The silence that prevailed in the Valley after the first round of five civilian killings last week was shattered on the weekend, as Kashmir witnessed cold-blooded murders of four more unarmed non-locals within a span of 24 hours.
On Saturday evening, the ultras first killed a non-local 'golgappa' seller, Arbind Kumar Sah from Bihar, at Hawal in Srinagar's old city. Within an hour, another non-local carpenter, Sagheer Ahmed from Uttar Pradesh, was shot dead in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
On Sunday evening, militants once again appeared at Wanpoh in south Kashmir's Kulgam district and shot at three non-local labourers. Two of them, Raja Reshi Dev and Jogindar Reshi Dev, died on the spot, while the other one, Chun Chun Reshi Das, sustained injuries. The victims, all small-time labourers, were residents of Bihar.
Of the 11 civilians killed in the recent attacks, five were from other states. Among the victims were Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent member of the Kashmiri Pandit community and owner of a pharmacy in Srinagar, Mohammad Shafi Lone, a taxi driver, teachers Deepak Chand and Supinder Kaur and street vendor Virender Paswan.
During the past one week, security forces have intensified counter-insurgency operations. According to the police, 13 militants have been killed in nine encounters after the civilian killings.
The Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, has stated that three out of the five militants involved in the civilian killings in Srinagar have been eliminated.
Many people are of the opinion that attacks on non-local laborers and members of minority communities are an attempt to push them out of Kashmir. Ultras are choosing soft targets as they are aware of the fact that they won't face any resistance from the unarmed victims whom they are out to kill.
The militants are aware that mounting an attack on security forces means getting killed. They are killing civilians to remain in the news and to ensure that fear of gun returns to the Valley.
The cold-blooded murders of innocent civilians have sent shock waves across Kashmir. Besides non-locals, natives are also living under constant fear and threat. The guns that are targeting non-locals and members of the minority communities today can turn towards the majority community tomorrow. Natives can be labelled as 'mukhbirs' (informers) and then killed.
It won't be an exaggeration to mention that after August 5, 2019, when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate J&K's special status and divided it into two Union Territories, more than 90 per cent people in Jammu and Kashmir welcomed the complete merger of the erstwhile princely state into the Union of India completely.
J&K didn't react to the abrogation of the special status. There were no street protests or stone-pelting incidents and transition of the erstwhile state into a Union Territory turned out to be a smooth affair.
The people of Kashmir endorsing the agenda of peace, development and prosperity has not gone down well with the militant bosses sitting across the Line of Control (LoC). They seem unhappy with the Kashmiris.
By getting non-locals killed by sponsored ultras, militant handlers are projecting Kashmiris as terrorists, who won't be welcomed in any part of India if the violence against the non-locals continues. They are trying to kill two birds with one arrow, by forcing an exodus of non-locals from Kashmir they want to keep the threat perception alive, and secondly, they are trying to project Kashmiris as hate mongers and killers.
The killings have left Kashmiri leaders speechless, they seem worried and are condemning these acts of senseless violence vociferously. National Conference President and former J&K Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, while reacting to these murders said that Kashmiris were not involved in these acts.
"These attacks are being carried out under a conspiracy to defame Kashmiris. These incidents are an attempt to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in J&K," he said.
It's not only Farooq Abdullah who has realised that a conspiracy has been hatched to label every Kashmiri as a terrorist, but many other people have also realised it. They are aware of the fact that Pakistan is out to punish them for dumping the agenda of separatists and endorsing the idea of inclusive India. They are aware that the guns can turn towards the natives, who are not interested in violence and want to live a peaceful life.
The situation in Kashmir has turned volatile and the sense of insecurity has crept into every section of the society. The police and the security forces are trying their best to keep the militants at bay, but the "lone wolf attacks" and ultras gunning down unarmed people have emerged as major challenges.
IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar has made it explicitly clear that providing security to all soft targets is not possible.
"Time and again I am saying that there is no lapse on the security front. Soft targets were attacked who were not provided security by us. It is not possible to provide security to every soft target. We have identified the militants behind the civilian killings," he told reporters after two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, Umar Khanday and Muhammad Sultan, were killed in an encounter with the security forces in the Pampore area on Saturday afternoon.
After the Pampore encounter, ultras have killed four non-locals in three attacks, one in Srinagar city and three others in south Kashmir's Pulwama and Kulgam districts.
A report carried out by a news channel on Sunday morning, a day after the killing of non-local vendor Arbind Kumar Sah in Srinagar's old city, revealed that fear has gripped the non-locals as they didn't set up their carts in the Hawal area where Sah was killed.
A few non-local vendors who spoke to the reporter told him that they want to go back home as soon as possible. "Life is more important than income," they said.
The ultras to an extent have succeeded in creating fear among the outsiders as many of them are mulling to leave the Valley. It appears that the damage has been done. The militants are once again out to destroy Kashmir and push it back into oblivion so that people remain deprived of peace, prosperity and development.
The militants are out to punish Kashmiris collectively for not supporting them and their ideology. The Valley is once again witnessing dangerous times.