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Kashmiri Pandits Threaten Mass Migration After School Teacher Shot Dead in Kashmir

Anees Zargar |
The female school teacher was shot at from a close range in Kulgam; she was critically wounded and succumbed to her injuries after being shifted to a hospital.

Srinagar: Members of the Kashmiri Pandit community threatened mass migration unless their demand of relocation is met after suspected militants shot dead a female government school teacher at Gopalpora village of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Tuesday.

According to the police, the victim was identified as Rajni Bala, a resident of Samba district of Jammu division. Bala was posted at a school in Kulgam. Her husband Raj Kumar was also reportedly posted in the same area.

Rajni was shot at from a close range; she was critically wounded and succumbed to her injuries after being shifted to a local hospital for treatment. The police added that they have launched an operation to find the killers and assured that the assailants will be “identified and neutralised.”

The latest targeted killing comes days after gunmen killed artist and social media influencer Amreena Bhat at her residence in central Kashmir’s Chadoora area. The militants also injured Bhat’s nephew but he survived the attack. Targeted killings in the Kashmir valley have been reported since October 2019, but these have spiked several times, including in October last year and March this year. There have been over a dozen such attacks since then against policemen, panchayat members, non-locals, and members of the minority community, and even the militants accused of being close to the security establishment.

Such attacks have continued despite heightened security measures imposed by the authorities and increased military operations against the militants.

Soon after Bala’s killing, members of the Kashmiri Hindu community, who are posted in the valley under Prime Minister’s special packages for the Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants, held a protest by blocking key roads at Anantnag and Srinagar’s Batwara area. The protesters alleged that the government and administration have “failed” to protect the minority against the attacks and accused them of being apathetic towards the victims.

While blocking the national highway road outside the Badami Bagh Cantonment area, they raised slogans against what the members referred to as the “failures” of the UT administration. The demonstrators raised slogans like Only Solution – Relocation and Kashmiri Pandit Bali Ka Bakra Nahi Banega (Kashmiri Pandit will not become the sacrificial lamb).

The protesters, who have been demanding relocation since the killing of one of the members of the Pandit community, Rahul Bhat, in central Kashmir on May 12, threatened mass migration if their demands were not met within the next 24 hours.

A female protester, who works as a school teacher in Pulwama under the PM’s package, said the situation has not changed for them in the last three decades since the first migrations in the early 1990s and the UT administration has failed to protect them despite assurances. “There is no point in living under the shadow of the gun. We are qualified enough to work outside the valley as well, as it is not safe here. Our Muslim colleagues also live in fear, what can they do for us?” the school teacher said.

Bala’s killing was widely condemned by the mainstream political leadership who termed it as an indication of the deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Very sad. This is yet another targeted killing in a long list of recent attacks directed at unarmed civilians. Words of condemnation & condolence ring hollow as do the assurances of the government that they will not rest till the situation normalises. May the deceased rest in peace,” former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami, who termed the killing as “tragic and unfortunate”, said this is yet another addition to the long list of civilian killings.

“There seems no end to the blood letting. The administration must post these employees in safer places and provide them with secure accommodations,” he said.

“Attacking unarmed civilians, that too women, is no bravery but an act of frustration and cowardice. Police must act fast to punish the attackers,” BJP JK spokesman Altaf Thakur said while condemning the attack.

Former chief minister of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti said that it is a deep concern as the civilian killings are on the rise in Kashmir where the BJP-led government has been making claims of normalcy.

“Despite GoIs fake claims about Kashmir being normal its obvious that targeted civilian killings are on the rise & a deep cause of concern. Condemn this act of cowardice which sadly plays into the vicious anti muslim narrative spun by BJP,” Mehbooba tweeted.

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