Armed militants killed a Kashmiri Pandit sarpanch at LukBhawan Larkipora area of Anantnag in Southern Kashmir. The sarpanch has been identified as Ajay Pandita Bharti who was a member of the Congress party.
Fired upon from a point blank range near his house, Pandit was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to injuries.
No militant outfit has claimed the responsibility for the killing so far.
Meanwhile, security forces have cordoned off the whole area and an operation has been launched to nab the militants. The police has registered a case in the matter. According to source, the police have a vital lead on those involved.
Bharti had returned to his village in south Kashmir a few years ago. He was among the first few Pandits, who built a residential house in Kashmir, years after the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in late 1980s.
He was recognised among those who had initiated the resettlement process of Pandits in the valley and worked to bridge the gaps between the different communities. His Muslim neighbours and friends described him as a "man of principles with strong social bonding and vision".
Several Pandit organisations and socio-political figures have condemned the death of Bharti. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah termed this attack as an act of cowardice and prayed for the eternal peace for the deceased.
"Very sorry to hear about the killing of sarpanch Ajay Pandita in Anantnag earlier this afternoon. I unequivocally condemn this terror attack on a grassroots political worker & pray that his soul rests in peace," National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.
The People's Democratic Party also condemned the killing but trained its guns at the government.
"Left in lurch by the system and hounded by those revolting against it, such is the dismal state of political workers. What can someone hope to achieve by silencing those actively serving poor and marginalised? We vehemently condemn such brutal assassination of Mr Ajay Pandita ji," the PDP tweeted.
The Congress demanded a judicial enquiry into the gruesome incident.
"The killing of Ajay Bharti (Pandit) is a mindless and shameful act which needs exemplary punishment against those behind it," a party spokesman said.
He said the party demands a judicial enquiry into the killing of the sarpanch to fix responsibility.
"The deceased Ajay Bharti, apprehending attack on his life, had written to Govt for security cover, which was reportedly denied to him. As a result, Bharti lost his life in a gruesome attack," the spokesman said.
Union minister Jitendra Singh condoled the killing saying, "It is a desperate attempt by anti-national elements to defeat the process of grassroots democracy, which is sought to be established in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he said.
BJP national executive member and former MLC Sofi Mohammad Yousuf also termed the killing an act of cowardice act. Sofi, in a statement, further said that this act will not hamper the peace process in Kashmir and the culprits should be punished immediately.
JKPCC President GA Mir expressed deep angusih over the killing of Bharti and raised questions on the security provided. Mir has demanded a high level probe into the incident and that culprits should be brought to justice.
The Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari also condemned the killing.
(With PTI inputs)