Whatever little hope of return the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir had held out for Kashmiri pundits, who had been forced to flee their homeland in the 1990s, suffered a setback on December 31 when Satpal Nischal, running a jewellery shop in the heart of Srinagar for 40 years, was killed.
The 70-year-old became the first person killed in Kashmir apparently for having obtained a certificate under the new domicile law that allows people who have lived in Jammu and Kashmir for more than 15 years rights to purchase immovable property.
Just a few weeks after he had obtained the certificate, Nischal was shot by suspected militants at his shop in Saraibala, and was dead by the time he was brought to the nearby Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital.
The Resistance Front (TRF), a recently floated militant outfit, took responsibility for the attack, saying all such “outsiders” who had received domicile certificates were “RSS agents” and warning them: “We know your names, we know where you live and we know what you do and we are coming for you.”
IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar told The Indian Express: “We are working on both aspects, i.e. business rivalry and the terrorist claim… We will share the details soon.”
Before the scrapping of J&K’s special status, only subjects of the erstwhile state could be its domiciles and purchase land and other immovable property. Nischal originally hailed from Gurdaspur in Punjab. A source said he had applied after the change in the law and got the domicile certificate. “Since his daughter-in-law is originally from Jammu, he had also bought a house and a shop recently in Srinagar in her name.”
This house is located in the highly fortified Indira Nagar area, close to the Army 15 Corps headquarters, while the shop in his daughter-in-law’s name is at the Hari Singh High Street jewellery market.
Soon after Nischal’s killing, the TRF, which is believed by the police to be a front of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, said it had carried out the attack on the domicile issue. In a statement on its social media channels, the TRF said: “The Resistance Front conducted an intelligence-based operation in Srinagar today in which an RSS agent, who was posing as a businessman, was neutralized. The individual was an active participant in the demographic change and settler colony project run by Hindutva fascists to alter the demography of Kashmir… The Resistance Front had already warned that any Indian national irrespective of faith, caste or colour, who comes to Kashmir with the intention of settling here, will be treated as an agent of the RSS and not as a civilian.”