Srinagar: Suspected militants shot dead two teachers, including a woman principal, of Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Srinagar’s Iddgah locality here on Thursday, taking the number of civilians killed in the region to seven in the past five days.
The two teachers were identified as 39-year-old Deepak Chand, a resident of Janipur locality of Jammu and 46-year-old Supender Kour, a resident of central Kashmir’s Budgam area. The two, according to eye-witnesses, were separated from the rest of the school staff by the armed assailants before being killed. Both died on the spot, the police later confirmed.
Kour was inside her office, according to an eye-witness, when the attackers entered the premises of the school. “Deepak was also near the principal madam’s office, and I was having tea in another room along with other staff members. Then we heard gunshots,” another teacher from the school told NewsClick, wishing anonymity.
The teacher said the school was closed for students on Thursday, but most of the staff were present during the incident, which occurred between 10:30 a.m and 11:00 a.m.
Kour was appointed in the school two years agok, while Chand worked in the school since 2018.
Another teacher said many teachers were scared and came out of another classroom only after local residents entered the school premises. The bodies were found outside the principal’s office.
The school is located close to a primary health centre in the Sangam area, a sparsely populated locality on the outskirts of Srinagar, which opens in the swampy Anchar lake.
The authorities have heightened security in and around the summer capital. The Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh, who reached the spot after the killing, said that the killing of civilians was being carried out to disturb communal harmony in the region.
“This is an attempt to defame the Muslim population of Kashmir. Killing innocent civilians, including teachers, is a move to attack and damage the age-old tradition of communal harmony and brotherhood,” the J&K Police chief was quoted as saying.
The DGP said the police have been able to recover clues and are working on leads of the previous killings, which included locals from Srinagar, killed in separate attacks since last week.
On Tuesday, three civilians were shot dead by suspected militants in three separate incidents. The killings sent shockwaves across the region. Among the deceased was a prominent chemist shop owner ML Bindroo, who was shot near his shop in Srinagar. Seven killings have been reported in Kashmir valley since last Saturday, of which three were from the minority communities.
The killings have been claimed by The Resistance Front, an offshoot of the Lashkar e Toiba. This year as many as 25 civilians have been killed by suspected militants in targeted attacks. In most cases, the victims have been shot from point-blank range.
Close to 80 civilians have been killed in militancy-related incidents in the Union territory since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A on August 5, 2019. The decision, many claimed then, would have “serious implications” on the region’s stability.
The fresh incidents have drawn wide condemnation across the region, with many terming the attacks as “barbaric.”
“Reports of cowardice emerging. Two teachers were shot dead. It is important to understand that terrorists have no religion. Muslims have been killed too. I personally had a killing in my family. This is a lunatic fringe which is a curse for Kashmir,” People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone said.
The attacks were condemned by Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, who termed it “unfortunate” that the members of a particular community were being targeted.
“Muslim community of Kashmir stands with the bereaved families at this hour of grief and shock,” he said.
“Such brutal killings are harmful for the society and can’t be justified under any circumstances. It is the responsibility of the whole society, including political, social, religious and other organisations, to come forward and condemn such barbaric incidents in one voice,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami.
In a statement against civilian killing, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of Kashmir’s separatist groups, urged that that work should be done toward the resolution of the lingering Kashmir conflict, which the statement said is the “root cause of all suffering” in the region.
Meanwhile, Jagmohan Singh, president of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee in Srinagar, has urged Sikh government employees to boycott offices till the perpetrators are arrested and steps are taken to ensure the security of Sikhs in Kashmir.