Taking Kashmir Back To The 1990s
THE WEEK|October 24, 2021
With increasing attacks on minorities and outsiders, Kashmiris fear the return of the militancy of the 1990s
Tariq Bhat
It was work as usual on October 7 for the staff of Boys Higher Secondary School in Sangam, Srinagar. But at 11:15 am militants from The Resistance Front (TRF)—which, say the police, is the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in disguise—walked in. They first snatched the phones of the teachers on the lawn. They then went inside and asked principal Supinder Kour, a Sikh, and teacher Deepak Chand, a Hindu from Jammu, to step out. The militants took their phones and shot them dead.

The killings happened 48 hours after three civilians were shot dead by TRF militants. Among the victims was Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit and owner of Srinagar’s famous pharmacy. He was killed at Haft Chinar near Iqbal Park, an area dotted with police and paramilitary camps. An hour after Bindroo’s killing and 8km from Haft Chinar, Virender Paswan, a hawker from Bihar, was shot dead by militants of the Islamic State Wilayah Hind at Lal Bazar. Soon, news of another killing came in—that of Muhammad Shafi Lone, head of a taxi drivers’ union at Shahgund in Bandipore. On October 11, five Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), and two militants were killed in four encounters in different parts of the union territory.

Since this January, 28 civilians have been killed by militants in Kashmir. Five belonged to the local Hindu and Sikh communities, two were Hindu labourers from other states; the remaining 21 were Kashmiri Muslims active in political parties, mostly the BJP.

The recent target killings have triggered panic among the minorities and non-Kashmiris. It also punctured the BJP’s claim of having restored peace in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. Many compare the current situation with that of the 1990s when Pandits fled Kashmir following attacks on the community and the dread of militancy.

Unlike other militant groups, the TRF claimed responsibility for the recent attacks. In its statement, it accused Bindroo of being an “RSS ideologue who was involved in immoral trafficking and drug supply”. It said Kour and Chand had “warned parents with dire consequences” if students did not attend the Independence Day function in school. It also claimed responsibility for Lone’s killing, accusing him of being an informer. His family denied the allegation.

Sidharth, Bindroo’s son, too, rubbished the TRF allegation against his father. “If you kill someone with a reputation, you create ripples,” he said. Bindroo’s home in Indira Nagar was brimming with people, including Muslims, who had come to offer condolences. Sidharth said his father loved Kashmir and never wanted to leave even when they urged him to.

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