Three civilian killings in less than three hours of each other in Kashmir on Tuesday cannot be dismissed as yet ‘another act of frustration by the terrorists’.
These are message killings whose import on the developing security and political situation in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be wished away.
Charity must begin at home. So must the safety of innocent citizens in Kashmir before we intend to bring back thousands of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced out of their homes nearly 31 years ago through terror acts like those of Tuesday.
Makhan Lal Bindroo was a respected and trusted man for all those who bought medicines from his shop, ‘Bindroo Madicate’ near the Iqbal Park in Srinagar city.
When the majority of Bindroo’s community including his relatives and friends migrated out of the valley in early 1990s, Bindroo stood his ground.
He continued to sell medicines at his shop which was then located at the top end of the Hari Singh High street in Srinagar.
There was a security force bunker some distance away from Bindroo’s shop. Militants hurled grenades and fired at the bunker more than a dozen times during militancy.
Bindroo remained undeterred. He was a common Kashmiri who was living a normal life without messing around with anything else.
Long years of having lived and survived normally, added to Bindroo’s confidence that he had nothing to fear.
He shifted his business to a bigger shop outside the Iqbal Park in Srinagar. His wife started assisting him during peak hours to dispense medicine to the needy.
His doctor son had also set up a clinic in the first floor of the same shop where he treated patients.
It was a rather dull, sleepy autumn Tuesday evening when Bindroo was behind his counter with hardly a customer around.
Terrorists entered the shop and fired at him from close range.
Doctors at the hospital said he had sustained four critical bullet wounds and had died en route to the hospital.
Bindroo’s murder is no ordinary revenge killing.
This brazen act of terrorism has occurred at a time Awhen the government of India has announced an ambitious plan to retrieve the properties of Kashmiri Pandits who had sold these properties in distress while fleeing the Valley.
For the time during the last 30 years something tangible was being done to bring back the migrant Pandits to the Valley.
By murdering an innocent Kashmiri Pandit, who had neither migrated nor cast his lot with thousands of his community members, terrorists intended to send a powerful message to the community.
How the government restores an already shaken confidence of the migrant community will have to be watched.
The second civilian killing on Tuesday was of a street vendor belonging to Bihar. The poor fellow sold Bhelpuri by the roadside in the Lal Bazar area of Srinagar.
He was killed by the terrorists to assert their nefarious design of not allowing outsiders to settle in Kashmir after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A.
The third civilian killing happened in north Kashmir Bandipora district.
Muhammad Shafi Lone of Shah Mohalla was killed by the terrorists within less than three hours of Bindroo’s murder.
Lone was a taxi driver who had recently been chosen as the president of Sumo taxi drivers union.
Rumours in the area said some years back there had been an encounter at Lone’s home in which some terrorists were killed.
Rumours said the terrorists suspected Lone to have tipped off the security forces about the presence of the terrorists.
Whether the rumour is credible or not, there is hardly any doubt about why the terrorist killed Lone.
Killing on mere suspicion has been the hallmark of terrorist killings in Kashmir.
In the background of these message killings, it is clear that unless the security of those living in the Valley is ensured, trying to woo the Kashmiri Pandit migrants back would be asking for too much.