SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Assailants fatally shot a Hindu bank manager in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Thursday, said police, who blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the attack.
Police described the shooting in southern Kulgam district as a “terror incident” and launched a search operation for the attackers. The bank manager, Vijay Kumar from India’s Rajasthan state, died at a hospital following the shooting.
The Muslim-majority region has witnessed a spate of targeted killings in recent months. On Tuesday, suspected militants, also in Kulgam, shot and killed a Hindu schoolteacher, Rajini Bala.
After that killing, Hindu government employees staged protests in several areas, demanding the government relocate them from Kashmir to safer areas in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.
Hundreds of Hindus who had returned to the region after 2010 as part of a government resettlement plan that provided them with jobs and housing fled the Kashmir Valley after the killing of Bala, according to Kashmiri Hindu activists. Some 4,000 Kashmiri Hindus, who are locally known as Pandits, have been recruited for government jobs under the program.
Those employees have been on a strike since May 13 after a Hindu revenue clerk was killed inside an office complex in Chadoora town.
In the aftermath of the clerk’s killing, hundreds of Pandits — an estimated 200,000 of whom fled Kashmir after an anti-India rebellion erupted in 1989 — organized for the first time simultaneous street protests at several locations in the region demanding better security.
Last year, suspected rebels killed a minority Sikh and several Hindus, including immigrant workers from Indian states, in a wave of targeted shootings in the region.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim it in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris in the Indian-controlled portion support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
When Kashmir turned into a battleground in the 1990s, attacks and threats by militants led to the departure of most Kashmiri Hindus, who supported India’s rule, with many believing that the rebellion was also aimed at wiping them out.
Most of the region’s Muslims, long resentful of Indian rule, deny that Hindus were systematically targeted, and say India helped them move out or allowed their flight in order to cast Kashmir’s struggle as Islamic extremism.
Those tensions were renewed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 amid a sharp rise in communalism in India, and the Indian government pursued a plan to house returning migrant Kashmiri Hindus in new townships.
Muslim leaders described such plans as a conspiracy to create communal division by separating the population along religious lines, particularly after India stripped the region’s semi-autonomy in 2019 and removed inherited protections on land and jobs amid fears of demographic change.
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