Suspected rebels shot dead a bank manager on Thursday in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said, the seventh in a spate of targeted killings in the disputed territory.
For more than three decades, rebel groups have fought half a million Indian soldiers deployed in the Muslim-majority territory, demanding independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan.
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An attacker shot the Hindu bank employee, who moved from the western state of Rajasthan a week earlier, in his office with a pistol in the Kulgam area, a police officer told AFP.
“#Injured bank employee namely Vijay Kumar #succumbed to his injuries at hospital,” police said on Twitter.
On Tuesday a Hindu female schoolteacher was also shot dead by suspected anti-India militants in the same area.
Last week suspected militants also shot dead three off-duty policemen and a television actress, all Muslims, in three separate assassination-style attacks.
Days before that, a Hindu government employee was shot dead inside his office by gunmen who police said belonged to Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The Resistance Front (TRF) rebel group claimed responsibility for Kumar’s death on its Telegram channel, though it later deleted the post. The claim could not be independently verified.
Last year TRF claimed responsibility for a string of other killings including of policemen, minority Hindus and a female Sikh teacher, accusing them of working for the security forces.
Police later said all militants responsible for the killings were “eliminated.”
The killings evoked widespread condemnation from both pro-India politicians and separatist groups.
The relatively new TRF surfaced after August 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government dissolved the partial autonomy of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The change allowed all Indians for the first time to buy land in the territory and extended to them domicile rights earlier reserved for its permanent residents.
Tension has run high since then, with many accusing New Delhi of “settler colonialism” aimed at effecting a demographic change in the highly militarized territory.
Rattled by the recent spate of assassinations, scores of Hindu families, including those from the minority Kashmiri Pandit communities, have begun fleeing Kashmir in recent days. More than 100 Hindu families have left after the schoolteacher’s killing, a community leader said on Wednesday.
A rebellion by Muslim militants in 1989 led to some 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits fleeing the Kashmir valley because of killings of Hindus and attacks on their homes.
But many, like Sanjay Kaul, were lured back to Kashmir by the previous federal administration with the promise of government jobs and better security.
“After recent killings we are now scared and fear for our lives,” said Kaul, a schoolteacher who left a government-built Kashmiri Pandit colony along with his family on Wednesday.
“We demand re-location outside Kashmir till the situation normalizes.”
Indian-administered Kashmir is also claimed by Pakistan, which controls part of the region.
The conflict over the previous three decades has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and rebels dead.
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