Jammu: There is an atmosphere of fear, panic and anger among people after a suspected terrorist shot dead a Kashmiri Pandit in a remote village of Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir last evening.
Balakrishna, commonly known as Sonu in Chhotigam village, received three bullets in his arm, leg and stomach when terrorists shot him outside his medical store. He narrowly survived the attack and is recovering at the Army Hospital in Srinagar, but the attack has terrified the entire village. Since the 1990s, when there has been a mass exodus of Pandits from Kashmir, this is the first such incident that has happened in this small village where only two Pandit families have been living with Muslims for the past 32 years.
The local Imam of the village mosque expressed grief over the incident and said that Islam does not teach us this, Islam is a religion of peace. Mir Ghulam Rasool (Imam) said, “This kind of incident has happened here for the first time. We lived here like relatives not neighbors, I do not only condemn but am very upset. Kashmir’s name was already bad, now our village has a bad name too.
This Pandit family did not migrate during the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in the nineties. They have been living happily with the local Muslims of the village for the last three decades along with other Pandit family. There is land, apple orchards and medical shop in front of his house. But what happened on Monday evening left them stunned, with family members saying for the first time in 32 years that they were feeling unsafe.
Anil Kumar, brother of Balakrishna, an eyewitness to the incident, said, “Till yesterday there was no fear but now we are feeling insecure.” He said that he never thought that this incident would happen to him. “People (Pandits) want to come but how will they survive in those conditions, the local villagers are very helpful and have been in our support since the 90s but in those circumstances they also feel. Helpless,” said Anil.
Describing the incident in a trembling voice, Anil said, “I was outside the shop, two people came on a bike, stopped near the shop and one went inside, shot him, he was hit by three bullets.”
Hundreds of villagers were trying to know his health and console him since morning at Sonu’s house. The local people do not want them to leave the village as it will widen the gap.
Balakrishna’s only friend Bilal Ahmed said that he is not only holy but the Muslims of the area are also scared. “No one knows who is behind what happened but whoever did it did bad, we don’t want to repeat what happened 30 years ago.”
The way non-locals are being attacked since Sunday evening, it has created a new challenge for the security forces. Minority security outposts are set up by the police in Chhotigam, while in many areas where minorities are residing, such posts are also being made. The second challenge for the forces is to protect the thousands of non-local laborers who have reached Kashmir and are working in various remote areas.
It is worth noting that since Sunday evening, unidentified terrorists have attacked four non-local laborers twice – two from Pathankot and two from Bihar. These incidents have raised concern among the security forces like Kashmir.