Kashmiri Pandit Farmer Shot Dead, Brother Injured

Shocked and anguished residents watch the funeral of slain Pandit farmer in Shopian

Killing Evokes Widespread Condemnation From Admin, Political Parties

Srinagar- Militants shot dead a Kashmiri Pandit and injured his cousin on Tuesday at an apple orchard in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, evoking sharp condemnation from the Union Territory administration and the mainstream political parties.

This casualty raised the number of targeted killings to 21 this year.

Tuesday’s incident was a chilling reminder of the barbaric gunning down of a school principal Supinder Kaur last October.

Police said two militants belonging to the banned Al-Badar organisation came to the orchard this morning and lined up everyone.

After identification, they segregated Sunil Kumar Bhat and his cousin Pitamber Kumar Bhat and shot indiscriminately on them with their AK-47 rifles.

According to eyewitnesses and Pitamber Bhat’s statement, while one militant was firing indiscriminately, the other was capturing the horrific incident on his smartphone.

Giving details, a police spokesman said around 11.30 AM, they received information about the incident.

Both the cousins were immediately shifted to a hospital where Sunil Kumar succumbed to injuries. The condition of Pitamber Bhat is stated to be stable.

Police have identified the assailant as Adil Wani, a categorised militant of Al Badar group, and a hunt has been launched to nab him.

Sunil Kumar, who leaves behind four daughters and his wife, was cremated in the evening amid slogans of “Hindu Muslim Sikh Itehad (unity of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs)”.

Qatal-o-Gaarat na manzoor (killing of innocent and destruction are unacceptable) and chants of unity reverberated in the air as villagers of Chotigam took out a procession from the house of Bhat to the cremation ground.

Several people from the area joined the procession from Butt’s residence where Muslim neighbours were seen consoling the family.

Militants had struck in the same village in April when they opened fire on Kashmiri Pandit chemist Balkrishen Bhat alias Sonu Kumar, who miraculously escaped death. He was injured and remained in hospital for a long period.

After the incident, the administration had assured that the presence of security forces where minorities were living would be increased.

There has been a sudden spike in attacks on minorities, labourers and police personnel in the valley since the beginning of this year. The death toll in targeted attacks has gone up to 21 this year which includes two Kashmiri Pandits.

Heated arguments were witnessed outside the residence of the victim when officials from the administration visited the family. The brother of Balkrishen Bhat confronted the officials and accused them of failing in their duties to ensure the safety of minorities.

“After my brother was shot, I personally met the Deputy Commissioner of Shopian and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir for our safety. They told me nothing can be done and we should continue to stay where we live,” Anil Bhat claimed.

An agitated Bhat held the administration responsible for the killing and alleged it has failed in its duty to safeguard people’s safety.

There are only two or three Kashmiri Pandit families in Chotigam, nearly 10 km from the Shopian district headquarters and 70 km from Srinagar.

The incident shook the minority community, which was already reeling under fear following the killing of an employee Rahul Bhat in May. A call for fresh exodus from the valley was issued by Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), an organisation which has been taking up the cause with the government in the valley.

The increased attacks in the past week have left the security agencies worried as the militants have now again started targeting members of minority community, police personnel and outside labourers.

A policeman was killed in Nowhatta on Sunday and a migrant labourer was shot dead in Bandipora last week. Two grenade attacks took place in Budgam — in which a civilian was injured — and in the Police Control Room at Srinagar on Monday.

Tuesday’s killings saw widespread condemnation from administration and political parties.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said he was “pained beyond words on the despicable terror attackā€ on civilians in Shopian.

Condemning the killing, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Terribly sad news from South Kashmir today. An accident and a militant attack have left a trail of death and suffering. I condemn the militant attack in Shopian unequivocally in which Sunil Kumar was killed and Pinto Kumar injured. My condolences to the family.”

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said Jammu and Kashmir has become cannon fodder in “Delhi’s quest for manufactured normalcy”.

“Terribly sorry to hear about the targeted killing in Shopian. Condolences to the deceased’s family. GOI continues to behave like an ostrich with its head buried deep under the sand. Every resident of J&K has become cannon fodder in Delhi’s quest for ‘manufactured normalcy’,” she said.

BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur said, “Strongly condemn the dastardly act of terror on innocent minority community members at Shopian in which Sunil Kumar was killed and another injured. Terror has no religion. Killers should be punished.”

People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone condemned the attack as a “heinous act of violence” and expressed his condolences to the family of the victims.

Several groups staged protests against the killing and demanded adequate measures to ensure safety of the minority community members in the valley.

The protesters, who gathered at different places including Rani Park, Press Club and Panama chowk in the heart of Jammu, also raised slogans against Pakistan and the militants besides criticising the government for its alleged failure to stop targeted and selective killings.

A group of people also staged a protest at district headquarters in the border town of Poonch.

In January, one policeman was killed in a targeted attack in Anantnag. March saw the highest of seven such killings — five civilians and an on-leave CRPF jawan in Shopian and a special police officer (SPO) in Budgam. The brother of the SPO also lost his life in the same attack.

In April, two civilians, including a sarpanch, were killed, while in May, five persons — two cops and three civilians — were killed. The civilians were Rahul Bhat, a government employee recruited under the prime minister’s special package for Kashmir Pandits, TV actor Amreen Bhat, and teacher Rajini Bhala.

In June, a non-local bank manager and a non-local labourer were shot dead by militants, while a sub-inspector of police was also killed. Two non-local labourers have been killed so far in August.

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