Srinagar: The four youngsters casually walked through the gates of the Boys Higher Secondary School in Srinagar’s Sangam Eidgah locality at around 11 am Thursday, and within 15 minutes left behind shock, disbelief and a fear psychosis that has led several of the Kashmiri Pandit community to leave their homeland.
ThePrint visited the school Friday where principal Satinder Kour and teacher Deepak Chand were shot dead after being singled out, a reminder of the situation in Kashmir during 1990 when Kashmiri Pandits were targeted.
The floor tiles outside the principal’s room still have blood stains, despite being washed down by a policeman a day earlier, and the walls have bullet marks showing the mayhem that was unleashed in the school.
The silence that engulfs the school now, which is directly opposite the burial ground, breaks only with the sound of azaan from the local mosque.
Situated on the outskirts of the city and away from the hustle and bustle of Srinagar, the dilapidated school building blends in right with its rural environment.
Forced out, identified and shot dead
Locals and the lone caretaker at the school present said the four terrorists first went to the principal’s room, a large carpeted area with just a wooden table and chair, and
forced her out.
Two of the men then went to another building within the premises where the teachers were and forced them out too.
They were asked to show identity papers by the terrorists who were carrying pistols and Chand, a Hindu, was picked from the crowd.
The rest of the teachers were asked to go to another room and remain there while Chand was taken to the principal’s room where Kour was standing.
The terrorists had also collected the mobile phones of all teachers and threw them outside.
The four men had a few seconds of conversation with Kour and Chand and then the silence was broken by sounds of five gunshots.
Three shots were directed at Kour and two that hit Chand, who died on the spot. Kour fell a few steps away from the spot where Chand was.
The rest of the staff remained inside with no one venturing out to see what happened.
The four terrorists, only two of whom had pistols, then ran and jumped over the school walls and melted into the rural landscape.
Such was the fear that the staff remained inside the room even as some locals came running in after hearing the gunshots. Only when several locals had gathered, the staff came out to see what had happened, the locals said.
It was the locals who arranged for a vehicle and took Kour, who was still alive and battling for her life, to the hospital.
None of the teachers were present Friday when ThePrint visited.
The Resistance Front, a front for the Pakistan based Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT), has claimed responsibility for the killing, calling both “stooges” in a statement that was released by it after the incident.
Security sources pointed out that the fact that they came to this particular school and asked for identity papers reveals that while they knew a Sikh and Hindu were working there, their faces were not known.
Kour spent her own money to support students in need
The caretaker at the school remembered the principal as a warm woman.
“She was a very compassionate woman. She never discriminated and even spent money from her own salary to help the poor Muslim kids,” the caretaker said as he broke down talking about Kour.
He is shocked that Kour was targeted and said the rumour has it that she tried to protect Chand and hence was shot at.
None of the staff or the caretaker, however, had actually seen the killing.
“It does not matter if she was shot for trying to save Chand or not. Since no one was actually there to witness it, this is just talk. The fact is that both were targeted and shot dead,” a senior source in the defence and security establishment said when asked if rumours were true.
ThePrint also visited Allaucha Bagh in Srinagar where Kour lived with her two children and husband, who works with a bank, and her mother-in-law. This locality has a mix of Sikhs and Muslims.
“She was a very pious lady. Even If I met her four times in a day, she would offer Salaam and talk,” her neighbor Bilal Ahmed said.
He said that the Sikhs and the Muslims have been living peacefully together all these years.
“I really don’t know why this kind lady was targeted,” he said, expressing his shock.
Shavkat Ahmed, whose family was very close to Kour, said that when he was down with Covid, she came to the window of his house and threw in a piece of cloth with some money in it to help his family.
“She was such a compassionate lady. She was even sponsoring the education and personal expenses of a Muslim girl who had lost her parents,” he said.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)