Kashmiri Pandits employed under the Prime Minister's Package in Kashmir took to streets on Tuesday in protest against the targeted killing of a Hindu woman earlier in the day and threatened to undertake mass migration if the government did not relocate them to safe places within next 24 hours.
School teacher Rajni Bala, 36, was shot dead in Kulgam district earlier on Tuesday. She was a native of Samba district but was posted at a government school in Gopalpora in Kulgam.
Rajni was the second non-Muslim government employee to be killed in May. She was also the seventh person to die in a targeted killing in Kashmir this month. While three victims were off-duty policemen, four were civilians.
Protests against Rajni's killing were also reported from Jammu city, where protesters burnt an effigy of the administration and raised slogans against Pakistan.
Rajni's killing follows the killing of 35-year-old Rahul Bhat earlier this month in his office in Budgam district, following which Kashmiri Pandits had held widespread protests across Valley and had made similar demands for relocation to safer places outside the Kashmir Valley and had threatened to resign en masse.
The police had lathi-charged the protesting Kashmiri Pandits and had fired tear-gas shells at them. This time, the Kashmiri Pandit employees have given a 24-hour ultimatum.
"We have decided that if the government did not take any concrete steps for us [safety] within 24 hours, there will be mass migration again," one of the protestors said in Srinagar.
He said the target killing of Kashmiri Pandits is continuing and the community is now tired of making appeals to the government.
He added, "We should be relocated so that we can be saved. Our delegation had met the LG earlier and we had asked him to save us. We are asking for temporary relocation for two to three years till situation in the valley returns to normal. It is the same time frame put by IGP Kashmir for making Kashmir terrorism free,"
A handful of Kashmiri Pandit employees assembled at the Ghanta Ghar at Srinagar's Lal Chowk to protest against the killing, the officials said.
Another group of protesters assembled at Batwara in the Sonawar area of the city and raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration for its failure to ensure foolproof security for employees of minority communities.
The protesters, mostly women, raised slogans like "Administration haye haye" (down with administration), "Minorities ko jeene do" (Let the minorities live) and "We want justice".
In south Kashmir's Qazigund town, the Kashmiri Pandit employees blocked one tube of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway to protest Bala's killing.
They appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene in the matter to ensure the safety of minorities.
"The government has failed completely in providing security to the minorities. Rahul Bhat was killed inside a district office on May 12 and today our sister Rajni Bala was shot dead inside a school.
"We appeal to PM, HM and LG to intervene in the matter. Kashmiri Pandits are on the roads now and there is no hope of survival," one of the protestors said.
Terming the killing a "cowardly act", the protesters in Jammu said assurances given by the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to ensure the safety of minorities in the Valley have proved to be false.
Some even demanded that members of the minority community be provided arms licences to enable them to possess weapons for their protection.
Kashmiri Pandits took out a rally in the Durga Nagar area in Jammu to protest Bala's killing and the administration's "total failure" to protect them. They also raised slogans against Pakistan.
"There have been 22 killings of Hindus by terrorists in the Valley and over 14 people have been injured. Four temples have been attacked. This is an undeclared assault on minorities in Kashmir and the government is saying that the situation is normal," Kashmiri Pandit leader Vinood Tickoo said.
The Dogra Front also took out a protest rally in the city. Two hundred Bajrang Dal activists also held a protest here against Bala's killing.
They raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration for failing to protect government employees belonging to the minority community. They blocked a road for an hour and burnt an effigy of the administration.
"The government should grant us arms licenses, we will fight in Kashmir. Minority Hindu employees serving in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley should also be given weapons for their personal protection," Jammu president of Bajrang Dal Rakesh Kumar told reporters.
Shiv Sena activists led by the party's Jammu and Kashmir unit president Manish Sahni also held a protest against Bala's killing.
At a press conference held at the Shiv Sena's office here, Sahni said the killing of innocent people is intolerable. He said "nefarious acts" of terrorists are increasing day by day. All the assurances of security given by the central and state governments are proving to be completely false. He demanded that people be granted arms licenses to be able to fight terrorism in the Kashmir Valley.
Sahni said the targeted killings in Kashmir have created panic among the minorities as well as the majority community.
Activists of Mission Statehood Jammu and Kashmir also held a protest at the Janipur High Court road and blocked traffic. They raised anti-Pakistan slogans and demanded that all government employees from the minority community be transferred to Jammu from Kashmir.
Mission Statehood J&K chief Sunil Dimple appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit shah to stop the bloodshed and targeted killings of innocents in Kashmir.
(With PTI inputs)