Targeted Killings in Kashmir - Is History Repeating Itself

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News flashes about targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-local Hindus are being received from Kashmir almost daily. The last one month has seen twelve such killings including those of;

  • Mr. Vijay Kumar of Elaqai Dehati Bank (at Kulgam),
  • Rajni Bala, a teacher at Kulgam,
  • Amreen Bhat, a TV artist at Budgam,
  • Rahul Bhat, a Govt Employee in his office at Chadoora, Budgam.

The targeted killings have sent a shiver up the spine of minorities in Kashmir who are feeling insecure. The impact of these and other such killings is leading to a re-enactment of the 1990 Mass Exodus that saw the Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmir. Newspapers and news channels have been showing desperate Hindus/ KPs trying to leave their homes to escape death. An atmosphere of fear, despair, and uncertainty has again gripped the Kashmir valley, particularly, its minorities. A new term Hybrid Terrorists is being bandied around to describe a modern lot of minions of terror. A hybrid terrorist is defined as an unlisted member of a terror group who has received training in the usage of small firearms (pistols, grenades, etc) for carrying out targeted killings. After carrying out the targeted killing, the terrorist resumes his day-to-day activity instead of returning underground like his full-time counterparts.

A Paradox - Tourism in Full Bloom in Kashmir in 2022:
According to data available from the J&K tourism department, over 3.5 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir in the last three months (2022). As many as 6.6 lakh tourists from across the country visited the Valley in 2021, a jump from 41,000 in 2020. “We have not seen such a footfall in the last 10 years. Our data shows that this has been a bumper season for us,” said Dr. G.N. Itoo, Director of Kashmir Tourism. Naturally, traders and others associated with the tourism industry are over the moon at their bumper earnings!

Background of Armed Terrorism in Kashmir:
Since 1986, Kashmir valley has been suffering from a violent movement against its minorities, particularly Kashmiri Pandits. From the violent 1986 Anantnag riots to the targeted killing of KP community leaders in 1989-90, the dark days of January 1990, Kashmir has seen a systematic attack on its original inhabitants with the sole objective of ensuring a minority-free Kashmir. Even after driving out most of the Kashmiri Pandits, the Jihadi elements were relentless in perusing fragments that were left in rural areas – causing massacres like Sangrampora (1997), Wandhama (1998), Chattisingpora (2000), Nandimarg (2003). In addition, there have been periodic killings like Ajay Bharti, Sarpanch of Luk Bhawan (2020), ML Bindroo (2021), and many others that have kept the pot boiling over the last 32 years!

Are we back to square one?
The scenario bears a strong resemblance to what happened in the 1986 – 1990 period – Pandits are seeing a second wave of exodus. However, a careful analysis of the situation may help us identify the differences between 1990 and 2022. We need to ask the basic 4 questions and seek honest, logical answers.

1. Are the perpetrators of these crimes the same/similar? The bitter answer is YES.
a) Pakistan’s support of the armed insurgency in Punjab and Kashmir was part of the ‘Bleed India with A Thousand Cuts” doctrine propounded by Gen Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan (1977-88). As part of the strategy, open support was extended to stoke unrest in India, including finance, arms, and logistics. Kashmir also saw active participation of Pakistani trainers, Mujahideen, and veterans of the Afghan war.

b) From 1986 onwards, Kashmir saw hundreds of young, indoctrinated Kashmiri Muslim boys sneak to Pak-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) for arms training. This, of course, is no secret –Yasin Malik and his cohorts openly admitted to going to POJK to receive ‘training’ in the usage of arms. These ‘terrorists’ were treated as heroes by the ‘secular’ and ‘peace-loving’, ordinary Muslims of the valley, by the media and politicians, of course.

c) Today’s ‘terrorists’ are mostly local boys who receive logistical support from the local populace. These killers are locally trained by the ‘veterans’ of various terror outfits operating in Kashmir. Handlers, mostly, continue to be Pakistanis or based in Pakistan.

2. Are the victims of these terror activities the same? Again, the answer is YES.
a) 1986-1990(and beyond) saw victimization and killings of innocent Kashmiri Pandits, with the objective of terrorizing a peaceful minority. The result was a Mass Exodus of Pandits/ Hindus/Sikhs from Kashmir.

b) In 2022 again, the targeted killing of the same set of people started the second wave of Exodus. The objective of the terror activities is to ensure a Minority Free Kashmir and facilitate the imposition of Nizam-e-Mustafa!

3. Is there any change in the mindset or behavior of the Local Muslim Population? The bleak and blunt answer is NO.
a) In the 1990s (and therearound), local populace was actively participating in supporting the terror mongers by facilitating logistics, providing diversion against security forces action by throwing stones, helping them escape police dragnets. Neighbours rarely helped Hindu/ Pandit minorities in escaping. In fact, neighbours often used to be the first ones to loot KP houses and even usurp vacant properties.

b) In 2022, too, local populace is passive towards killing of Pandits/ Hindus. Apart from their hollow sounding condemnation sound bites, the political elite of Kashmir has remained silent, rubbing their hands in glee at the discomfort of the administration. The local populace has been sold the concept of ‘demographic change of Kashmir’ by political leaders. People do not want to share their pie in jobs and other fruits of ‘development’ that heavy investments in infrastructure are likely to result in!

4. Is there any change in policy/ approach of the Govt? The simple answer is YES.
a) Since 1986, J&K Govts led by the Abdullas (Farooq and son Omar) and the Muftis (Mufti Saeed and daughter Mehbooba) turned a blind eye to Anti-India activities of various separatist outfits; it is often alleged that these governments, or at least some elements within were even facilitating these activities.

b) It is now coming to light that even Govt of India, directly or through intelligence agencies, were facilitating various separatist elements, including their High Priest, Ali Shah Geelani. Pictures of the killer Yasin Malik with Sh Manmohan Singh speak volumes of the clout these separatists had with Govt of India.

c) Post 2019, there has been a tectonic shift in the approach of Govt of India. Terrorists are being dealt with an iron hand. Kashmir has experienced a period of relative stability and peace due to greater counter-terrorism operations, surveillance along the borders, and, a drop in cross-border infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC).

d) According to Vijay Kumar, IGP, Kashmir range, "Between January and April 29, 2022, over 62 terrorists were neutralised. 32 of these were eliminated within three months of joining terrorist outfits. “The shelf life of 'hybrid' terrorists involved in the targeted killings of security personnel and Hindus/ KPs has been reduced to less than 3 months”. 

Lessons for KP Community: Every event teaches vital lessons. I wish to underline a few:

  • A rap on the knuckles for the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ Gang: I am hoping that the group of people so zealously clamouring that KPs be relocated to Kashmir has had a rude awakening; the situation is not right for our return to the valley yet. Our return can happen only after the venomous serpents have been defanged.
  • As Tourists, you are welcome: The ‘aam aadmi’ of Kashmir is happy to receive ‘Indians’ as tourists (source of revenue) but not as fellow citizens. Return of KPs shall mean a sharing of resources! Changing mindsets shall take years.
  • Licking Honey Off Thorns for KPs: Those KPs wishing to return and live in Kashmir at this stage, shall have to be ready to pay some cost. If we wish to avoid loss of lives, let our brethren come out of the valley. Afterall, almost 5L KPs chose to live outside Kashmir.
  • No Govt shall offer us Kashmir on a Plate: We are a miniscule minority, scattered all over the country, without any worthwhile political weightage or support. Expecting Modi or Shah to work as per our wishes is to expect too much. As a political analyst put it,” Only the Wheels of Heaven run on justice – rest run on expediency”.

For sure, 2022 is not 1990.
We are being unjust with the current Central Govt in comparing 2022 with 1990. Today terrorists are getting killed. Yasin Malik has been sentenced for the first time. Cases against Bitta Karate have reopened. Delimitation Commission has suggested minimum 2 nominations for KPs to give us a political voice! Much is happening – maybe not as per our expectations but nevertheless, wheels are moving. Selective killings are unfortunate but we also need to realize that no Govt on earth can provide fool-proof security to every individual against lone-wolf attacks – not even Israel. In next few days a solution to the problems of KP employees may be found. Even if Govt were to transfer all Hindus/ KP employees from Kashmir valley to the safer environs of Jammu, where shall it keep all non-employee KPs – those engaged in small private businesses or in agriculture? Govt cannot openly transfer ALL non-Muslims to Jammu – that would amount to handing over the valley to terrorists on a plate!

Selective killings are part of the terrorist strategy to stay relevant – they are getting eliminated and they realize it. To create pressure on the Govt, they are taking on soft targets (KPs) to grab headlines. These give a handle to the Muftis and Abdullas to gloat. These give a chance to their ‘echo system’ on social media, to their well-wishers in media to discredit the Govt. KPs, unfortunately are a factious community with no common acceptable leader; Some overzealous though well-meaning community members have given a call to boycott the annual gathering at Mata Ksheer Bhawani Asthapan, Tulmul on Jyeshth Ashtami. We are just trying to score brownie points. Who shall be affected by our ‘boycott’? Not the Govt, certainly! It can only give another handle to the detractors of this Govt – particularly the Abdullas the Muftis and their ilk? Probably, some of our people still consider these political hyenas as our well-wishers. Mercifully, the call has been ignored - as I am writing these lines, I received videos from Tul-Mul with a decent gathering of KPs performing pooja.

Keeping Ghar Wapsi concept alive is vital for us but we also need to realize that Govt of India is fighting a 75-year-old malignant disease of bigoted mindsets. Cancer treatment is painful, long drawn and multipronged. It also needs multiple doses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and even immunotherapy. Without losing heart or direction, KPs need to be ready for a long haul.

The battle has to be fought on a daily basis. Our victory is certain – only the date is not visible yet! I remember certain media people and political hyenas of the ‘secular’ variety used to taunt BJP about Ram Mandir, saying,” Mandir vahin banayenge – bas date nahi batayenge,’!

Well, a grand Ram Mandir is getting built at Ayodhya and the political/ media chameleons have become Ram Bakhts!

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    • Suniel Kumar Dhar

      Nice analysis by Mr.Sanjeev Munshi, on the present situation in the valley! He is always blunt in his writings and is known for writing his mind !

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