New Delhi: Over the last several weeks, security agencies had picked up phone chatter and other inputs suggesting that Hindus and non-Muslims staying in Kashmir could be targeted by terrorists. But the spate of minority killings since October 5 has still taken the security forces by surprise, ThePrint has learnt.
Adding to the concern is an internal assessment by security agencies that more attacks could take place and hence, sources in the defence and security establishment said, the focus now is to ensure that the perpetrators behind the recent killings of the two Hindus including a Kashmiri Pandit, one Sikh woman and a street vendor from Bihar, are brought to justice.
Several Kashmiri Pandit families have left the valley to safer locations and more are planning to, ThePrint has reported.
“The future of these plans to target the minorities will depend on how we respond. The response has to be quick because the intent of the terrorists seems to be gathering pace,” a source in the defence and security establishment said.
On the identity of the perpetrators, sources said that “3-4 names have come to the front” and efforts are on to track them. They added that the people who pulled the trigger are all local Kashmiris.
While the Jammu and Kashmir police have said that the perpetrators could be what is now termed as “hybrid terrorists” — those who carry out an attack and go back to their daily routine — sources said that the suspects are known to be part of a particular terror group.
Specific intel inputs came in by mid-September
Sources said that specific intelligence was received mid-September that plans are afoot to target minorities. The forces were directed to beef up presence around minority localities and establishments besides liaison with probable targets.
Police were deployed outside some Hindu business establishments while some individuals were told to take precautions.
However, despite all this, the killing of Makhan Lal Bindroo (70), owner of Bindroo Medicate Pharmacy in Srinagar’s Iqbal Park Tuesday came as a surprise.
“He was someone who enjoyed a lot of goodwill and was very helpful to all. Providing security to every individual is not possible but Bindroo was not seen as high on threat criteria. His targeted killing is a shocker,” another source said.
Sources said the targeted killing of Principal Satinder Kour and Deepak Chand of Boys Higher Secondary School in Srinagar’s Sangam Eidgah on Thursday also “came out of the blue”.
Sources added that while inputs were that terrorists are planning to target minorities, there were no specific names.
A list of probable targets was prepared by security agencies following inputs received but “it is wrong to assume that terrorists have created a target list,” sources said when
asked about rumours of a hit list doing rounds.
Asked about receipt of prior intel inputs, a senior officer on the ground said: “Tell me which month has there not been an input that minorities will be targeted? Was the intelligence specific about who will be targeted? No, it was not”.
Probable reasons said to be behind target killings
Sanjay Tickoo, president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, said the targeted killings are a fallout of the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and a sustained campaign on social media to project Kashmir was “normal”.
Talking to ThePrint, he said there is a fear among Kashmiri Pandits that history is being replayed when minorities are identified and targeted.
Tickoo said that since June this year, he had started getting inputs that “something wrong was to happen” and he had written to the office of the LG.
“It is only today that I got a call from the LG’s office. This shows how serious the administration is,” he said speaking to ThePrint on Friday.
The sources in the defence and security establishment said “the reason behind these targeted killings is to create fear among minorities as the government has been talking about bringing back Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley”.
Some of the recent steps including launching of an online portal for time-bound redressal of grievances related to Kashmir migrants’ immovable properties and recent projection of normalcy with the inflow of tourists, “may have added to the urgency on part of the terrorists to instil fear”, sources added.
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari had in an interview to news agency PTI said there is a need to ponder “whether the ground and human intelligence has failed or the enemy has become sharper and more organised”.
(edited by Paramita Ghosh)