A Kashmiri Pandit, Puran Krishan Bhat, was shot dead by militants in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. Deputy Inspector General of Police Sujit Kumar said the Kashmir Freedom Fighter (KFF) group, the proxy name of a militant outfit, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Bhat was attacked near his residence in the Chowdhary Gund area of the south Kashmir district, officials said, adding that he was rushed to Shopian hospital where doctors declared him dead. The area has been cordoned off and a hunt has been launched to nab the assailants.
He is survived by his wife and two children. His eldest daughter is aged 11 and his son is eight.
Speaking to reporters, DIG Sujit Kumar said the initial investigation has revealed that one militant fired upon Bhat. “A Kashmiri Pandit Puran Ji has been murdered. We are working on the case. Kashmir Freedom Fighters has claimed the responsibility for it. We won’t say anything for sure about it, yet. A guard was present here. We are ascertaining the reason, he had gone out on his scooter and had returned on it. He was not alone, they were two people. If the incident occurred in presence of the guard who was deployed here, action will cover not only him but all concerned officers in the area," Kumar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The DIG further said that as per the preliminary probe, eyewitnesses claim that there was only one person who had targeted him and was in front of him. “Nobody has spotted anyone else who might be hiding. Things will be clear, give us some time," he added.
Deputy Commissioner of Shopian, Sachin Kumar Vaishya, said Bhat’s body will be taken to Jammu where the last rites will be performed. “All arrangements are being made. We are extending help to the family."
Meanwhile, Kashmir Pandits in Jammu protested the killing and demanded justice for the victim. Some also demanded their “relocation" from Jammu and Kashmir amid a spate in civilian killings. Hundreds of protesting displaced Kashmiri Pandit employees blocked Jammu-Akhnoor road to protest the latest targeted killing of their community member by terrorists in the valley.
The Pandits, employed under Prime Minister’s employment package, are on protest at relief commissioners office in Jammu over the past five months following the killing of their colleague Rahul Bhat in Kashmir last May.
“Our worst fears have once again come true with the latest killing. We have already fled the valley otherwise we feel many of us have been done to death, one of the protesters," Nikhil Kaul told PTI, adding that they have been saying that the situation in the valley is not safe for them but this government remained unmoved and paid no heed to their pleas for relocation.
Yogesh Pandit, another protester, said the administration is trying to pressure them to rejoin their duties by issuing death warrants in the form of making biometric attendance mandatory and stopping their salaries. The killing of Bhat exposed the government claims about the improved security situation in the valley. We will not return till the situation becomes normal in true sense, he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and political leaders condemned the killing of Bhat. “Attack on Puran Krishan Bhat by terrorists in Shopian is a dastardly act of cowardice. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. I assure the people that the perpetrators and those aiding and abetting terrorists will be severely punished," Sinha tweeted.
The National Conference condemned the “brazen and cowardly attack" and expressed “heartfelt commiserations" with Bhat’s family. The party’s vice president Omar Abdullah termed the attack reprehensible.
The PDP said while the Kashmiri pandits have been protesting for the last five months demanding their relocation after Rahul Bhat was shot dead in May, the “LG administration in their hubris kept turning a blind eye to their plight". “Today yet another Kashmiri Pandit, Puran Krishan, was shot dead in Shopian. Thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family," the party said.
On August 16 this year, a Kashmiri Pandit had been shot dead and his brother was injured in brutal attack by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Terrorists had fired upon the two civilians at an apple Orchard in Chotipora area of Shopian, police had said. Police had identified the victim as Sunil Kumar and his brother as Pitambar.
The latest attack comes amid a string of killings in the J&K valley over the last few months, of Kashmiri Pandits and other civilians.
On May 31, a school teacher from Jammu, Rajni Bala, of Jammu’s Samba district, was shot dead, sparking outrage among Kashmiri Pandits, who threatened to flee the valley if they were not relocated to safer areas. On May 12, just two weeks before the school attack, a gunman stormed into a government office in Kashmir’s Chadoora town and shot at a Kashmiri Hindu employee, Rahul Bhat, who died instantly.
In August, three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, including Lateef Rather who killed Bhat were gunned down in an encounter with security forces in Budgam district.
(with PTI inputs)
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