SRINAGAR: In a virtual replay of the political resignations that followed almost every terror strike on party functionaries in J&K since June, a BJP worker in Anantnag on Friday quit within 24 hours of terrorists killing three young colleagues in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. As fear of a fresh surge of violence targeting grassroots party workers coursed through the Valley, IGP (Kashmir Range) Vijay Kumar announced that security forces had seized the vehicle used in the attack and identified the assailant trio as being from The Resistance Front, a shadow outfit of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Mohammad Ashraf Wani from Anantnag’s Aishmuqam didn’t mention the Kulgam killings, but said he was severing all links with BJP. “I am offering my resignation from all positions and posts of the BJP and henceforth have no association with BJP overtly or covertly,” he said.
Nine BJP members have been gunned down by terrorists so far this year, starting with the assassination of Bandipora district party president Sheikh Waseem Bari, his father and brother in July. IGP Kumar said the trio shot dead on Thursday evening, including BJP’s Kulgam Yuva Morcha general secretary Fida Hussain Yatoo, had all been provided police protection but were moving about without their security guards when they were attacked.
“Using local and technical intelligence, we have identified two of the attackers as Abbas Sheikh, a former Hizbul Mujahideen affiliate who later joined Lashkar, and Nisar Ahmad Khanday, a local terrorist. The third may be a foreigner,” the IGP said.
Yatoo and his colleagues — Umer Rashid Beigh and Umer Ramzan Hajam — had been staying in a Pahalgam lodge since the police started moving those facing threats to designated safe houses. “Yatoo recently gave an undertaking that he can move about without security. We are investigating what they (the slain trio) were doing in Kulgam,” the IGP said.
Around 1,690 BJP workers were moved to safe houses after the first wave of attacks, while 157 were provided security cover. “We advice BJP functionaries, activists and members against venturing out and far without their security guards,” IGP Kumar said.
The cordon-and-search operation launched immediately after Thursday’s killings in Qazigund has since been extended to seven-eight locations across south Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Kashmir’s BJP unit demanded the transfer of Kulgam’s deputy commissioner and superintendent of police for failing to ensure the protection of BJP members in the district. BJP state vice-president Sofi Yousuf alleged, “These killings took place because of the carelessness of Kulgam DC and SP. They were told to keep workers in clusters but there are no vehicles, fuel or security. Both are arrogant officers. The SP isn’t even picking our workers’ calls. He doesn’t even listen to the DGP, divisional commissioner or IGP Kashmir.” He added that BJP won’t participate in any political activity or election the till Kulgam DC and SP are suspended.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha staged a protest against the assassination at Jammu’s Dogra Chowk, outside the Press Club on Friday. Terming the attack as a “cowardly act”, BJYM activists raised slogans against Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir. BJYM state president Arun Singh said Pakistan has been constantly targeting BJP members after the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A in a bid to weaken the party hold in J&K.
BJP state general secretary and in-charge for Kashmir, Vibodh Gupta, said the killing of three BJP workers on the holy night of Eid-e-Milad has exposed the true face of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. “The courage, valour and sacrifice of BJP leaders in Kashmir will always be remembered as the bravest of the brave in history,” Gupta said, urging the lieutenant governor to direct the police administration to ensure proper security arrangements for BJP workers in the Valley.
BJP’s Kavinder Gupta said, “The killings are an outcome of the recent provocative statements by PDP and NC leaders who deliberately toed a line to incite passions of people prompting them to commit such dastardly acts to demoralize the nationalist populace in the Valley.”
In a statement, CPM’s Yousuf Tarigami said violence in any form is condemnable and there is no justification to kill an unarmed person. The civilian killings continue unabated in Kashmir and there is a need to put an immediate end to it.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee condoled the deaths and demanded exemplary punishment for the killers, besides expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Kashmir. The party urged the administration to take effective measures to ensure the safety of politicians.
National Conference president and MP Farooq Abdullah said, “Violence in all forms is condemnable. Our instrument should be dialogue and not violence. Sanctity of life should be respected at all levels.”
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Saddened to hear about the killing of three BJP workers in Kulgam. Condolences to their families. At the end of the day, its people of J&K who pay with their lives because of GOI’s ill thought out policies.”
Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Lone said, “Yet another killing. Condemn this heinous violence. Hope we get out of this vicious cycle of violence. Hope peace prevails. Hope sanity prevails. Violence has to be condemned in all its forms.”
Since Congress sarpanch Ajay Pandita was killed in Anantnag on June 8, BJP has borne the brunt of the terror surge. There has also been a spate of resignations from both parties, including panchayat heads who have received death threats from terrorists. In August, J&K police moved dozens of panchayat functionaries and other workers to safe houses across south Kashmir amid intelligence warnings about a wave of attacks by the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.