A woman principal and a teacher were shot dead at point blank range inside a government school in the heart of the city on Thursday, taking to seven the number of civilians killed by militants in Kashmir Valley in five days. Of the seven, four were from the minority community and six of the deaths took place in Srinagar, the main urban centre of the Valley.
Supinder Kaur, the principal of the Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Eidgah in downtown Srinagar, and Deepak Chand, were gunned down around 11.15 am just when school had settled down to another day of online classes. There were no students in school.
Meanwhile, All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) on Thursday condemned the killing of two teachers by militants and urged the government employees from the Sikh community to boycott work till their safety is ensured.
“APSCC strongly condemns the killing of two government teachers Supinder Kaur and Deepak Chand at Eidgah in downtown Srinagar on Thursday,” APSCC chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina said in a statement.
He said the killings are part of a conspiracy to create a wedge among the majority and minority communities living in the Kashmir Valley. Raina asked people to be vigilant about the elements who want to exploit the situation for their own ulterior political motives.
“The Sikh youth who are working in different government departments should boycott their duties and sit at their homes as long as their security is not ensured by the government,” he said.
Raina asked members of the majority Muslim community to intervene and secure the lives of the minority community members.
As news of the deaths spread and a kind of fear settled over the city and parts of the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said the targeted killing of civilians, particularly minorities, in Kashmir is aimed at creating an atmosphere of fear and damaging age-old communal harmony. “Darindigi, vaishat aur daishat ka mel (This is about barbarism and terror),” Singh told reporters at the school, a sprawling complex of vast grounds and three single-storey buildings but no CCTV.
Those who are targeting humanity, brotherhood and local ethos and values will be unmasked soon, Singh said. He described the back-to-back attacks as an attempt to defame the Muslim community of Kashmir and alleged that terrorists are “acting on the directions of Pakistan” to put hurdles in the way of peace in the Valley.
Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to express shock. “Shocking news coming in again from Srinagar. Another set of targeted killings, this time of two teachers in a Govt school in Idgah area of the city. 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 (sic),” he tweeted.
Shocking news coming in again from Srinagar. Another set of targeted killings, this time of two teachers in a Govt school in Idgah area of the city. 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.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 7, 2021
On October 6, criticising the BJP government, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti had written on social media, “With the recent spate of civilian killings in Kashmir GOIs fake narrative of normalcy lies in tatters. An utterly desensitised govt that has devalued human lives & pushed J&K into further peril & chaos by its ruthless policies of collective punishment all in the garb of security (sic).”
Supinder Kaur, a Srinagar-based Sikh, and Chand, a Hindu from Jammu, were killed two days after The Resistance Force, a shadow outfit of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, claimed responsibility for the deaths of three people on Tuesday.
Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit and owner of Srinagar’s most famous pharmacy, was shot dead at his shop that evening. Minutes later, a ‘chaat’ vendor, Virendra Paswan from Bihar, was gunned elsewhere in the city. Almost simultaneously, another civilian, Mohammad Shafi Lone, was killed at Naidkhai in Bandipora.
Three days before that, militants shot dead Majid Ahmad Gojri, at Srinagar’s Karan Nagar locality. Later that Saturday night, they gunned down Mohammad Shafi Dar at Batmaloo.
For many people in the Valley, the spate of civilian killings – the worst since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was revoked in August 2019 – recalled the 1990s when terrorists would pick and choose their targets at whim. This led to the exodus of minorities, particularly Kashmiri Pandits, from the Valley.
Scared of being identified or being caught on camera, some teachers murmured that they were unaware of what happened and rushed out of their classroom only after hearing gunshots. They refused to give their names, when questioned by the media, and drifted away when questioned further. The area near the school was cordoned off.
“I wonder where we are heading,” asked a teacher in hushed tones. That was the answer many were seeking.
(With PTI inputs)