Assailants in Indian-administered Kashmir have killed seven civilians in separate incidents since the last five days, leaving the entire region in a state of shock.
Among the seven victims, three were Hindus, three were Muslims and one belonged to a Sikh community.
The police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule in the disputed region for carrying out the killings.
On Tuesday, police said militants fired at a prominent pharmacist, Makhan Lal Bindroo, at his pharmacy in the region’s main city of Srinagar.
Bindroo, a Kashmiri Hindu, was taken to a hospital where he died, police said.
Within an hour, a street food vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar was shot point-blank in another neighbourhood in Srinagar, killing him on the spot, police said.
In the third incident on Tuesday night, gunmen fatally shot a taxi driver in the northern Hajin area.
Police called the killings “terror incidents.”
“Investigation is in progress and officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of these terror crimes,” police said in a statement.
Last week, assailants fatally shot two men in Srinagar in targeted killings.
While authorities are yet to confirm the perpetrators behind the spate of attacks, a number of smaller outfits have purportedly claimed responsibility, including The Resistance Front, a new rebel group which allegedly released a statement justifying the killings.
The latest killing spree raised the spectre of the 1990s when civilian killings were a norm in Kashmir. Back then, thousands of Kashmiri Hindus left their ancestral homes in Kashmir and moved to other parts of India, as dozens of members from their community were gunned down by militants.
The string of killings has once again exposed the old faultlines of the Hindu-Muslim divide. While many Kashmiri Muslims are urging people to not ignore the fact that there are three Muslims among the seven victims, the emotions are still running high on social media.
Meanwhile, the police said militants are targeting civilians only to create a communal wedge and “to target the local ethos & values & defame local Kashmiri Muslims.”
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. Both archrivals claim it in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule over the region since 1989.
Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
This story first appeared on trtworld.com