Non-Muslim Kashmiris seek to build civil movement against radicalisation in Valley

The All-India Kashmiri Samaj will reach out to civil society organisations to create a conducive atmosphere of communal harmony in the Valley which has seen selective killings over the past few months

As many as 14 Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus have been killed in the Valley since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. File photo: PTI

The All-India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS), it has been reported, will reach out to civil societies of Kashmir in a bid to build a societal resistance against the recent spurt in killings of minority Hindus in the Valley.

Rahul Bhat, a 35-year-old Kashmiri Pandit employed at the Revenue department, was killed at his Budgam office by two pistol wielding terrorists on Thursday, triggering fears that prompted the PM package employees of the Union Territory to threaten mass resignation. Bhat was the latest victim of the ongoing selective killings in the Union territory.

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As many as 14 Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus have been killed in the Valley since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, according to data presented by the Union Home Ministry in the Raja Sabha last month.

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‘TRF behind killings’

AIKS president Ramesh Raina said the security situation in the valley witnessed a massive deterioration in the past six months in particular after the emergence of shadowy homegrown militant groups such as The Resistance Front (TRF), an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The TRF was formed after the scrapping of the Article 370 in August 2019.

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Unlike other terrorist groups spawned by Pakistan’s deep state, the nomenclature of the TRF is deliberately kept non-Arabic to create an impression that it is a non-jihadi outfit formed to uphold the interest of Kashmir, which many in the Valley feel has been undermined by the stripping of its special category status, said experts.

The outfit is tasked to carry out targeted killings of Hindu minorities and non-locals.

The killings have cast a shadow on the tourism industry in the Valley, which was seeing a boom after years. In April, nearly 2.8 lakh tourists visited the Valley, the highest for April in three decades, according to official estimates. The first week of May alone saw an inflow of 33,000 tourists. Official data reveal that 6.6 lakh tourists visited Kashmir last year, bringing the hotel industry back to life after it remained shut in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, followed by the pandemic.

‘Need to deradicalise’

Raina said that to improve the situation in the Valley the government must “evolve a programme of deradicalisation” to scuttle the growing influence of Wahhabism, a dogmatic exclusionary form of Islam.

The deradicalisation process should involve the local population and civil society institutions of Kashmir, he said over phone. “The majority community in the Valley should be made aware of the pitfall of such radicalisation and its wider ramification so that they raise the voice against it,” Raina said.

He said, on its part, the AIKS will also try to reach out to civil society organisations to create a conducive atmosphere of communal harmony. “There are many moderate Muslims individuals and groups. Many are working on the ground. But unfortunately, they also run the risk of being physically harmed if they raise voice (against radicalisation). So, we have to be extremely cautious in our outreach,” he added.

The AIKS and other organisations of the Kashmiri Pandits will be meeting on Sunday to take stock of the situation in the valley.  “This time the very important thing for us is to ensure security of the residual Kashmiri Pandits in the valley and also the PM package employees,” the AIKS president said.

The PM package scheme

In 2009, during the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh, a comprehensive package of Rs 1,618.40 crore was given for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. Under the package, the then UPA government led by the Congress announced recruitment of 3,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandit youth in various government departments the Valley.

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The BJP-led NDA government headed by Narendra Modi introduced a similar package in 2015, announcing 3,000 additional state government jobs for the Kashmiri migrants. Bhatt, who was killed on Thursday, was one of the 6,000 youths recruited under the PM package scheme.

His killing has sparked fear among these employees who are now demanding secure posting outside the Valley.

All-PM Package Employees Forum sent an en masse resignation letter of over 350 PM package employees to J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on May 13, a day after the killing of Bhat. A copy was also marked to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Union home ministry.

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