A Kashmiri Pandit leader who has been fighting for rights of Pandits in the Valley says he is facing threat for the first time in last 30 years and the police have kept him in a security enclosure for the last five days.
“I was told that I’m the next target. Why I’m a target I don’t know. I have not done anything wrong… I have never been scared in the last 30 years. But today I’m not able to live with my family. I don’t know how serious the threat is. The police told me that I’ll be targeted,” said Sanjay Tikoo, President Kashmiri Pandit Sangrash Simriti.
According to him, the killing of pharmacist ML Bindroo was the first attack on non-migrant Pandits in the last 18 years. Seventy-year-old Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent businessman and the owner of Bindroo Medicate pharmacy in Srinagar’s Iqbal Park, was shot at from point-blank range inside his pharmacy around 7 pm on October 5. Mr Bindroo had remained in Kashmir and ran his pharmacy even at the peak of terrorism in the 1990s.
Two others — a street food vendor and a cab driver — were also gunned down the same day. All three attacks took place in the span of one hour.
“The attack on Mr Bindroo is an attack on the entire Pandit community living here. It is the first attack on Pandits who didn’t migrate from Kashmir in the last 18 years. The last time, it was in 2003 when Pandits were killed at Nadimarg. It is like as if we are back to the situation in 1990,” he said.
Mr Tikoo said there are 808 Pandit families living in the Kashmir Valley and only seven families have left after the recent targeted attacks. He said he is in touch with them and exudes confidence that they will come back very soon.
He had flagged security concerns in June, but the government didn’t pay heed, he added.
“The question is that 808 Pandit families are living in 272 villages in Kashmir. They don’t have any security. The killing of Pandits is serving the political agenda of some parties,” he said.
The Pandit leader said it is for first time he had to stay away from his family and live in a security enclosure. “I want to live like a free man. I don’t want security and the CRPF protecting me. I have appealed to the majority community to come forward, raise their voices from mosques and ensure the safety of minorities,” he said.
He also criticised the government for its directions to migrant employees to get back to work or face action.
“Issuing such orders from cosy rooms is easy. But who will ensure their security? They have to go out in different areas for the duty,” he said.