Rajput Driver’s Killing in Kulgam Leaves Community In Shock, Despair

DAUGHTERS GRIEF: Daughter of slain Satish Kumar reacts after her fathers body is taken out for last rites in Kakran village . KO Photo, Abid Bhat

Kulgam- The killing of a Rajput driver by a militant has generated a sense of fear and uncertainty among members of the tiny community in Kakran village in Kulgam district who have stayed on in Kashmir Valley despite decades of militancy but are now considering leaving for a safer place.

Satish Kumar Singh, 50, was shot dead at his home on Wednesday evening, amid a string of targeted attacks on members of minority communities in Kashmir Valley.

At the Singh residence a day later, one could hear wails and shrieks as his family members and neighbours were yet to come to terms with their loss.

Singh's Muslim neighbours were shell-shocked after the cold-blooded killing. To carry out the attack, the lone militant chose the time of 'Iftaar', when the Muslim neighbourhood was busy offering prayers in mosques to break their fast during the holy month of Ramazan.

Muslim neighbours mourn in silence outside the house of slain driver Satish Kumar Singh in Kakran village of Kulgam district. KO Photo, Abid Bhat

"We have not had our dinner or anything. The entire village is mourning. Singh was a gentleman," says Abdul Rehman, a neighbour.

Firewood for the pyre was collected by villagers, many of whom spoke about the brotherhood they share with the few Rajput families who never moved out.

"He (Singh) was working as a private load carrier driver...and had never harmed anyone," Bitu Singh, his younger brother, told PTI as the family was preparing to perform the last rites.

Satish Kumar Singh left behind an aged mother, wife and three daughters in the age group of six to 15 years. Some neighbours were seen consoling the family members.

Bitu Singh said the incident occurred around 7.05 pm when a gunman came looking for his brother who was having tea in a room.

"I was also sitting with him and had left the room to go upstairs with my daughter who insisted on being given a mobile phone to play game. In the meantime, I heard a few shots and rushed downstairs to find my brother in a pool of blood. He was fired twice in the upper body, causing his death," he said.

He said they have been living in the village for three generations and stayed back when militancy broke out in early 1990s -- the year when Kashmiri Pandits left the valley en masse to take shelter in Jammu and elsewhere in the country.

"We never felt threatened in the past...We are eight Rajput families living in the village and a police guard is deployed at the local temple," Bitu Singh, a farmer who spends most of his time attending to his fields, said.

They have lost their father sometime back due to an illness and their mother Pushpa Devi is in shock over the killing of her son. She was inconsolable and was seen being comforted by mourners, including Muslim neighbours, who visited the house to express their sympathies with the family.

"Muslim neighbours are also coming to offer their condolences. What else can they do? They too are helpless," Bitu Singh said.

However, he said, the community is considering moving out of the valley, and referred to a poster asking the Hindus to leave Kashmir.

A "threat" letter was circulated at Veeraan village in north Kashmir's Baramulla district on Wednesday.

A hitherto unknown group, named 'Lashkar-e-Islami', had threatened the residents of the village where a group of Kashmiri Pandits live.

"The matter has been reported to us, cognisance has been taken and investigation initiated. We are looking into the credibility and authenticity of the letter," police said.

"Threat does not seem to be viable given that the terror organisation seems non-existent, the letter is unsigned and posted, as also the security & precautions already taken are robust. However, precautionary fresh assessment and assurance measures are being taken," it said.

Miscreants who give such threats to disturb peace and tranquillity will be nabbed soon and dealt with strictly, the police said.

Bitu Singh, however, said the community is afraid even though senior police and civil officers visited them and promised every possible support.

"We are mulling different options, including migration. Life is precious for everyone and our priority as well," he said.

Senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, who had won the Kulgam assembly constituency several times in the past, condemned the killing of Singh and appealed to the whole community of Kashmiris to raise their voice against "such heinous crimes".

"The killing of Singh has shaken the entire population in the area. No words are enough to condemn such barbaric acts which only suit the enemies of Kashmir and its ethos of tolerance and brotherhood," Tarigami said.

The CPI(M) leader said he tried to visit the bereaved family but was not allowed by the security establishment.

Militants have stepped up attacks on civilians in south Kashmir over the past 10 days.

Four labourers hailing from outside Jammu and Kashmir were injured in two separate attacks in Pulwama last week, while a Kashmiri Pandit shopkeeper was shot and injured by militants in Shopian.

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