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HOUSTON : Kashmiri Pandits in the US have strongly condemned the recent targeted and gruesome killings of civilians in the Valley by the militants and asked the Indian government to re-evaluate its Kashmir policy and provide proper security to the minority community if it wants them to return.

At least seven people were killed by militants in Kashmir Valley in the last five days. Of those killed, four belonged to minority communities.

The Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA), a socio-cultural organisation of the Kashmiri Pandits in the US, has expressed shock and anguish over the gruesome killings of pharmacy owner Makhan Lal Bindroo, street food vendor Virender Paswan and two teachers -- Deepak Chand Mehra and Supinder Kaur.

Kaur, a Srinagar-based Sikh, and Mehra, a Hindu from Jammu, were killed two days after The Resistance Force, a shadow outfit of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), claimed responsibility for the deaths of three people on Tuesday.

Bindroo, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit and owner of Srinagar's most famous pharmacy, was shot dead at his shop that evening. Minutes later, 'chaat' vendor Paswan from Bihar was gunned elsewhere in the city. Almost simultaneously, another civilian, Mohammad Shafi Lone, was killed at Naidkhai in Bandipora.

Three days before that, militants shot dead Majid Ahmad Gojri at Srinagar’s Karan Nagar locality. Later that Saturday night, they gunned down Mohammad Shafi Dar at Batmaloo.

According to the KOA, emotions of rage and helplessness ran high when the Kashmiri Pandits residing in various parts of the US heard of the "gruesome, targeted killings of innocents in Kashmir by the terrorists".

"These incidents brought back the painful memories of 1990, when members from the community were killed, women were raped, children rendered orphans, resulting in the exodus of over 400,000 people to save lives and honour," said KOA president Dr Archana Kokroo.

"The recent targeted killings have terrorised the minority community in the Valley and many are fleeing their homes again," Kokroo said.

"Our peace-loving and progressive community has survived the brutality of the forced exodus of 1990 due to our perseverance and hard work. We continue to live by our values of non-violence. Killing another one of us is not a victory for the terrorists," Kokroo said.

"This is the saddest event that every humanitarian must mourn. India is an independent nation and all Indians have constitutional rights and freedoms. A few interlocutors should not be able to threaten human rights with violence," said Lavanya Vemsani, a Professor of Indian History and Religions in Shawnee State University, Ohio.

"The government must increase security in the Valley, especially for the non-Muslim minority," Vemsani said.

Dr Ashok Moza, president and founder of Chemicals Inc, said the government of India "needs to consider creating clusters of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and other non-Muslims in different parts of the Valley and offer them protection just like Israel has provided to its citizens on the West Bank."

"The recent killing is a clear reminder that non-Muslims in general and Kashmiri Pandits in particular are unsafe in the Valley," Moza said.

Commenting on the recent killings, long-time social and cultural activist in Boston Sanjay Kaul, who is also the vice president of the World Hindu Council, said that the government "must re-evaluate its Kashmir policy and provide proper security to the community and work on building their confidence if they are encouraging them to live in the Valley."

The Kashmiri Pandit community is once again on the edge as their woes continue even after 32 years in exile, he said.

Reacting over the incident, Pran Chaku, distinguished technologist and a long time Houston resident, said, "This incident has horrified and shocked Kashmiri Pandits globally. I hope the government acts sternly. If the security of the minority community and their right to live in their place of birth cannot be guaranteed, then the government has failed us."

Padma Shri awardee Subhash Kak, Regents Professor Emeritus at the prestigious Oklahoma State University, said: “It has been heartbreaking to read about the brutal killings by terrorists in Srinagar. We must stand resolute and fight this evil for good".

Rajesh Kachroo, a PK-ReHinGe activist in Virginia, advocated establishment of a homeland for Kashmiri Hindus in east and north of the river Jhelum and adoption of the 1991 Marg darshan Resolution of Panun Kashmir.

"We have reiterated that the only safe option for Kashmiri Hindus, who are refugees in their own country, is establishment of homeland, east and north of the river Jhelum and adoption of the 1991 Marg darshan Resolution of Panun Kashmir," Kachroo said.

"KOA sends its deepest condolences to the families of the dead and pray that there are no more killings. We all stand in solidarity with the families of these bravehearts," KOA Secretary Anil Ganju said.

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