A poor street vendor, Virendra Paswan, from Bihar father of five daughters and two sons, who had come to Kashmir to eke out his living by selling water bucks (gol-guppas) fell to the bullets of The Resistance Front (TRF) terrorists at Lal Bazar in Srinagar outskirts last week.
After killing the poor soul, the TRF claimed responsibility for the attack and bragged about it on social media. By killing the unarmed vendor, the terrorists sponsored by Pakistan, tried to send a message that they can kill anyone only for the reason that he or she belongs to a minority community. One cannot understand how a poor vendor, who used to earn a few hundred rupees in a day could have posed a threat to Pakistan and the ultras backed by it. By killing the poor daily wager the terrorists wanted to terrorize the non-locals in Kashmir so that they would leave the Valley.
After Paswan was killed, Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, said that he would personally travel to Bhagalpur, Bihar, to meet the family of the deceased. “His family deserves every last bit of our empathy, moral support and affection. We mourn his tragic demise,” Mattu said in a tweet. Other mainstream politicians in Kashmir also condemned his killing and termed it as an act of senseless violence.
On October 5 this year, Kashmir witnessed three targeted civilian killings in 90 minutes. Besides Paswan, owner of the city’s most famous pharmacy, Makhan Lal Bindroo, and President of the local taxi stand Mohammad Shafi Lone were shot dead on that fateful evening. The very next day, three ultras entered a Government School in Srinagar’s old city and killed a female principal, Supinder Kour, of AlochiBagh in Srinagar and her colleague, Deepak Chand of Jammu. They were segregated from the members of the majority community and then killed in cold blood. Out of the five people killed, only Paswan was from Bihar, all others were locals.
The ground to target minorities started building up soon after August 5, 2019, when the Centre announced its decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two union territories, a propaganda was launched from the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) that India wants to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir by settling outsiders in the Union Territory.
After the domicile law was announced in J&K and people started applying for the domicile certificates, terrorists struck in the sleepy market of Sarai Bala in Srinagar on December 31, 2020. They killed Satpal Nischal, a jeweller from Punjab, who had stayed in Kashmir for the past 50 years. A few weeks before he was killed, Nischal had obtained a domicile certificate that allowed people who have lived in J&K for more than 15 years the right to acquire immovable property.
Nischal became the first victim of TRF. It claimed responsibility for the killing, saying he was part of a “settler project” and that anyone who obtains domicile “will be treated as occupiers”. But the poor street vendor, Paswan had neither acquired a domicile certificate, nor was he rich enough to buy an immovable property in J&K.
Like Paswan, many Kashmiris go to different parts of the country in winter to eke out a living, but they are never considered as a part of the settlers’ plan. They visit other states to feed their families and Paswan was doing the same. He would have returned to Bihar within a month as the winter is about to begin in Kashmir. However, destiny had something else in store for him. He was cremated at Karan Nagar cremation grounds in Srinagar on October 7 where his brother performed his last rites. His brother said that he couldn’t take his body to Bihar as he didn’t have that much money. J&K Government provided Rs 1.25 lakhs ex-gratia relief to Paswan’s family members.
After Nischal’s killing, terrorists struck again in February 2021, when envoys from 23 countries were visiting Kashmir. They attacked the son of the owner of a famous eatery, Krishna Dhaba, at Sonawar in uptown Srinagar. Aakash Mehra (22), son of Ramesh Kumar Mehra, was fired upon by the gunmen when he was busy with his work. He succumbed to his injuries nearly a fortnight after being shot by the ultras. Mehra was a resident of Janipur, Jammu, and had spent his entire life in Kashmir. He was no outsider. Despite that he was killed at the instructions of the terrorist handlers sitting across the LoC.
People of Kashmir have understood the nefarious designs of Pakistan but are unable to muster courage to call spade a spade as they fear reprisal. The minorities are being targeted in Kashmir to recreate a situation like 1990, when no tourists used to visit the Valley and the development had taken backstage. People of Kashmir will have to rise and condemn the killings of the members of minority communities. If they fail to do so, they will be doing a big disservice to Kashmir and their generation next.
After the revocation of J&K’s special status a narrative is being built intelligently to seek public validation of the acts of violence against anyone who seeks to endorse the status-quo. This who includes the poor gol-guppa seller, a pharmacist like Makhan lal Bindroo, who didn’t leave Kashmir in 1990 and served the people, Supinder Kaur, a principal of government school who had adopted a Muslim orphan girl, and others who don’t subscribe to the views of extremists and hardliners and want to be a part of progressive Jammu and Kashmir.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline and change of ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’)