‘He will never die’: Kin of pharmacist killed in Kashmir stay defiant in grief
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Srinagar chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo on Wednesday, a day after the 68-year-old was shot by suspected militants near his medicine shop at Iqbal Park. Many in the Kashmiri Pandit community in the Valley called the killing a direct consequence of the 2019 abrogation of Article 370 and demanded that heads roll for this major lapse of security.
Bindroo, a reputable chemist and philanthropist from Srinagar, was grievously injured in the shooting on Tuesday and was taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital,where he succumbed to his wounds. At the Bindroo residence in Indira Nagar on Wednesday, many prominent Kashmiris called on the family, including former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari, and Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattoo. Abdullah offered condolences to Dr Siddharth Bindroo, the son of Makhan Lal Bindroo, with moist eyes and said, “Don’t go. Just stay here and continue your father’s job.”
Later, he told mediapersons that Bindroo was a good person who was “killed by the devils”. “When people were running away from here, he did not migrate. He stayed put, saying that he had to serve the poor. He would offer medicines for free to the poor and helped them in every way,” Abdullah said.
Srinagar Mayor Junaid Matoo said that the road from Haft Chinar Chowk to Jehangir Chowk, where Bindroo’s shop, Bindroo Medicate is located, will be named ‘Shaheed Makhan Lal Bindroo Road’ as a tribute to his contributions to the society.
But Bindroo wasn’t the only person killed on Tuesday; in two other incidents, a street vendor from Bhagalpur (Bihar) named Virender Paswan was shot dead at Alamgari Bazar in Zadibal, while a taxi driver and president of the local taxi stand at Bandipora named Mohd Shafi Lone was also killed by unknown assailants.
Bindroo family is defiant in grief
The Bindroos stayed back in the Valley even as Kashmiri Pandits began their exodus in the 1990s. M L Bindroo is survived by his widow, son Dr Siddharth, and daughter Dr Shraddha. Shraddha, who is an associate professor in Himachal Pradesh, challenged her father’s killers to a debate.
“Mister, who shot my father while he was working, if you have the guts and courage, come in front and have a face-to-face debate. Then we will see what you are. Only then you will realise that you can only pelt stones or shoot from behind. You killed a body…,” she said.
“He will never die. You can just kill the body. And I being a Hindu I have read the Quran which says that the body will transform but its spirit will remain. ML Bindroo will remain alive in spirit,” Shraddha said.
Siddharth, a diabetologist practising in Srinagar, said his father was a man of principles and never did anything unethical. He said his father gave his four decades to the service of Kashmir without expecting anything in return.
“Condolences are coming from people from all walks of life. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, everybody is here and had it not been for Covid, lakhs of people would have come. He was a man loved by all and had no rivalry with anybody,” Siddharth said.
Pandits say system failed them
Sanjay Tickoo, president of Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti said the attack was a direct assault on the 808 Kashmiri Pandit families living in Kashmir.
“From June, we had a hunch that something might happen. We tried to meet the lieutenant governor but got no appointment. There were intel inputs that some prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessmen or other Hindus were on terrorists’ radar. Then why did they fail to protect us? It is a failure of the system, and we demand that heads roll,” Tickoo said.
Referring to the 2003 Nadimarg massacre of Pandits, Tickoo said they have been attacked again after 18 years. “We think this is owing to the abrogation of Article 370 and the way it was claimed by the government of India that every citizen in Valley is in favour of this. Inadequate security was provided to the minorities in the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370,” Tickoo said.
But senior Bharatiya Janata Party member and leader of the migrant Kashmiri Pandit community in Jammu, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, blamed it on the security forces and said there was no link between the incident and the ending of the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union territories.
“What has happened has been happening for the last 30 years continuously. Many massacres have happened since the 1990s. I don’t think it is an isolated incident,” Chrungoo said.
“It is not that they have targeted Kashmiri Hindus only; they have been targeting Kashmiri Muslims who support the idea of peace and brotherhood,” the BJP leader said.
Chrungoo, who is also the in-charge of the department of political affairs and feedback of J&K BJP, said that these attacks won’t dampen their resolve to return to Kashmir. “We are clear that we will go back and live in Kashmir. This is a security failure definitely but at the same time I wish the people of Kashmir stand up against terrorism,” he said.
He, however, also blamed Kashmiri parties for talking about the need to consolidate Muslim votes.
Hurriyat condemns the killings
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is under house detention, expressed shock and grief and strongly condemned the killings. “APHC strongly condemns all killings, which are acts of pure violence against fellow humans and humanity and extends its heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the bereaved family of Mr Bindroo and others who have been pushed to perpetual grief at the loss of their dear ones,” the Kashmiri leader’s statement read.
People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti criticised the central government over the killings. “With the recent spate of civilian killings in Kashmir GOIs fake narrative of normalcy lies in tatters. An utterly desensitised govt that has devalued human lives & pushed J&K into further peril & chaos by its ruthless policies of collective punishment all in the garb of security,” Mufti wrote on microblogging platform Twitter.
People on social media shared their anger and hurt. “We are all Bindroo, we will stand with our brethren today and always...Folded hands,” wrote one Mohsin Wani on Twitter.
Govt’s Kashmir conundrum
In March, minister of state for home, G Kishan Reddy, had informed Parliament that since 1990, 44,167 Kashmiri families moved out of the Valley due to security concerns. Of them, 39,782 were Hindu. He said that nearly 3,800 Kashmiri migrants have returned to to the Valley since the 1990s and 520 have returned since the abrogation of Article 370 to take up jobs under the Prime Minister’s special package.
Successive Union governments have been trying to bring back the Pandits to the Valley. Tuesday’s incident is a setback for the effort.
Noor Ahmad Baba, a political analyst and retired professor of political science who taught at Kashmir University and Central University of Kashmir, said, “It is quite disturbing.People are scared. Targeted killings are happening not only of Pandits or non locals but also a number of Kashmiri Muslims. A sort of dangerous situation seems to be developing in Kashmir and it is worrying situation for all of us.”
“It has something to do with developing context of politics in Kashmir. It is part of the larger things happening in Kashmir (after Article 370 abrogation). A number of killings have happened. Whosoever is doing it he is trying to send a message,” Baba added.