SRINAGAR: India has warned against rising communal tensions across the country as Kashmiris living outside India-held Kashmir faced property evictions, job suspensions and attacks on social media after a suicide bomber killed 44 paramilitary personnel in the Himalayan region.
The car bomb attack on a security convoy on Thursday, carried out by a 20-year-old Kashmiri man, was the worst assault taking place in the disputed region in decades.
Kashmiris are facing a backlash in India, mainly in the northern states of Haryana and Uttarakhand, forcing the interior ministry to issue an advisory to all states to “ensure their safety and security and maintain communal harmony”.
Aqib Ahmad, a Kashmiri student in Uttarakhand capital Dehradun, said the owner of the house he was staying in had asked him to move out fearing an attack on his property. Rates for air tickets to occupied Kashmir have sky-rocketed as tensions escalate, he said.
Two other students in Dehradun said they also had been asked to vacate their rooms immediately.
Local media reported that some Kashmiri students were assaulted by members of Hindu rightwing groups in Uttarakhand, while a Kashmiri man had been booked by police in the southern city of Bengaluru under a colonial-era sedition law for a post allegedly backing the Kashmiri fighters. The reports could not be verified independently.
Police withdraw protection provided to Umar Farooq, four other leaders
Police in India-held Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) said they were providing temporary accommodation to people returning to the disputed state.
Fear has engulfed Kashmiri students in Haryana’s Ambala district after a video on social media showed a village headman asking people to evict Kashmiris in the area.
“In case this is not done, the person in whose residence such students are living will be considered as a traitor,” the man says in the video.
Since the video surfaced on social media on Saturday, at least six Kashmiri students have been shifted to the hostel of a university campus in Ambala.
A Facebook user named Anshul Saxena claimed credit for getting people fired or suspended from various posts.
Saxena uploaded a screen-grab of a suspension letter handed out to a Kashmiri employee of a pharmaceutical company who had allegedly written in favour of the attack.
A man believed to be Kashmiri was beaten by a crowd in New Delhi that accused him of chanting anti-India slogans, witnesses said. He was rescued by police.
Political leaders from occupied Kashmir appealed to the Indian government to ensure security of Kashmiris, while many people on Twitter said their homes were open to Kashmiris seeking shelter.
Indian officials said police protection provided to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and four other Kashmiri leaders, who opposed Indian control over the disputed region, had been withdrawn.
“We have decided to withdraw the security of... leaders in the wake of the attack on security forces,” home affairs ministry spokesman A. Bharat Bhushan Babu said.
He said the decision followed a call by the Indian government for a review of security for those “taking money from Pakistan”.
Until Sunday, police had provided security details for the five leaders out of fears that an attack on the Kashmiri political leadership could lead to an outbreak of violence in the disputed territory.
A Hurriyat Conference spokesman dismissed the significance of the government’s decision. “It has no bearing, neither can it change the reality of the lingering Kashmir dispute nor the situation on the ground,” he said.
A round-the-clock curfew remained in place in Jammu city, the Hindu-majority region of held Kashmir, after mobs vandalised and torched properties belonging to Kashmiris. Internet services were cut across the region.
A shutdown has been observed in occupied Kashmir, including the main city Srinagar, since Thursday’s attack.
Hundreds of Indian security personnel were on Sunday hunting for the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in occupied Kashmir, believed to have masterminded the deadly attack on Indian troops on Thursday.
Indian military and police officials were looking for Mohammed Umair, the commander of JeM for the disputed region.
A police official said they had information that Umair had “radicalised and motivated” the Kashmiri school dropout who rammed a car laden with explosives into the military convoy.
Indian officials claim Umair is a nephew of the chief of JeM, Masood Azhar.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2019