continues. In the late 1980s, the armed terrorists, trained by Pakistan and inspired by the Afghan jihad, wiped out nearly the entire Kashmiri Hindu minority community from Kashmir.

Today, more than three decades later, while the majority Kashmiri Hindu community remains exiled in other parts of the country, a minuscule Hindu population in Kashmir is facing the terror and not backing down.

At the same time, they are fearing for their lives and wondering if they are headed to another exodus, their hands forced by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.

Pakistan, America‘s major non-NATO ally, gave refuge to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden, who blew up 3,000 innocent people in cold blood on American soil.

Making a fool out of the Central Intelligence Agency and the entire western intelligence community, this major ally played a double game with America and the West made sure that the war on terror fails, and kicked the United States out with the help of its own money and support.

This US ally tried to invade India thrice, and through its Jihad factory, it has killed thousands of innocent Muslim civilians and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Jammu and Kashmir. What did America do about all the lies, deceit, and terror that came from Islamabad? Nothing.

Today, after witnessing three decades of Pakistan’s Jihad and after losing thousands of innocent Kashmiri lives, Kashmir has changed. Two mosques in Srinagar condemned the targeted killing of the members of minority Hindus and Sikhs a few days ago.

Protests have taken place online and offline across the state. This is a sea change from 1990s when from many Mosque loudspeakers blared Islamist slogans and fomented Islamist fervour against Kafirs (non-believers in Islam) that frightened the minority communities, making them panic and leave the valley.

However, the situation on the ground is different today and doesn’t align with the Pakistani agenda.

Despite the continued assassinations by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists of Muslims and the minority Hindus and Sikhs, the situation in Kashmir 2021 is quite different from that of 1990s. There is a clear indication from the common Kashmiris that they are not going to let Pakistan carry out its evil designs to uproot the minorities from their homeland yet again.

The new generation of Kashmir has come out in support of the minorities and against Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. The onus is on the state and the security forces to tighten its security grid and hold everyone responsible to account.

The prime responsibility to protect the people of Kashmir and the minority Hindu and Sikh communities lies at the doorsteps of the state and security forces now.

(The writer is a Research Associate with Law and Society Alliance, a Delhi-based think-tank. He is a young journalist from Jammu and Kashmir and has previously worked for the Indo-Asian News Service)

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