Killing of Kashmiri Pandit Prompts Protests

© AP Photo / Dar YasinKashmiri Hindus, known as "pandits," block a road during a protest against the killing of Rahul Bhat,
Kashmiri Hindus, known as pandits, block a road during a protest against the killing of Rahul Bhat, - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.05.2022
More than a dozen civilians have been killed by suspected militants in Indian-administered Kashmir this year alone. Authorities in the region say the killings are being carried out by groups backed by the Pakistani government, a claim which Islamabad denies.
The Kashmiri Pandit community held multiple sit-in protests in the Jammu and Kashmir region on Friday after a Hindu resident was killed in a suspected militant attack the previous evening.
The deceased, identified as Rahul Bhat, was a government employee who was shot dead inside his office in the Budgam district of central Kashmir.
As soon as news of the killing broke, several members of the Kashmiri Pandit community took to the streets and blocked the southern highway.
Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), the body representing the community, told Sputnik that the Jammu and Kashmir government is failing to prevent killings not only of Hindus but also of Muslims.
"Two men entered the [government] office, asked for Rahul. When he confirmed his identity, Rahul was shot dead. How can two men enter a government office with pistols and shoot an employee five times before walking away without facing any resistance?" asked Tickoo, urging the “majority Muslim community to stand with [the] 8,000-9,000 Kashmiri Pandits living in the Kashmir Valley."
Anil Bhan, a Jammu resident who participated in Friday's protests, told reporters, "Either provide our kids security or take away the security of all higher authorities".
In Jammu, where Bhat was cremated, angry family members chased away senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Ravinder Raina. The BJP rules the central government, but Jammu and Kashmir is federally administered by a lieutenant governor since it was made a union territory in 2019.
Meanwhile, similar scenes of public outrage and displeasure were witnessed in central Kashmir where a district magistrate trying to pacify the situation faced anti-government slogans. Jammu and Kashmir's Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has, however, assured the deceased's family that justice will be done.
"[I] Met the relatives of Rahul Bhat and assured justice to the family. In this hour of grief, the government stands firmly with Rahul's family. Terrorists and their supporters will have to pay a very heavy price for their heinous act," Sinha said in a statement.
The killing of a Kashmir Pandit (KP) has drawn widespread condemnation from various senior politicians.
Peoples Democratic Party President and former State Chief Mehbooba Mufti accused the federal government of hiding its failure and attempting to sow discord between Muslims and Hindus in a video statement. She appealed to Muslims living in Jammu and Kashmir to stand in solidarity with the minority communities. Mehbooba also alleged that local authorities prevented her from moving out of her home by installing barricades in Srinagar city after she decided to meet the family of the deceased.
Former State Chief and Vice President of National Conference Party Omar Abdullah also took to Twitter to condemn the killing, while protests continued on Friday, forcing the Jammu and Kashmir police to use tear gas to disperse the angry locals.
In response, Abdullah attacked the BJP-led administration, accusing it of clamping down on protesters. “It’s shameful that legitimate and justified protests are met with a heavy-handed response. This is not new for the people of Kashmir because when all the administration has is a hammer every problem resembles a nail. If the LG’s [Lieutenant Governor’s] Govt can’t protect KPs they have a right to protest.(sic)"
Thursday's incident is the latest in a string of civilian killings that have hit the region during the last few months.
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