For the Bindroo family of Kashmir, Wednesday morning was not a usual one. In the Indira Nagar area of Srinagar, the residence of Makhan Lal Bindroo, 65, was packed with people. Bindroo – a Kashmiri pandit, who didn’t leave from the valley in 1990s when the militancy was at peak and many of his community members migrated to Jammu, life was normal until Tuesday evening.
Bindroo was shot by militants at his prominent medical store – Bindroo Medicate, opposite Iqbal Park in Srinagar. He succumbed to the injuries in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital – around a kilometer from his pharmacy. The assassination came as a shock to the whole valley as Bindroo was a household name for decades.
“The personality of my father cannot be matched by anyone. He served the people of Kashmir,” said Sidharth Bindroo, his son.
‘Bindroo medicate ‘was a common name in Kashmir. The business was started by Bindroo’s father, Dr. Rakeshwar Nath Bindroo, in the mid twentieth century. The family had moved to Srinagar from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district nearly 74 years ago and established the pharmacy in Srinagar.
In the 1990s, when the insurgency was at its peak in the valley, a greater number of Pandits – Kashmiri Hindus left the valley fearing attack from militants as several of the community members were killed during the period. As per reports, at least 1,00,000 pandits migrated to other parts of the country, mainly Jammu.
However, the Bindroo family, like many other families, stayed, despite almost all of their relatives moving to different places.
“I have no threat and would not leave Kashmir, my birth place. I will live with the Kashmiri people I have grown up with. I’m being respected by the people here,” Bindroo’s father-in-law Roshan Lal Mawa recalled him saying, who had “received 4 bullets in the 1990s” but survived and is settled in Delhi now.
“Killing him [Bindroo] is a big sin,” he said. “What wrong did he do? He spent his life on this land, he did not flee. Was this [his killing] reward for him for staying here?” asked Mawa, and said that his death was “a big loss for Kashmir as he was a helpful person”.
Bindroo is survived by wife Kiran Bindroo and two children – a son, Sidharth Bindroo and a daughter Shradha Bindroo. Both of his children are doctors. Sidharth said that the people of Kashmir wanted his father to stay because he served the people and was loved by them.
“He was a great social worker and was neither a high profile target nor a soft target,” said Sidharth. “I think when you touch a social worker you tweak your message. You cannot touch people who are socially important.”
Since Bindroo helped everyone, irrespective of their religion, Sidharth said that the killing of his father has come as a shock majorly for the Muslim community and obviously for pandits too. He further added that the “act has been done by some insane person who had no idea about the contribution” of his father to the society.
Among the crowd, one of their neighbours, 71-year-old, Abdul Rehman said that killing of people is wrong as it amounts to loss and bad name. ”He [Bindroo] was in good relation with neighbours and was a helpful person. I would call him whenever I had to get an appointment from the doctor. He would help me out,” said Rehman, with a visible grief on his face.
In the following two hours of Bindroo’s killing, some 7 kilometers away in Lal Bazar area of the city, a non-local street vendor, identified by police as Varindar Paswan of BhagalPur Bihar, was shot dead. In Bandipora’s Naidkhai village, nearly 32 kilometers away from Srinagar, President of a Transporters Association – Mohammad Shafi Lone, was killed by suspected militants.
Killing of Bindroo has been widely condemned by politicians, activists, professionals in and outside Kashmir across political and religious lines. Kashmir has witnessed a spike in targeted killing of civilians as many as 23 have been killed to date among them nearly three are Kashmiri Pandits, two non-locals and 18 muslims. Most of the killings have been claimed by The Resistance Front (TRF), which the police has said is an offshoot of militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.
In February this year, Akash Mehra son of the owner of prominent Krishna Dhaba was shot dead by suspected militants in Dalgate area of Srinagar. His killing was followed by the attack on Rakesh Pandita, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in south Kashmir’s militant hotbed Tral.
Since last Sunday five targeted civilian killings were carried out in Kashmir by suspected militants while four among them were shot in Srinagar city alone. The police, in a statement, said that militants fired upon Bindroo and was shifted to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
“Investigation is in progress and officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of these terror crimes,” the police said. “The respective areas have been cordoned and search in these areas is going on.”
Standing in the courtyard of her house, Bindroo’s daughter, Shradha said that she challenges the attacker to come in front of her and have a debate. “Politicians have given you [attackers] guns and stones to fight, that is all cowards, come in front and fight with education,” she said.
She invoked the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, and said, “I being a Hindu have read the Quran and it says that the body will change but the spirit of a person does not. Makhan Lal Bindroo will be alive in the spirit,” she said. “He [Bindroo] gave us education and Kashmiri parents gave them stones, pellets, and bullets.”
While these civilian killings have increased, especially in Srinagar, the government has maintained that the militancy has been largely dented by counter-insurgency operations. The recent killings have sent shockwaves across the valley, with many opining that Kashmir situation has only turned worse in the last few years.