Saturday, July 2, 2022

Two killed in Kashmir in wave of assassinations

Bank manager Vijay Kumar was attacked by a suspected militant inside a branch of the Ellaquai Dehati Bank in southern Kashmir's Kulgam, where a schoolteacher was shot dead, local police say.

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A Hindu bank manager and a labourer were shot and killed in Kashmir on Thursday, police said, as a wave of targeted killings drove more Hindu families to flee India’s only Muslim-majority federal territory.

Bank manager Vijay Kumar was attacked by a suspected militant inside a branch of the Ellaquai Dehati Bank in southern Kashmir’s Kulgam, where a schoolteacher was shot dead on Tuesday, local police said.

“He received grievous gunshot injuries in this terror incident,” Kashmir police said in a tweet, later adding that Kumar, originally from western Rajasthan state, had succumbed to his wounds.

In a separate incident militants shot at two non-Kashmiri labourers in Budgam district on Thursday, a police official said.

“Militants shot at two outside labourers working in a brick kiln in Chadoora area of Budgam. They were shifted to a nearby medical facility for treatment where one of them succumbed,” he said.

At least 16 people – both Hindu and Muslims – have been killed in targeted attacks this year in Kashmir, where India has been fighting an armed insurgency since the late 1980s.

A little-known militant group called “Kashmir Freedom Fighters” claimed Thursday’s attack on the bank manager on social media, telling non-locals not to settle in the Kashmir valley.

“Anyone involved in the demographic change of Kashmir will meet the same fate,” said its statement, the authenticity of which could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2019 split Jammu and Kashmir, then India’s only Muslim-majority state, into two federally administered territories, promising to improve development and security in the restive region.

Both India and neighbouring Pakistan claim the Himalayan territory in full, but control only parts of it.

But New Delhi’s reorganisation raised concerns among some local communities that the federal government may use it to alter Kashmir’s demographic by bringing in more outsiders.

‘We are now scared’

Rattled by the recent spate of assassinations, scores of Hindu families, including those from the minority Kashmiri Pandit communities, have begun fleeing Kashmir in recent days. More than 100 Hindu families have left after the schoolteacher’s killing, a community leader said on Wednesday.

A rebellion by Muslim militants in 1989 led to some 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits fleeing the Kashmir valley because of killings of Hindus and attacks on their homes.

But many, like schoolteacher Sanjay Kaul, were lured back to Kashmir by the previous federal administration with the promise of government jobs and better security.

“After recent killings we are now scared and fear for our lives,” said Kaul, who left a government-built Kashmiri Pandit colony along with his family on Wednesday. “We demand re-location outside Kashmir till the situation normalises.”

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