In Indian-administered Kashmir, there has been a rise in the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits. Hindu minorities from other states of India living in Kashmir have also been targeted allegedly by militants.
The targeted killings have increased after the BJP-led government revoked the special autonomy of the region. The government subsequently changed state-subject laws of the state, giving rise to fears of demographic change. The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (now a Union Territory) was the only Muslim-majority state of India.
Abrogation of Article 370
The Indian government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019. The abrogation revoked the special autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The move was followed by the enforcement of draconian laws, communication blockade, arrests of thousands of locals, and a total disempowerment of Kashmiris. The Indian government claimed that this step was bound to bring about not just the economic development in J&K but will also put an end to the decades-old violence in the valley. It was a masterstroke by the BJP-led government to permanently resolve the Kashmir issue. Three years down the line there still has been no elected government.
Despite frequent encounters and gunfights by the Indian army with the alleged militants, targetted killings have increased to provocative and dangerous levels. According to data provided by the Indian government, since Article 370 was repealed in Jammu and Kashmir, 439 militants, 109 security officers, and a total of 98 civilians, 84 of whom were Muslims, have been killed.
Recent Killings of Kashmiri Pandits
Three Hindus were killed between August and December 2019. In 2020, two persons including a Kashmiri Pandit (Pandits are Kashmiri Hindus) were killed. In 2021, nine people were killed, including three Kashmiri Pandits and six Indian Hindus. Minister of State (MoS) for Home Nityanand Rai stated in the Indian parliament that the killing of minorities in the Kashmir valley has peaked since the abrogation of Article 370: “Four Kashmiri Pandits were killed by terrorists in J&K since 2019, while 10 other Hindus were also killed by the militants during this period,” Rai said. The fact that an Indian minister had to acknowledge in the Indian parliament the deteriorating security condition in Kashmir makes an unclouded judgment on the failure of the Indian State’s policies in the valley, with the abrogation of Article 370 turning things from bad to worse.
In the lead-up to the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, the Indian government instead of apprehending this utter fiasco issued a celebratory 76-page booklet titled “Jammu and Kashmir marching to a new era” which revealed that the administration had issued 41,05 lakh domicile certificates in J&K.
According to the booklet, J&K is now subject to all 890 central laws. While 130 state laws were modified and applied in J&K, 205 state laws from J&K were completely invalidated. The adoption of the domicile laws immediately sparked concerns in the former state of J&K, where people believe that by permitting non-residents to get domiciles, the Indian State is meddling with the laws and aiming to impose a demographic change in the now-turned Union Territory of J&K. As predicted by many people, these forcefully implemented laws triggered a new impetus to violence in Kashmir which started when an Indian jeweler was shot dead by unidentified assailants over possessing a domicile certificate. This has been followed by other incidents of killings of Hindu minorities, both Kashmiri Pandits, and Indian Hindus. The Indian state and media have ascribed these killings to Kashmiri militants.
The Rise of a Faceless Militancy in Kashmir
A group going by the name of “The Resistance Front” (TRF) has taken responsibility for the majority of these assaults against members of minorities. It’s an armed group that first appeared in the news in 2019. According to the police authorities, this organization is a branch of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has its base in Pakistan. However, there is no authentic information about the roots of this organization and who are the people that truly fund and run it. While the police have not been able to lawfully prove the perpetrators to be “suspected militants”, the Indian state through its media has already passed on a decree against the Muslim community without proof. In the mainstream Indian media, the killings are either being ascribed to “Islamist terrorists” or the Kashmiri Muslims.
Also, read The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
The Indian media has been spreading propaganda against the Kashmiri Muslims without any proof assuming that the minority killings are a de facto result of the intolerance of Muslims. However, there is no certain proof of who is running this faceless militancy in Kashmir.
Attempts to Change Kashmir’s Demography
The skepticism and paranoia created by the Indian state and their media around the image of Kashmiri Muslims are now being used by the Indian state to set into motion their ulterior motives of changing the demography of Kashmir.
There were targeted killings of Hindu minorities in the early 1990s by armed groups. These killings were followed by the migration of Kashmiri Pandits outside of the valley.
In 2008 and 2015, the Indian government devised policies for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. Pandits were brought back to Kashmir under special employment packages. There were attempts by the Indian government to settle Kashmiri Pandits in separate colonies. Kashmiri Muslims resisted this “Israeli model” of settlements fearing that non-state subjects would be settled in these colonies. As a result, Kashmiri Pandits who returned to the valley were kept in gated communities at different locations in Kashmir. These gated communities were secured by police and paramilitary forces.
The attempt at the construction of separate colonies for the Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus is a deliberate step toward creating a communal divide on a social and geographical basis quite literally. The government wants to use the security threat to minority Kashmiri Pandits as a reason to build separate colonies for them where no Kashmiri Muslims will be allowed. As has been highlighted by Kashmiri Muslims, the construction of separate colonies on the basis of religion by the Indian State has a jarring resemblance to the Israeli model of occupation.
Apart from this, the Indian army is already occupying thousands of acres of land in Kashmir. Recently, the BJP-led government introduced a new law that allows the Indian army to declare any area a “strategic area” and occupy it without any hindrance. In fact, in January this year about 70 hectares of land were declared “strategic areas” for the army to take control of. Apart from the construction of separate colonies for Kashmiri Hindus and Indian Hindu Employees in Kashmir, the Indian State is planning to construct separate colonies called “Sainik colonies” for retired Indian army officials.
Under the pretext of protecting minorities in Kashmir, the Indian government has been exploiting the killings of Kashmiri Pandits. The current BJP-led government as well as the previous Congress-led government have used the bloodshed of Kashmiri Pandits to enforce a demographic change in Kashmir.