ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Targeted Killings in Kashmir

The violence against minority communities in Kashmir requires a multipronged solution.

Rekha Chowdhary writes:

The recent target killings by militants have highlighted the vulnerability of minorities in Kashmir. Though the range of target killings that have been taking place during the last two and a half years has included a number of Kashmiri Muslims, it is the killing of people belonging to the minority communities, including the Kashmiri Pandits and non-Kashmiri Hindus, that has unnerved the members of these communities.

Although there were some target killings months after the abrogation of the special constitutional status of the state,
including those of two prominent non-Kashmiri Hindus, it was in October 2021 that the impact of target killings was felt when, within a matter of days, there were a series of gruesome killings (for example, of a well-known Kashmiri Pandit pharmacist who had stayed on in Kashmir throughout the period of militancy; a street vendor from Bihar and a native Sikh female teacher; and a teacher from Jammu and four non-local labourers). It was, however, with the killing of Rahul Bhat, a revenue employee, in his office in May 2022 that target killings came to be highlighted once again. From 1 May to 2 June, a total of nine target killings took place. (If one counts from March 2022, then the number of such killings adds up to 19.)

It is the reverberation such targeted killings have been generating that the situation in Kashmir is being compared to that of 1990 when the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits took place. The Kashmiri Pandit employees (numbering as many as 4,000) who have been located in Kashmir under the Prime Minister’s rehabilitation and return schemes and have been living there for as many as 10 to 12 years are now protesting—demanding their relocation outside the valley or alternatively threatening mass migration. Apart from these, there are Dalit employees (numbering around 3,000)—who have been employed under the 8% reservation of Scheduled Caste quota in each district of Kashmir—who are also protesting and demanding their relocation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which has been questioning the 1990 exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and blaming the Congress government and local politicians like
Farooq Abdullah for failing to protect the Hindu minorities in the face of “Islamic jihad,” finds itself in a bind in this situation. While making it as a big issue on its agenda, the government has been reiterating its commitment to provide justice to the Pandits in Kashmir. It has not only been talking of rehabilitating the Pandits to the valley but also of redressing their property-related issues linked with distress sale and encroachment.

In no way, therefore, it can agree to relocate the protesting Pandits outside the valley. In its own perspective, posting them out of Kashmir would amount to accepting failure of the policy of rehabilitation and also contribute to “ethnic cleansing.” It is therefore responding by promising more security and surveillance, intensifying counter-insurgency operations, and relocating the employees to safer places within Kashmir.

In a situation where the militants are clearly targeting the minorities along with other vulnerable targets, the Pandits are expressing their disillusionment with the BJP government. They feel that they are sitting ducks and can be targeted at any time. They have even petitioned to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Invoking the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Committee has sought the relocation of Kashmiri Pandit employees outside Kashmir.

Ironically, the issue of targeted killings has arisen at a time when the government was projecting its achievements following the abrogation of the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir. It had been pointing out the success of its decision with no local retaliation in any manner and almost a near total absence of protests and stone-pelting incidents. With separatism handled with a tough approach, it was proclaiming a normalcy in the valley. The record tourist presence in Kashmir was highlighted as the biggest symbol of normalcy.

The phenomenon of targeted killings not only seems to have punctured this claim but has also raised questions about the revival of militancy and the dangerous form that it has acquired. Though small in number, the Pakistan-based foreign militants and the local recruits have kept the militancy alive, and with targeted killings, they have succeeded in creating a fear psychosis. What is worrying is not only the fact that the new militants are anonymous, having no prior history or criminal record and therefore difficult to trace before committing a militant act, but also the fact that even when they are being eliminated almost on an everyday basis, they are being replaced by new militants instantly. The continued availability of these militants clearly shows that despite the political silence of Kashmiris and the near total absence of protests, not everything is fine in Kashmir. The revival of militancy and continued local recruitment as well as the target killings indicate the disenchantment and radicalisation at some level.

The present situation has exposed the faultiness in the government’s approach to deal with the Kashmir situation. With only security and administrative apparatuses being functional and the political forces being marginalised, doubts are being expressed if the security approach to deal with this intricate situation is sufficient. The veteran security experts who have dealt with the situation in the field like Lieutenant Generals Syed Ata Hasnain and D S Hooda, while accepting the need of hard security measures, have suggested going beyond the security perspective. While Hasnain has suggested activating the social and political domains, Hooda has argued for a holistic approach involving addressing a sense of alienation, youth engagement, and streng­thening civil society and political empowerment.




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Updated On : 11th Jun, 2022
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