Militants Wednesday evening shot dead a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and wounded his associate in the Tral area of Pulwama district, around 34 km south of Srinagar, the police said.
The police said militants shot dead the councilor, Rakesh Pandit when he was in the area without his two security guards provided by the police for his security. The police said despite having two personal security officers (PSOs) available to him and secured hotel accommodation in Srinagar, the councilor went to Tral without PSOs.
Police sources said he was shot at the house of neighbour Mushtaq Ahmad. The daughter of Mushtaq identified as Asifa Mushtaq has also sustained injuries during the attack.
Pandita had won the Urban Local Bodies election in 2018 by a few votes cast by mostly pandits residing outside Kashmir as elections were boycotted by the National Conference and the PDP. Both the parties were seeking assurance on Article 35A from the Centre that it won’t be removed. Later on August 5, 2019, the Centre abrogated Article 370 along with Article 35A and detained all leaders of the National Conference and the PDP.
Locals said after becoming Chairman of the local municipality, Pandita would spend most of his time in the area. “He was known for his joviality,” said a local journalist.
“Shocked to hear that BJP leader Rakesh Pandit has been shot dead by militants. These senseless acts of violence have brought only misery to J&K. My condolences to the family and May his soul rest in peace,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said.
“Yet again gunmen attack a non-combatant. This gun is a curse. Just ponder. Since the day this menace came into Kashmir. What have we seen? In a nutshell total disempowerment of the Kashmiri. Dear gunmen. Can u please go back to where you came from? We have had enough,” Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone tweeted.
This is the second such attack on the BJP local leader in the Valley this year. On March 29, militants attacked Municipal Office Sopore, around 55 km north of Srinagar, killing two municipal councilors of the BJP Shams-ud-din Peer, Riyaz Ahmad, and police constable Shafqat Ahmad.
Last year in October militants struck in Kulgam district of South Kashmir killed three BJP workers, including Fida Hussian, a 29-year-old general secretary of its youth wing, and two other supporters in their early twenties.
After the Kulgam attack the Resistance Front (TRF) a militant outfit, had owned the Kulgam attack.
In August 2020, a BJP worker Abdul Hamid Najar, the resident of the Mohiendpora area of Budgam was killed by militants. On the evening of July 8, last year, BJP leader Sheikh Waseem Bari, his father, Bashir Ahmad, and his brother, Umer Sultan, were killed outside their residence in north Kashmir's Bandipora area.