The wave of selective assassinations in Indian Kashmir has caused the recent flight of hundreds of members of the Hindu minority, a crisis that threatens to escalate to a new mass exodus in this region of Muslim majority.
Many fear a repeat of the exodus that followed the 1989 outbreak of violence in Indian Kashmir incited by Muslim secessionist groups, which drove more than 75,000 Hindus from the region, known as Pandits, to flee to other parts of the country.
More than 30 years later, Pandits and other Hindus who migrated to Indian Kashmir thanks to government incentives are leaving the region again, while those who remain are calling for more security, uncertain who will be targeted next.
In the last two months alone there have been nine killings by targeted attacks, which have included pandits, non-Kashmir Hindu workers such as teachers or bank employees, or policemen.
The Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Simiti (KPSS), made up of Pandits who in the 1990s exodus chose to remain in Kashmir, wrote to the regional chief justice last week to request greater protection for religious minorities.
The Indian authorities claim to have taken “strict” security measures in the neighborhoods where the Hindus reside, with military deployments and checkpoints at the entrances, something that has triggered claustrophobia among the neighbors.
“We live like prisoners, especially since May 12, when Rahul Bhat, a Hindu employee of the Treasury department, was assassinated in his office in the Budgam district, in central Kashmir,” Avinash Bhat, a teacher, told GLM. Hindu.
Avinash was part of a 23-member committee that met with the regional governor, Manoj Sinha, to try to find a solution to the problems of pundits in the region.
“Unfortunately nothing came of it” from the meeting, prompting some 2,000 Hindu migrants to leave the region in mid-May, without even worrying about their jobs, he added.
Those who decided to stay, he adds, do not dare to leave, confined to their homes for fear of attacks.
The government of the region, which India and Pakistan have disputed since the subcontinent’s independence from the British Empire in 1947, has also established a number of transit settlements to accommodate pundits who have no accommodation in Kashmir.
Satish Mahaldar, the pandit leader of the organization Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Return of Migrants (RRRM), which works to offer help to migrants in Kashmir regardless of their religion, called authorities in the region “ignorant” and “incompetent”. for not getting involved enough.
Selective attacks against members of the Hindu minority have been on the rise since the government led by the Hindu nationalist party BJP withdrew semi-autonomous status from Kashmir in August 2019.
The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi justified the move as a way to boost development by now allowing companies or individuals from outside the region to settle, something that impeded its special status, but critics see a way to change the demographics of this Muslim-majority territory.
“The repeal of the special status has not changed anything, rather it has worsened the situation and Kashmir has become a playground for all regional actors,” Mahaldar told GLM, regretting that the authorities do not understand “the problem.” .
ATTACKS ON MUSLIM
Some pundits believe that Kashmiris, regardless of their religious beliefs, have become “cannon fodder” for terrorist groups, putting everyone in danger.
“Along with the pundits and the non-native (migrants), the local Muslim citizens are also being killed,” Jawahar Lal, a pandit who lives in southern Kashmir, told GLM in relation to the terrorist violence in the region and the response, sometimes disproportionate, of the security forces.
According to official data, in the last 18 months, 55 civilians have died in Indian Kashmir due to violence related to insurgent movements, twenty so far this year.
Lal believes that Muslims in general cannot be blamed for the insurgent attacks, since while Hindus like him have places to flee, “Muslims do not”, making it more difficult for them to escape from these “monsters”.
“You can only blame the majority of the population for their silence and not stepping forward. Silence is killing and destroying Kashmir,” Mahaldar said.