A week after a series of attacks on civilians, especially non-Muslims, set off alarm bells from Srinagar to Delhi, militants struck again on Saturday evening, killing two non-locals.
While Arvind Kumar Sah, a street vendor from Bihar, was shot in the head from point-blank range in Srinagar, reports came minutes later of Sageer Ahmad, a carpenter belonging to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, being fired at in Litter village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama. Ahmad later succumbed to his injuries.
The attacks came barely hours after IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said they had identified the “militants responsible for these (civilian) killings”, adding that while two had been killed, they were close to “neutralising” three others. He also denied a security lapse, noting that police could not be expected to provide security to everyone.
The series of civilian killings in the Valley this month started with the shooting of prominent businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit who had stayed on in the Valley, at his popular medical store in Srinagar on October 5. The same day, another street vendor from Bihar, Virendar Paswan, was shot in Lalbazar neighbourhood of Srinagar, while a local, Mohammad Shafi, was attacked at Hajin in Bandipore.
Two days later, suspected militants barged into a school in Srinagar and killed two teachers — the principal, Supinder Kaur, a Sikh, and Deepak Chand, a resident of Jammu.
There were reports of several Kashmiri Pandits leaving the Valley soon after, with the killings reviving fears of a repeat of the 1990s when Kashmiri Pandits had left the Valley after members of the community were killed by militants.
Director General of Police Dilbag Singh has said the recent killings are aimed at damaging communal harmony. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had held a high-level security review after the school shootout, and top R&AW, NIA and Intelligence Bureau officers have been stationed in the Valley since to oversee operations to trace the militants behind the killings.
Before the fresh killings on Saturday, IGP Kumar denied that the incidents were the result of a security lapse. “I have been saying time and again that there was no security lapse… (The militants) attacked soft targets, whom we had not provided security. It is not possible to provide security to every soft target,” he said.
On politicians talking about this (among others, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said there was an intelligence failure), Kumar, responding to a question, said: “It is the job of politicians to speak ulta-pulta… We are a professional police force… I know how to handle it and we will do it.”
On Friday, police claimed to have killed two militants in separate gunfights in Srinagar and Pulwama, and named the two — Shahid Bashir and Tanzeel Ahmad, both residents of Srinagar — as “collaborators” in the recent killings.
On Saturday, two more militants were reported killed in an overnight gunfight in Pampore in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, with police saying one of them, Umer Mushtaq Khanday, had killed two of its personnel in Srinagar. The other militant was identified as Shahid Khursheed, a resident of Channapora in Srinagar.
In the week since the civilian killings, the Valley has witnessed eight gunfights, in which 11 militants have been killed.
Leaders across parties condemned the killings. National Conference president Omar Abdullah tweeted, “All Arvind Kumar did was come to Srinagar in search of earning opportunities and it’s reprehensible that he was murdered.”
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti posted: “Such unfortunate incidents only reinforce the immediate need to reach out to the people of J&K by initiating a constructive dialogue.”
“Killing (a) poor vendor and carpenter, who earn their livelihood through hard work, is (an) inhuman and barbaric act,” BJP general secretary and in-charge Kashmir Affairs Sunil Sharma said.
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