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Bank manager from Rajasthan shot dead in Kulgam

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Killing evokes widespread condemnations

Srinagar: A 29-year-old bank manager hailing from Rajasthan was shot dead by a militant inside his office premises in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Thursday, making it eighth targeted killing in the Valley since May 01 and the third of a non-Muslim government employee.

Vijay Kumar, posted with the Ellaquai Dehati Bank (EDB), sponsored by State Bank of India, at Arreh Mohanpora branch in the district, received grievous gunshot injuries and died on his way to hospital, officials said.

The CCTV footage showed the killer entering the premises first probably to verify whether the victim had come to the office, and within seconds returns with a pistol and fires at Kumar.

While one bullet hit the wall, the second hit Kumar leaving him seriously injured, the officials said, adding he succumbed to injuries on way to a hospital.

Kumar, who joined EDB in March 2019, had married in February this year and was supposed to come back to Bhagwan in Hanumangarh of Rajasthan, his native village, for 10-15 days next month. But destiny willed otherwise, said his father Om Prakash Beniwal on Thursday after the news about his son reached him.

“He had called recently and promised to come home for 10-15 days in July. We wanted him to settle down in Rajasthan but destiny was something else,” said Beniwal, who is a government school teacher.

The family was in a deep shock as preparations for last rites were being made. Kumar’s mortal remains will reach his native place on Friday.

The Resistance Front, which police says is a shadow outfit of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kumar had joined the Kulgam branch only a week ago. He had earlier been working in the Kokernag branch of the bank, co-owned by the Central government, the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the State Bank of India.

The SBI issued a statement saying the bank remains committed to ensure the safety and well-being of all its employees, including those posted in the Valley.

The EDB shall ensure that the bereaved family is provided with necessary support – financial and otherwise – on priority, it said.

Condemning the act, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) general secretary C H Venkatachalam said it is a matter of serious concern to all in the banking sector.

“Every now and then we get such disturbing news from one state or the other. Lot of very qualified youngsters are joining the banks for their career and better prospects. It is a pity that such incidents do happen periodically with no solution about the security of bank staff,” he said.

Canara Bank Officers’ Association general secretary Ravi Kumar, while condemning the incident, demanded strict action against those behind this killing.

The fresh killing comes barely two days after a Hindu woman teacher Rajni Bala, hailing from Jammu’s Samba district, was shot dead by militants at a government school in Gopalpora, Kulgam.

The spate of targeted killings started in May this year which included that of Rahul Bhat, a clerk, who was shot dead inside the Tehsildar’s office in Chadoora tehsil of Budgam district.

Of the eight targeted killings in Kashmir since May 01, three victims were off-duty policemen and five were civilians.

Meanwhile, National Conference president, Farooq Abdullah today said that targeted killings of civilians and the pervasive fear among the people in Kashmir belie the government’s claims of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging the administration has its head in the sand.

“This ostrich approach will push the situation to a point of no return,” said the former chief minister, presiding over a meeting of the National Conference’s provincial committee (Kashmir) at Nawa-e-Subah here.

Addressing the meeting, Abdullah reiterated the party’s stand to “peacefully fight for restoration of J&K’s identity and dignity” – an apparent reference to J&K’s special status which was revoked by the Centre on August 05, 2019.

The NC president also expressed serious concern over the “deteriorating” security scenario in the Valley leading to a series of targeted killings of innocents including members of the minority communities, the party said.

“I unequivocally condemn the brutal killing of Vijay Kumar, a Bank Manager in Kulgam. The killing spree and the pervasive fear among civilians, minorities and other soft targets gives a lie to the claims of the government that everything was Ok in Kashmir,” he said.

“So very sorry to hear about the targeted killing of Vijay Kumar. Tweeting to condemn an attack and condole a death are becoming a mind-numbingly regular thing. It’s heartbreaking to see families destroyed like this,” NC vice-president Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.

“As Jammu and Kashmir is moving towards peace and progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government with major developmental projects gaining speed, the frustrated Pakistan and its supported terrorists hatched a conspiracy to sabotage the government efforts by creating fear among the people,” Raina told reporters here.

He claimed the targeted killings “is part of the conspiracy jointly chalked out by Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI), its army and terrorist groups based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).”

“They have named this conspiracy ‘Operation Red Wave’ like we have seen the ‘Operation Tupac’ in 1980-1990 under the leadership of then Pakistani military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq which brought death and destruction to Kashmir,” the BJP leader claimed.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress condemned the killing of a bank employee and lashed out at the Centre for its alleged failure to ensure safety and security of the people.

Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari said that it was painful to witness targeted killings of civilians in Kashmir.

“These dastardly acts of violence have devastated families… It’s shocking. Will words of condemnation be ever enough?” he wrote on Twitter.

Peoples Conference chairman Sajad gani Lone termed the killing a heinous act and said he was at a loss of words to express his condemnation for such a heinous act.

“Yet again extremely sad news coming in. An innocent civilian working as a manager in a bank in Kulgam has been shot dead,” he said on Twitter.

Joining in the condemnation, PDP general secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura said such incidents “unmask” the “fake claims of normalcy” by the administration.

“Yet another life lost, deeply saddening & condemnable. This place has been turned into a battleground by the high headedness of the admin, its fake claims of normalcy stand unmasked. Situation is far from normal & immediate steps need to be taken for redressal. My condolences,” the PDP leader said in a tweet.

BJP’s J&K spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the killing was a serious issue and a matter of concern.

“What a shameful act yet again. This time a bank manager of Ellaqui Dehati Bank Vijay Kumar of Rajasthan falls to the bullets of terrorists at Kulgam. Now terrorists targeting public servants too. A serious issue and a matter of concern. High time for security agencies to work out a strategy to stop this vicious cycle of violence,” he said.

In a joint statement, senior advocate Ankur Sharma, president of Ikkjutt Jammu and Ajay Chrungoo, chairman of Panun Kashmir lambasted the BJP-led government at the Centre for trivialising the ground situation in the Valley to the loss of the people particularly the Hindus.

“We unequivocally condemn the unabated Hindu killings in Kashmir. The Hindu employees of Kashmir should be immediately shifted to safety in Jammu,” the statement said.

“We  have once again witnessed the bone chilling  11th genocidal killing in the last 9 months of one more Hindu employee Vijay Kumar working in  a Bank at Kulgam”, it said.

Meanwhile, about a dozen activists of Jammu and Kashmir Awami Awaz Party held a protest near Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk – the commercial hub of the city. Carrying placards, the activists shouted slogans demanding an end to the killings of innocent people by the militants in the Valley.

“We have come here to protest. When will Kashmiris get justice? Why are Kashmiris being killed since 1947? This should stop,” they said.

The protesters said the administration has “failed” to prevent these killings and to provide a secure atmosphere for the members of the minority community.

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