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Amid India's claims of normalcy, targeted killings soar in Kashmir

Shahana Butt

Press TV, Indian-Controlled Kashmir

During the past week, Kashmir witnessed two targeted killings: a non-local bank manager from the western Indian state of Rajasthan and a Kashmiri pandit school teacher. Fear has once again gripped the troubled valley region and local minority Hindus known as Kashmir Pandits fear a repeat of the 1990s scenario.

At that time, full-blown insurgency against Indian rule had begun in Kashmir and the Muslim majority population was up in arms against the Indian rule, seeking an independent Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.

Scores of families who had returned to Kashmir valley after a relief and rehabilitation package was announced by the Indian prime minister in 2010 are once again seeking an exit from the trouble-torn valley and accuse the government of faking normalcy in Kashmir.

Since the abrogation of Kashmir's semi-autonomous status in August 2019, there has been a sharp rise in attacks against Kashmiri pandits and nonlocals. Anti-India militia in Kashmir see the pundits, non-locals and even the local Muslims employed in the government sectors, like police and other departments, as collaborators of the Indian regime in this Muslim-majority region.

Since the beginning of the year 2022, a total of 16 targeted killings occurred in Kashmir; 12 of which targeted Muslims. In Muslim-majority Kashmir, for centuries Hindus and Muslims have lived side by side in harmony. However, the political turmoil in the region in the early 1990s forced more than 250,000 Kashmiri Hindus to flee.

According to government estimates, a total of 209 Kashmiri Hindus were killed between 1989 to 2008 and this forced their mass migration from the valley region. Kashmiri Muslims support the return of Hindus to the valley, but oppose the idea of separate settlements being given to them.

Since Kashmir's special status was eroded in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP government has implemented new laws and policies that local Muslims say are aimed at changing the demographics of the region. Kashmir valley is the world's largest militarized zone with estimates saying more than half a million Indian soldiers are stationed in the valley.

After the fresh spate of violence, New Delhi has ordered reinforcement ahead of the annual Hindu pilgrimage. Suspecting more targeted attacks, security has been beefed up in and around Kashmir.

Amid mounting tensions, the Indian administration has denied the relocation demand of Kashmiri Hindus. However, fearing a repeat of the 1990s, many have already started to flee the region, saying their lives matter and no politicking in the name of Kashmir pandits.

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