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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Grief, anger as Kashmiri Pandit govt staffer is killed by militants in valley

This is the third attack on a member of a minority community in the Valley this year.

Written by Bashaarat Masood , Arun Sharma | Jammu, Srinagar |
Updated: May 13, 2022 12:31:27 am
Grieving relatives of Rahul Bhat. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Militants Thursday barged into a government office in central Kashmir’s Budgam district and fatally shot a Kashmiri Pandit employee — the third attack against the minority community in the Valley this year.

Police said Rahul Bhat, a revenue department official at the tehsil office in Chadoora, was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. They said two militants were involved in the attack and that Bhat was shot point blank with a pistol.

The attack on Bhat, in his 30s, triggered protests from Pandits the Valley. Police sources said demonstrations were reported from Qazigund, Pulwama, Budgam, Gandebal and Baramulla. The protesters threatened to resign en masse if the killings were not stopped and raised slogans against the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking protection.

Political parties across the spectrum — including PDP, NC, People’s Conference and BJP — strongly condemned the killing.

On the incident, the Jammu and Kashmir Police tweeted: “Terrorists fired upon one employee namely Shri Rahul Bhat from minority community in Tehsildar office Chadoora, Budgam. He has been shifted to hospital.”

“The injured was immediately brought to SMHS Hospital (in) Srinagar for treatment, where he succumbed to his injuries,” it said.

Following the attack, a joint team of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army and Paramilitary forces cordoned off the area and launched a search for the assailants.

Rahul Bhat

Bhat, who is survived by his wife and a 6-year-old daughter, was staying with them in a government accommodation at Sheikhpora village in Budgam district. The accommodation was constructed for Kashmiri Pandit employees under a Central scheme. Bhat was appointed under this scheme in 2011 and his first posting was in Budgam. He was transferred to Chadoora tehsil two years ago.

Bhat’s father Bitta Ji Bhat, a retired Assistant Police Sub Inspector, questioned the safety of Pandits in the Valley. The family is based in Jammu.

“Is this how the government will take us back home to the Valley,” he asked. “The government has totally failed to protect Kashmiri Pandits.”

On April 13, a militant shot and killed Satish Kumar Singh, a Rajput, outside his home in Kakran village bordering Shopian and Kulgam district. Members of this community have been living in some villages of south Kashmir for seven decades now.

On April 4, militants shot and injured a Kashmiri Pandit, Bal Krishan Bhat (39), in south Kashmir’s Kulgam. Bhat was shot inside his medical shop near his residence in Shopian’s Chotigam village.

Militants had also carried out a number of attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and migrant workers in October last year. Seven people had died in those attacks.

Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Condemn the gruesome act where in a Kashmiri Pandit boy Rahul Bhat was murdered in Chadoora. Another life ended and another family devastated. My heart goes out to the bereaved family in this hour of grief. It also belies the false claims of normalcy in Kashmir.”

National Conference Vice President and former CM Omar Abdullah tweeted: “I unequivocally condemn the murderous militant attack on Rahul Bhatt… My heartfelt condolences to Rahul’s family.”

People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone called the attackers “psychopaths”. “Strongly condemn the killing of Rahul. It is difficult to read the minds of these psychopaths who indulge in such killings. Yet another family is added to the list of victims of violence. May the departed soul rest in peace,” he tweeted.

The BJP, in a statement, quoted its state unit chief Ravinder Raina as saying that “all those involved in this heinous crime will be neutralised very soon”.

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