Kashmiri Pandit shot dead in J&K

Militants shot dead a civilian, who belonged to the minority Kashmiri Pandit community, in central Kashmir’s Budgam on Thursday evening.

According to the police, Rahul Bhat, 35, an employee in Tehsildar office at Chadoora in Budgam, was inside the office premises when at least two gunmen opened fire from a close range.

“Bhat was shifted to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries,” the police said.

Police said preliminary investigation revealed that two terrorists were involved in this heinous crime and they used a pistol.

A little-known outfit, Kashmir Tigers, claimed on social media that it was responsible for the attack. However, the claim was not  immediately corroborated by the J&K police.

Mr. Rahul was living at the migrant transit camp at Sheikhpura in Budgam and was appointed under the special Prime Minister employment package for Kashmiri migrants in 2010. 

“He was hit inside his office. It isn’t an ordinary matter. It means it was deliberate, a murder. There should be an inquiry,” the victim’s father said. The deceased is survived by his wife and 7-yr-old daughter.

The killing sparked protests at the migrant transit camps located in south, central and north Kashmir. “We were dying then (in the 1990s). We are getting killed now. Nothing has changed for us,” said a protesting Kashmiri Pandit employee at Sheikhpura.

Scores of Kashmiri Pandits also blocked the National Highway at Vessu, Qazigund, in Kulgam district to register their protest. Similar protest was held at the transit camp in Baramulla. Kashmiri Pandits residing in Budgam and Anantnag held protest demonstrations in south Kashmir’s Anantnag demanding justice for the victim.

Kashmir witnessed a mass migration of Pandits in the 1990s in the face of raging militancy. However, over 3,800 Pandit employees have returned to the Valley in the past few years, taking up jobs under the 2008 employment package.

There had been no major attacks on them till 2019, when the Centre ended J&K’s special constitutional position. However, Kashmir has witnessed an uptick in the number of attacks on members of the minority community and non-local labourers in the past one year. Last month, militants shot dead two members of the minority community in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said he unequivocally condemned the murderous militant attack. “Targeted killings continue and a sense of fear grows unchecked,” Mr. Abdullah said.

J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said, “Those behind this despicable terror attack will not go unpunished. J&K Govt stands in solidarity with the bereaved family in this hour of grief”.

Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, while condemning the gruesome act, said, “Another life ended and another family devastated. My heart goes out to the bereaved family in this hour of grief. It also belies the false claims of normalcy in Kashmir”.

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