A suspected militant attack killed two Bihari labourers and injured a third victim in Kulgam on Sunday evening, escalating what has emerged as the biggest challenge to the security establishment here since the 2019 revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The killings, coming a day after a Bihari golgappa vendor and a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh were killed in two attacks in the Valley, have terrorised the thousands of non-local people in Kashmir, forcing most of them off the streets.
About a dozen civilians, seven of them non-Muslim, have been killed since October 1 in the deadliest spurt in violence the Valley has witnessed in years. Five of the dead were migrant workers.
One of the 12 civilians killed was a prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman, Makhan Lal Bindroo.
Dozens of Pandits have fled the Valley following these killings, prompting many to compare the situation with 1990 when thousands of Pandits had migrated following the outbreak of militancy.
Thousands of security force personnel are guarding the streets but the attacks are showing no sign of abating.
Officials said militants fired indiscriminately on migrant labourers in the Wanpoh area of Kulgam, killing two Biharis and injuring a third labourer. Police and security forces have cordoned the area off to hunt for the assailants.
Mohammed Zulfiqar, an outstation labourer, said the workers were sitting in their rented rooms in a tenement when they were shot at by gunmen.
Zulfiqar told reporters as he accompanied an injured labourer to hospital: “We were sitting inside rooms. They came and shot at three people.”
Police sources identified the two dead labourers as Raja Reshi Dev and Joginder Reshi Dev, both from Bihar.
On Saturday evening, militants had killed Arvind Kumar Sah, a golgappa seller from Bihar, and Sageer Ahmad, a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh, in back-to-back attacks in Srinagar and Pulwama.
Of the 12 civilians killed in October, 11 are believed to have been slain by militants and one by the security forces. Nine soldiers and 13 militants have been killed during the month.
These nine soldiers, among them two junior commissioned officers, died during a prolonged gunfight with militants in Jammu’s Pir Panjal region that entered its seventh day on Sunday.
Former chief minister and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah on Sunday claimed that Kashmiris were not involved in the recent killings of civilians.
He alleged these attacks reflected a conspiracy to defame Kashmiris and disrupt the “peaceful atmosphere” in the Union Territory.
“These killings are unfortunate and were done under a conspiracy. Kashmiris are not involved in these killings. It is an attempt to defame Kashmiris,” Farooq told reporters.
The attacks on non-Kashmiris began soon after Delhi scrapped the state’s special status, but they have risen sharply this month.
Many in Kashmir believe that Article 370 was diluted to change the region’s Muslim-majority character, and the attacks appear to be a desperate militant effort to force non-Kashmiris out.