Marking a disquieting new pattern in violence in the Valley, suspected militants Thursday shot dead a woman principal and a teacher in their government school in Srinagar — taking to seven the number of civilians killed by militants in five days. Of the seven, four, including the two teachers, were from minority communities.
On Thursday, shortly after 11 am, militants arrived at the Government Boys’ Higher Secondary School Sangam in Srinagar’s Eidgah neighbourhood and separated the principal, Supinder Kaur, a Sikh from Beerwah village in Budgam, and her teacher colleague, Deepak Chand, a Hindu from Jammu, and fired at them from point-blank range.
There were no students in the school and teachers had come for online classes.
Recalling the horror, an eyewitness teacher said: “Some of us were sitting outside on the school lawn when a car stopped. Three or four men came down and asked for our identity cards. Then they took the two teachers to one side and shot them.”
Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said the targeted killing of civilians, particularly minorities, is aimed at creating an atmosphere of fear and damaging communal harmony. “It is an attempt to target the local ethos and local values. It is an attempt to give it a communal colour,” he said.
In Delhi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a high-level security review meeting on J&K and the killings. It was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau, Research & Analysis Wing, the BSF, CRPF, and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, among others.
Additional Secretary (Kashmir) Piyush Goyal left for Srinagar on Thursday.
J-K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, who was supposed to visit Delhi on Friday, is likely to stay on in Srinagar.
At a press conference, L-G Sinha said the administration didn’t have any “specific” intelligence input about the attack. “I think an incident has happened and responsibility is ours. I accept that. We have held detailed discussions with security forces. The enemies of humanity will not be spared,” he said.
कश्मीर में हिंसा की घटनाएँ बढ़ती जा रही हैं। आतंकवाद ना तो नोटबंदी से रुका ना धारा 370 हटाने से- केंद्र सरकार सुरक्षा देने में पूरी तरह असफ़ल रही है।
हमारे कश्मीरी भाई-बहनों पर हो रहे इन हमलों की हम कड़ी निंदा करते हैं व मृतकों के परिवारों को शोक संवेदनाएँ भेजते हैं।#Kashmir
Immediately after the shooting, top J-K Police and paramilitary officers visited the spot. Speaking to the media, DGP Singh said they had some clues about previous civilian killings and would soon track down the militants involved in the school attack.
On Thursday, in an unverified statement, The Resistance Front (TRF), which, police say, is an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), claimed responsibility.
The Valley has seen a sudden spurt in targeted killings of civilians.
On Saturday, October 2, militants shot dead two civilians — Majid Ahmad Gojri and Mohammad Shafi Dar — in separate incidents in Srinagar. The TRF claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the two were working for the police.
On Tuesday, three civilians — prominent businessman and Kashmiri Pandit M L Bindroo, a street vendor from Bihar Virendar Paswan, and transporter Mohammad Shafi Lone — were killed in separate incidents in Srinagar and Bandipore.
#WATCH The elements backed by Pak behind this. We should all come out on the streets &take a stand as a society that we’ll not allow this..I appeal to all communities to stand together. Kashmir belongs to people of all religious beliefs: Srinagar mayor on recent civilian killings pic.twitter.com/hgN7C34QlC
— ANI (@ANI) October 7, 2021
While the TRF again claimed responsibility for the killings, the Islamic State released a video saying it had killed the street vendor.
The J-K government has started identifying outsiders living in the Valley and moved some migrant teachers and Pandit leaders to secure government accommodation.
Mainstream political leaders strongly condemned Thursday killings. “Words of condemnation are not enough for this inhuman act of terror but I pray for the souls of the deceased to rest in peace,” tweeted National Conference leader and former CM Omar Abdullah.
Said PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti: “Disturbing to see the deteriorating situation in Kashmir where a minuscule minority is the latest target. GoI’s claims of building a Naya Kashmir has actually turned it into a hellhole.”
“Terrorism has neither stopped due to demonetisation nor after the abrogation of Article 370 – the Central government has completely failed to provide security,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said.
Said Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari: “Any further delay in the revival of grassroots democracy will only lead us to mayhem, which we have started witnessing.”
Said CPI(M) leader Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami: “Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs are part and parcel of the local shared history, and cultural ethos. Protecting the pluralistic visage of J&K must be the top agenda of every Kashmiri.”
Peoples Conference chairperson Sajad Lone tweeted: “…This is a lunatic fringe which is a curse for Kashmir. May Allah rid us of this curse.” BJP’s J&K spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the killing of unarmed teachers who have nothing to do with politics is “purely an inhuman act”.
The Ministry of External Affairs condemned the attack. Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “Innocent people are being killed. It is targeted killing. We are worried about cross-border terrorism. We keep discussing the issue of cross-border terrorism with our partners.” —(with PTI)