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Kashmiri Hindus protest in streets to demand justice after man’s killing

By By Aijaz Hussain, Associated Press
Meenakshi mourns during the cremation of her husaband Rahul Bhat, a government employee killed on Thursday, in Jammu, India (Channi Anand/AP)

Hindus in India-controlled Kashmir have staged protests a day after assailants shot and killed a government employee from the minority community.

Police blamed anti-India rebels for the killing of Rahul Bhat inside an office complex in Chadoora town on Thursday.

Scores of the region’s minority Hindus, locally known as Pandits, took to the streets in at least three places and blocked roads to demand that Mr Bhat’s killers be brought to justice.

They chanted slogans against the government and India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, blaming them for inaction.

A child consoles the father of Rahul Bhat (Channi Anand/AP)

It was the first time that Pandits, an estimated 200,000 of whom fled Kashmir after an anti-India rebellion erupted in 1989, simultaneously organised street protests at several places in the Muslim-majority region.

Dozens scuffled with government forces in at least one location.

Police used tear gas and batons in the Budgam area, where Mr Bhat lived in a protected rehabilitation settlement, to stop protesters from marching to a nearby airport road.

Mr Bhat was a clerk at a revenue office in Chadoora and was among the first batch of nearly 4,000 Hindu employees who had returned to the region after 2010 as part of a government resettlement plan that provided them with jobs and housing.

Police said two militants entered Mr Bhat’s office and fired at him.

He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Kashmiri Hindus, known as “pandits,” block a road during a protest against the killing of Rahul Bhat (Dar Yasin/AP)

Last year, suspected rebels killed several members of minority Hindu and Sikh communities, including 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 identified with India’s rule over 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 in order to cast Kashmir’s struggle as Islamic extremism.

A woman shouts slogans as she along with others block the road during a protest (Dar Yasin/AP)

Those tensions were renewed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, 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 a months-long lockdown and communication blockade.

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Dive Deeper:
Kashmiri Hindus protest killing of minority community member
Hindus in Indian-controlled Kashmir have staged protests a day after assailants shot and killed a government employee from the minority…
Clashes in Indian Kashmir after death of minority Hindu
Srinagar (India) (AFP) - Police fired tear gas and used batons Friday in Indian-administered Kashmir to break up a protest…
Slain Kashmiri Pandit cremated in Jammu amid protests by community members
Rahul Bhat was gunned down by terrorists inside the Tehsil office in Chadoora town on Thursday
J&K DGP says efforts on to create secure environment for everyone
Local man Lateef Rather said to be main suspect in killing of a Kashmiri Pandit in Budgam
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Point-blank murder of Pandit in his office chair rattles confidence of community living in Valley
After 12 years, 75 Pandit families hit the streets expressing deep sense of fear and despair about an uncertain future.
Kashmiri Pandit shot dead in J&K
Kashmir Tigers, a little known outfit, has claimed responsibility for the attack
Get all your news in one place