Killings in Kashmir

AS many as 128 security personnel and  118 civilians, including 21 Hindus, among them five Kashmiri Pandits, have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the Union government told Parliament on Wednesday. Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, however, informed the House that there has been a substantial decline in terrorist attacks in the last three years. On a positive note, the union minister said that around 5,502 Kashmiri Pandits have been provided jobs in different departments of the J&K government in the valley and no Kashmiri Pandit has migrated from the valley since August 2019. This is contrary to reports that many Kashmiri Pandits, including the employees, fled the Valley in the wake of the recent killings.

In the recent past, the killings of civilians and Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley generated an outcry across the country. Many Pandits who had returned to Kashmir to take up jobs under the Prime Minister’s Package temporarily left the Valley, putting the central government’s project to resettle them in their homeland in jeopardy.  However, Kashmiri Pandits have not been the only ones who have been attacked: Kashmiri Muslim civilians, Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel, migrant labourers,  and also Hindus from Jammu and other parts of India have also lost lives.

And the efforts of the security forces have proved unsuccessful in stopping the killing spree. And understandably so. It will not be easy for them to secure each and every member of the minority community in the Valley. Or for that matter, even the civilians from the majority community, although they are trying their best to create a sense of confidence among people.

Making things further difficult for the J&K government is that there are around 5000 Pandit employees recruited under a special package and all of them are on the brink of a fresh exodus. Similarly, nearly 8,000 employees from different districts of the Jammu division are working in Kashmir under an inter-district transfer policy and a predominant majority of them are non-Muslims. Though the government has given them assurances, they find little reason to trust it. Many Pandit employees now want the government to revoke the bond that obliges them to stay permanently in the Valley during their employment. They want the post to be made transferable.

The rise in minority killings has galvanized the union government to take steps to reassure Kashmiri Pandits and Hindu employees in the Valley. The union home minister, Amit Shah held a high-level meeting on May 17 which was attended by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the heads of intelligence and security agencies to take stock of the preparedness for the ongoing situation in the Valley and the ongoing Amarnath yatra.  The situation over the last two months has improved a lot. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

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