SRINAGAR, INDIA (AFP) – Suspected anti-India militants shot dead two teachers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday (Oct 7), police said, taking to seven the number of people killed in the region in less than a week.
Anger has been simmering in the Muslim-majority area since August 2019 when New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomy and allowed all Indians to buy land in Kashmir, leaving locals fearing an influx of Hindus.
The gunmen barged into a government-run school in the Eidgah area of the main city of Srinagar, killing the pair, including the principal, on the spot. No students were present at the time.
The incident came two days after militants from a relatively new rebel group The Resistance Front (TRF) killed three civilians, including a prominent pharmacist, in three separate street shootings within 90 minutes.
The killings drew wide condemnation from politicians and on social media both within Kashmir and outside.
A statement attributed to the militant group issued Wednesday accused the slain men of collaborating with Indian security forces and said the pharmacist was a local ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The militaristic Hindu nationalist RSS is the parent organisation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The veracity of the statement, issued only in English, could not be independently verified.
On Saturday two civilians were shot dead in a similar fashion in Srinagar, sending alarm bells ringing in the security establishment. Police chief Dilbag Singh said the assailants would be caught soon.
“Killing innocent civilians including teachers is a move to attack and damage the age-old tradition of communal harmony and brotherhood in Kashmir,” Singh told reporters at the school.
Officials say 25 people including workers with pro-India political parties have been killed by suspected rebels this year so far.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, and both claim the Himalayan region in full. Rebel groups have fought Indian soldiers since 1989, demanding independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.
In recent months the local government headed by a lieutenant governor appointed by New Delhi has issued orders asking thousands of teachers to organise events around the Indian flag with students singing the national anthem.
This has been seen by many as an attempt to root out the anti-India sentiment that runs deep in the region.