Wednesday, January 19

Two teachers shot dead by militants at Kashmir school | cashmere


Two teachers have been shot dead by militants at a school in India’s Kashmir region, the latest in a string of civilian killings that have targeted minorities and increased tensions in the troubled state.

Three assailants entered a public school in Eidgah, in the region’s capital Srinagar, on Thursday morning and shot and killed the principal, Supinder Kour, and her colleague, Deepak Chand.

Authorities blamed the targeted killings on militants fighting the Indian government in the region, as part of a decades-long insurgency with loyalty to India’s neighbor and rival Pakistan.

Witnesses who spoke to The Guardian found that the attackers killed the two teachers after Kour was singled out as Sikh and Chand as Hindu, minority groups in the Muslim-majority region.

According to other teachers at the school, Kour was inside his office when the militants stormed the premises armed with weapons and demanded that all staff members meet in the room.

“They demanded our identities,” said one teacher, who requested anonymity. “All staff members who were Muslim were asked to leave, while the headmistress and another teacher, Deepak Chand, were asked to stay in the room.”

As they left the office, the teacher said he could hear the couple begging them not to hurt them. Witnesses said Kour and Chand were taken from the building and shot dead near the porch of the one-story school building. There were no students present at the school due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Indian government forces inside the school after the attack.
Indian government forces inside the school after the attack. Photograph: Yawar Nazir / Getty Images

Suljeet, Kour’s 13-year-old daughter, described how she was excited earlier that day after her exams went well and had spoken with her mother on the phone. Minutes after that call, Kour was shot and killed. “Why would someone kill her? She was a teacher, ”Suljeet said.

The two teachers are the latest victims in the spate of killings of civilians in the region in recent days, all attributed to militant groups. At least seven civilians have been shot dead in different attacks in the past five days, six of them in Srinagar. Four of the dead, including Kour and Chand, belonged to minority groups.

Consecutive killings have rocked the region and increased tensions between Kashmiri communities. Dilbagh Singh, the region’s police chief, called the killings an “attempt to smear local Muslims in Kashmir.”

“Killing innocent civilians, including teachers, is a movement to attack and damage the ancient tradition of harmony and community brotherhood in Kashmir,” Singh said.

The killings have also undermined promises by the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP), that their actions in Kashmir would lead to increased security in the region, which has been disputed for over a period of time. long between India and Pakistan and has been the home of a violent insurgency for more than three decades.

In 2019, in a move that angered and frustrated the citizens of Kashmir, the region was unilaterally stripped of its semi-autonomous status and placed under the full control of the Indian government. Many Kashmiris feared it would lead to demographic change in one of India’s only Muslim-majority states.

Since then, militant rebels in the region have stepped up their attacks against non-locals living and working in Kashmir, as well as against BJP leaders. About 80 civilians have been killed in such attacks since autonomy was removed from the region, including at least 28 this year alone.

It was feared that the attacks would lead to an even greater crackdown on Kashmir by the Indian government. Authorities tightened security at checkpoints throughout the capital and locals said they were being harassed. On Thursday night, government forces fired at a civilian after his vehicle reportedly failed to stop at a checkpoint.

A rebel group known as the Resistance Front (TRF), associated with one of the main Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), claimed responsibility for two of the killings of civilians last week, among which was a Hindu chemist. and a taxi driver. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the murder of the two teachers on Thursday.

Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister in the region, blamed the Modi government for the situation. He said the government’s claim to build a new Kashmir “has actually made it hell.”

Hindus and Sikhs living in Kashmir now fear they are under attack. Kour’s neighbor, Ravinder Singh, also a Sikh, said: “Now it is difficult for us to stay here. Why did they kill her? What was your fault? We need guarantees from the majority community here. “


www.theguardian.com

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