The Kashmir Valley is once again witnessing a surge in militant attacks on civilians, non-locals and security forces. In the first two days of the holy month of Ramadan, suspected militants shot at and injured four non-local workers in South Kashmir.
The attacks came ahead of the annual Amarnath Yatra that will commence on 30 June this year as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Jammu & Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. He is likely to visit on 24 April.
The first attack came on Sunday evening, when suspected militants shot and injured two non-locals in Pulwama. The victims were identified as Surinder Singh, a driver, and Dheeraj Dutta, a conductor. Both are residents of Pathankot, Punjab.
Hours after the attack, suspected militants shot at and injured two other non-locals in the Lijora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday. The duo were identified as Patleshwar Kumar and Jakku Chaudhary. Both are residents of Bihar.
CRPF Jawans, Shopkeeper Attacked
On 4 April, militants again struck in Srinagar city and killed one jawan of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and left another critically injured at the Maisuma area of the city.
A police official said the militants opened fire on CRPF personnel at Maisuma, resulting in injuries to two jawans. The injured personnel were rushed to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, where one of them succumbed to his injuries. The slain jawan was identified as Head Constable Vishal Kumar.
“Keeping in view the huge rush of people and to avoid any civilian casualties, security forces exercised maximum restraint,” the police said.
Hours after the attack, militants shot at and injured a Kashmiri Pandit shopkeeper in the Choutigam area of South Kashmir’s Shopian district. The police said that militants had fired upon a Kashmiri Pandit identified as Bal Krishan, 39, near his house in Choutigam, Shopian.
Krishan received critical gunshot injuries and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. His condition is said to be stable.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.
13 Militants Killed in March Alone
The Jammu & Kashmir police said in the first three months of the year, 41 militants were killed, while as many as 13 militants were killed in eight encounters in March alone; in January, 21 militants were killed in 12 gunfights.
On 25 March, militants barged inside the house of a special police officer (SPO) of the Jammu & Kashmir Police and shot him and his brother. Both succumbed to the attack.
On 11 March, suspected militants shot dead a sarpanch in Kashmir’s Kulgam district – the third panchayat leader to be killed by militants in the month of March.
On 10 March, another sarpanch, identified as Sameer Ahmad Bhat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was killed at his home in the Khonmoh area on the outskirts of Srinagar.
Similarly, on 2 March, a panchayat member was shot dead in Kulgam. The deceased, Mohammad Yaqoob Dar, was a panch in the Kolpora area in the district.
The Army said that as many as 172 militants, including 79 foreigners, are active in Jammu and Kashmir, adding that the number included 15 local youth who joined the militant ranks at the beginning of the new year.
A total of 156 militants – 79 locals and 77 foreigners – are active in Kashmir. Sixteen others, including two foreigners, are operating in the Jammu region, said a defence spokesman quoting the data released by the Indian Army’s northern command.
Panic Grips Minorities Again
The fresh wave of violence has created panic among non-locals and the minorities in the Valley.
Anil Bhat, brother of the injured pandit pharmacist, said that they have been living in the Valley for decades and didn’t leave even during the exodus of pandits.
“We have never faced any threat from anyone. But we don’t know what happened suddenly,” said Bhat.
At around 7:15 pm on Monday, Bhat and his brother were at his medical shop in Shopian when two bike-borne militants barged inside the shop and fired at Krishan. He was left in a pool of blood. “I was outside the shop and this incident happened in front of my eyes. One of the armed men fired at my brother with a pistol and left,” said Bhat.
He said Krishan received bullet injuries on his leg, arm and abdomen. The militants did not attack Bhat and left quickly. Krishan is married.
The village Choutigam in South Kashmir’s Shopian district has only two Kashmiri Pandit families, who didn't leave the Valley during the 1990s.
“We were living without any fear,” Bhat said, adding that “now, we are scared”. Bhat said that as soon as the villagers came to know about the attack, they rushed to their house. “They didn’t leave us alone and stayed here for the night,” said Bhat.
The latest spurt of attacks has created an atmosphere of fear among non-locals, especially workers who came here to earn their livelihood.
The attacks come just six months after a wave of target killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-local workers in the Valley forced thousands to leave Kashmir out of fear. Over five persons belonging to the local Hindu/Sikh community, and six non-local Hindu workers were killed last year in the month of October.
There are around 3 lakh to 5 lakh labourers from different states of the country who are earning their living in Kashmir.
'Won’t Tolerate Attacks on Non-Locals': DGP
Director-General of Police Dilbagh Singh said the police won’t tolerate attacks on non-local labourers who come here to contribute to developmental works.
“Our neighbour [Pakistan] doesn’t want peace in the Valley, so they indulge in terror activities. These non-local labourers help people build a prosperous Kashmir. They help in developmental works and if anyone targets them, it won’t be tolerated."Dilbagh Singh, DGP
The police chief said over 42 militants were killed in the past three months in the Valley, adding that over 32 foreign militants were killed in 2021.
The police said that they have registered cases under relevant sections of law and have initiated investigations into the militant attacks.
“Officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of the terror crime,” the police said.
'Will Give a Befitting Reply', Says L-G
Soon after the killings, Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Manoj Sinha condemned the civilian killings in Kashmir and promised a befitting reply to the perpetrators of the attacks.
“Strongly condemn dastardly terror attack on civilians & CRPF personnel. My deepest condolences to family of martyred HC Vishal Kumar & prayers for early recovery of injured. Our security forces will give a befitting reply to perpetrators of despicable attacks,” he said on Twitter.
Former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Omar Abdullah said on Twitter, “Sorry to hear about the attack on Bal Krishan in Shopian area of South Kashmir. I unequivocally condemn this attack on a member of the minority community and pray for his speedy recovery.”
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said, “Condemn attack on CRPF personnel in Maisuma this afternoon. This senseless violence doesn't yield anything apart from inflicting miseries on the innocent families of those killed. My condolences to the family and prayers for the injured."
(Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.)