Security forces have detained over 700 people in Jammu and Kashmir in response to the killing of seven civilians, including those from the Kashmiri Pandit, Sikh and Muslim communities, in six days.
Several of those detained are believed to have links to the banned Jamaat-e-Islami or are suspected overground workers (OGW), and come from Srinagar, Budgam or other areas in southern Kashmir.
A senior police officer told NDTV they had been detained to “break the chain of attacks in the (Kashmir) Valley”. The officer also said the attacks may have been fuelled by an increase in radicalism following the Taliban’s rise to power, and that the killers were going after “easy” targets.
The murders have sparked outrage in the already tense Kashmir Valley, with opposition leaders fiercely critical of the administrations’ apparent inability to stop the attacks and locals living in fear. Dozens of Kashmiri Pandit families living in transit camps have already fled the Valley.
The most recent deaths were of two government schoolteachers – Supunder Kour (a Sikh) and Deepak Chand (a Hindu), who were shot dead by gunmen in Srinagar on Thursday.
“The pistol-wielding men came… asked for ID cards of teachers and fired at two… one each from the minority Sikh and Hindu community,” news agency Reuters quoted a schoolteacher as saying.
On Tuesday, Makhan Lal Bindroo, 70, a prominent local businessman and the owner of a pharmacy in Srinagar’s Iqbal Park, was shot at inside his store from point-blank range.
He was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
A Kashmiri Pandit, Mr Bindroo stayed in Kashmir even during the 1990s – the peak of terrorism.
Two others killed on Tuesday were Mohammad Shafi, a taxi driver in Bandipora, and Virender Paswan from Bihar, a street food vendor in Srinagar.
J&K Police have attributed most of these attacks to “The Resistance Front”, which they believe is an offshoot of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group.
Police have said seven of the 28 civilians killed since January are non-Muslims.
On Thursday the Home Ministry sent a team of senior officers to Kashmir to supervise operations. This was after Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting and reportedly criticised local officials.
Earlier this week sources told NDTV the police were clueless and planning a massive crackdown.
J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has condemned the killings and warned terrorists that a “befitting reply” will be given to those found involved in the attacks.