Bitta Ji Bhat and his wife are still coming to terms with the death of their son. However, what breaks their hearts the most is their 4-year-old granddaughter, who is unaware of the fact that her father no longer exists.
“It brings tears to my eyes to see my granddaughter playing around, unaware that the cruel hands of death have kidnapped her papa,” Bhat said one afternoon at his modest home in Jammu, a Hindu-dominated city in India India with a majority Muslim population. controlled cashmere.
Bhat’s son, a Hindu finance officer, was fatally shot in his office in the Kashmir Valley in May. Two days later, police said they shot dead the anti-India rebels responsible in a shootout.
That hasn’t eased the deep grief felt by Bhat’s parents.
“What could be more excruciating and painful for a father like me to see his son’s body,” Bhat said. In front of him was a framed picture of his son, Rahul Bhat. He was 35.
Kashmir has witnessed a spate of targeted killings in recent months. Several Hindus, including immigrant workers from Indian states, were killed. Police say the killings – including those of Muslim village councillors, police officers and civilians – were carried out by anti-Indian rebels.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed in its entirety by both. The region’s anger at Indian rule has long simmered, and most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebels’ goal of unifying the territory either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Kashmir’s Hindu minority, known locally as the Pandits, have long worried about their place in the disputed region. Most of the estimated 200,000 of them fled Kashmir in the 1990s as an armed rebellion against Indian rule began. About 4,000 of them later returned after 2010 under a government resettlement plan that gave them jobs and housing.
However, recent killings have increased their fears. After Bhat’s killing, hundreds of them organized street protests simultaneously in the region for the first time, calling on the government to relocate them to safer areas. They accused the government of making them “scapegoats” and “cannon fodder” to project normality in the region.
Deadly attacks on the minority nonetheless continued.
On May 31, Raj Kumar dropped his wife off at the government school where she taught social studies. It was a daily routine for the teacher couple stationed in the region’s troubled Kulgam district. But minutes later, Kumar received a call from the headmaster telling him his wife had been killed.
Rajni Bala, 36, was shot dead by assailants as she walked towards the school.
Days earlier, the husband and wife had made multiple appeals to authorities to relocate them to a relatively safe area, but their requests were denied, Kumar said.
“When I heard that Rajni was gone, all I could think of was how my daughter would live without her mother,” he said.