Video Inputs: Muneeb-ul-Islam, Pankaj Soni
Video Producer: Mamta
Video Editor: Harpal Rawat
Around 11 am on Thursday, 2 June, Om Prakash Beniwal, a government school teacher in Nohar, Rajasthan, was resting at his home in Hanumangarh. He was about to have his first meal of the day when he received a phone call from an unknown number.
The person on the other line informed him that a bank manager at the Kulgam branch of Elaqahi Dehati Bank, named Vijay Kumar, had been shot by suspected terrorists in the Arreh area of the district.
Shocked at receiving the news, Om Prakash called back the person, who informed him that Vijay had been critically wounded in the attack and shifted to a hospital where the doctors declared him dead.
Vijay Kumar was Om Prakash's 27-year-old son, who had moved to Kashmir four years ago, and had joined his posting in Kulgam only last week.
He used to live in the Valley with his wife of three and a half months, having been married on 10 February.
"He had got married on 10 February and went there after ten days. My daughter-in-law was also calling us there. They were planning to return in July," said his distraught father, tears flowing down his cheeks.
Om Prakash called his son's killing a pre-planned murder.
"I spoke with him last night. My wife talks with my daughter-in-law daily. There was no threat at the place where they used to live. They (terrorists) must have specially planned this murder."
Second Targeted Attack on Hindus in the Valley in Three Days
Vijay's killing is the second targeted attack on Hindus in the Valley in three days and comes just two days after Rajni Bala, a Hindu teacher from Jammu, was shot down by terrorists outside a school in Kulgam.
The Kashmir Valley is in the midst of another surge of militant attacks as eight people, including civilians – locals and non-locals – and security personnel, have been killed in the month of May alone. At least 16 people – both Hindu and Muslims – have been killed in targeted attacks in Kashmir, in 2022, reported Reuters.
Out of the total nine deceased since 7 May, four, including Kumar, belong to the Hindu community, a minority in Kashmir.
The president of a Hindu Kashmiri Pandit colony in northern Kashmir's Baramulla, Avtar Krishan Bhat, told Reuters on Wednesday that around half of the 300 families living in the area had fled since Tuesday.
Vijay Was Preparing for Exams To Become Branch Manager
Om Prakash Beniwal informed that his son, who was working as a probationary officer, was preparing for exams so that he could become a branch manager and shift to some other state. Both Om Prakash and his wife, a homemaker, wanted him to move to Rajasthan.
"In small banks in remote places, PO is the manager. He was preparing for exams so that he could have become branch manager and shifted to some other state. We wanted him to come to Rajasthan. But everything happens according to God's will. They were planning to return on 15 July and spend 10-15 days here."
Vijay's father said that non-locals are purposely being targeted in the Valley and he hoped for the safety and security of the other non-locals still working there. Otherwise, he said, the only option left for them would be to return.
"They are targeting non-locals. Government must make some plan to deal with this problem. My son is dead. But there are many others from our area who work in banks there. Something must be done for their security. Otherwise, the non-locals must try and return. These incidents are happening again and again," said the helpless father.
Protests Continue To Be Held Across Kashmir
According to Deccan Herald, there are around 4,000 migrant employees in the Valley who have been employed under the Prime Minister's package and are posted in district or municipal town areas.
However, with the increasing cases of such targeted killings, the J&K administration is grappling with protests by Kashmiri Hindu employees, who have been demanding their transfer out of the Kashmir Valley.
Rahul Bhat's murder on 12 May led to massive protests by Kashmiri Pandits in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The protesters, including government officers and their families, camped at the migrant colony at Vesu-Qazigund in the Anantnag district and demanded that the lieutenant governor's administration ensure that Kashmiri Pandits are safe in the Valley.
The police had to fire tear gas shells and use batons when a group of protesters attempted to proceed towards the Srinagar Airport.
Now, after Rajni Bala's death, Kashmiri Hindus have been protesting across the Valley for the last several days. The protesters took to the streets on Wednesday and blocked a road in Kulgam, reported ANI. They demanded relocation, claiming that they were not feeling safe in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, members of the Dogra Front in Jammu and Awami Awaaz in Srinagar held a protest on Thursday against the recent killings in the Valley, ANI reported.
Action Taken by the Government
Amid the growing incidents of the killings of Kashmiri Pandits over the last few weeks, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with NSA Ajit Doval, RAW chief Samant Goel, Intelligence Bureau head Arvind Kumar, and Ministry of Home Affairs top officials on Thursday to review the security situation in the Valley.
Shah will also a high-level meeting with J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in the national capital on Friday, 3 June.
This is the second high-level meeting in less than a fortnight on the Kashmir issue.
According to Hindustan Times, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has also ordered the posting of PM Package employees and other members from minority communities in the Kashmir division to secure locations, which is to be completed by 6 June.
(With inputs from Al-Jazeera, Deccan Herald, Reuters, Hindustan Times and ANI.)