Kashmiri Muslims evicted, threatened after deadly attack on Indian forces

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India has warned against rising communal tensions across the country as Kashmiris living outside their state faced property evictions, job suspensions and attacks on social media after a suicide bomber killed 44 policemen in the region.

The car bomb attack on a security convoy on Thursday carried out by a 20-year-old Kashmiri man was the worst in decades in the occupied valley.

As the bodies of the paramilitary policemen who died in the attack were returned to families across India this weekend, passionate crowds waving the Indian flag gathered in the streets to honour them and shouted demands for revenge. Pakistan has denied any role in the killings.

Kashmiri Muslims, meanwhile, are facing a backlash in Hindu-majority India, mainly in the northern states of Haryana and Uttarakhand, forcing the federal 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 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.

“Where are we supposed to go?” Waseem Akram told Reuters, demanding authorities to ensure safety of all Kashmiri students.

Local media reported that some Kashmiri students were assaulted by members of Hindu right-wing groups in Uttarakhand, while a Kashmiri man had been booked by the police in the southern city of Bengaluru under a colonial-era sedition law for a post allegedly backing the militants.

Fear has engulfed Kashmiri students in Haryana’s Ambala district after a video on social media showed a village headman asking people to evict Kashmiri students in the area.

“In case it is not done, the person in whose residence such students are living will be considered as a traitor,” the man says in the video, whose authenticity Reuters has not been able to independently verify.

Since the video surfaced on social media on Saturday, at least half a dozen Kashmiri students have been shifted to the hostel of a university campus in Ambala.

A Facebook user named Anshul Saxena, meanwhile, has claimed credit for getting people fired or suspended for posts he calls “anti-national”.

Saxena uploaded a screengrab of a suspension letter handed out to a Kashmiri employee of a pharmaceutical company who had allegedly written in favour of the attack.

The attack on India’s paramilitary police follows the deadliest year in Held Kashmir for security personnel since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power nearly five years ago.

Political leaders from Kashmir appealed to the government to ensure security of Kashmiris across India, while many people on Twitter said their homes were open to Kashmiris seeking shelter.

“Understand the pain and anguish,” Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Indian-held Kashmir said in a tweet. “But we must not allow such mischievous elements to use this as an excuse to persecute/harass people from J&K. Why should they suffer for somebody else’s action?”

Published in Today’s Muslim, February 18th 2019.