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One more Kashmiri Pandit killed, another injured in Shopian

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Killing evokes widespread condemnations; LG says attackers won’t be spared, visits injured in hospital

Srinagar: Terrorists shot dead a Kashmiri Pandit and injured his cousin on Tuesday at an apple orchard in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

The victim Sunil Kumar Pandit had gone with his cousin Pitambar Nath Pandit alias Pintu to his orchard in Chotigam village of Shopian along with their cattle when they were attacked.

According to police officials, “two terrorists belonging to the banned Al-Badar organisation, came to the orchard this morning and lined up everyone.

“After identification, they segregated Sunil Kumar Bhat and his cousin Pritmber Kumar Bhat and shot indiscriminately on them with their AK-47 rifle,” police said.

According to eyewitnesses and Pritmber Bhat’s statement, “while one terrorist was firing indiscriminately, the other was capturing the horrific incident on his smart phone.”

Giving details, a police spokesman said around 11.30 AM, they received information about the incident.

Both the cousins were immediately shifted to a hospital where Sunil Kumar, who leaves behind four daughters and his wife, succumbed to injuries. The condition of Pitmbar Bhat is stated to be stable.

Police has identified the assailant as Adil Wani, “a categorised terrorist of Al Badar group”, and a hunt has been launched to nab him.

Terrorists had struck in the same village in April when they opened fire on Kashmiri Pandit chemist Balkrishen Bhat alias Sonu Kumar, who miraculously escaped death. He was injured and remained in hospital for a long period.

After the incident, the administration had assured that the presence of security forces where minorities were living would be increased.

There has been a sudden spike in attacks on minorities, migrant labourers and police personnel in the Valley since the beginning of this year. The death toll in targeted attacks has gone up to 21 this year which includes two Kashmiri Pandits.

Heated arguments were witnessed outside the residence of the victim when officials from the administration visited the family. The brother of Balkrishen Bhat confronted the officials and accused them of failing in their duties to ensure the safety of minorities.

“After my brother was shot, I personally met the Deputy Commissioner of Shopian and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir for our safety. They told me nothing can be done and we should continue to stay where we live,” Anil Bhat claimed.

An agitated Bhat held the administration responsible for the killing and alleged it has failed in its duty to safeguard people’s safety.

There are only two or three Kashmiri Pandit families in Chotigam, nearly 10 km from the Shopian district headquarters and 70 km from Srinagar.

The incident shook the minority community, which was already reeling under fear following the killing of an employee Rahul Bhat in May. A call for fresh exodus from the Valley was issued by Kashmir Pandit Sangharash Samiti (KPSS), an organisation which has been taking up the cause with the government in the Valley.

The increased attacks in the past week have left the security agencies worried as the terrorists have now again started targeting members of minority community, police personnel and outside labourers.

A policeman was killed in Nowhatta on Sunday and a migrant labourer was shot dead in Bandipora last week. Two grenade attacks took place in Budgam — in which a Kashmir Pandit civilian was injured — and in the Police Control Room at Srinagar on Monday.

Following the back-to-back attacks, KPSS has asked the community members to leave the Valley.

“With another deadly attack on Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir, the terrorists have made it clear that they are going to kill all the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir valley,” KPSS chief Sanjay Tickoo said.

He said he has urged all Kashmiri Pandits to leave the Valley and move to safer places like Jammu and Delhi.

Tuesday’s killings saw widespread condemnation from administration and political parties.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that he was “pained beyond words on the despicable terror attack on civilians in Shopian. My thoughts are with the family of Sunil Kumar. Praying for a speedy recovery of the injured. The attack deserves the strongest condemnation from everyone. Terrorists responsible for the barbaric act will not be spared.”

LG Sinha also visited Army Hospital in Srinagar earlier today to inquire about the health of Pitambar Nath Pandit, who was injured in Shopian attack.

The LG enquired about the well-being of Pitambar Nath Pandit and asked the doctors to ensure the best possible medical care for his early recovery, an official handout informed.

Condemning the killing, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Terribly sad news from South Kashmir today. An accident and a militant attack have left a trail of death and suffering. I condemn the militant attack in Shopian unequivocally in which Sunil Kumar was killed and Pinto Kumar injured. My condolences to the family.”

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti while condemning the killing said Jammu and Kashmir has become cannon fodder in “Delhi’s quest for manufactured normalcy”.

“Terribly sorry to hear about the targeted killing in Shopian. Condolences to the deceased’s family. GOI continues to behave like an ostrich with its head buried deep under the sand. Every resident of J&K has become cannon fodder in Delhi’s quest for ‘manufactured normalcy’,” she said.

People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone condemned the attack as a “heinous act of violence”  and expressed his condolences to the family of the victims.

BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur said, “Strongly condemn the dastardly act of terror on innocent minority community members at Shopian in which Sunil Kumar was killed and another injured. Terror has no religion. Killers should be punished.”

Shopian villagers denounce killing; take out procession to cremation ground

‘Qatal-e-nahaq na manzoor’ (killing of innocent not unacceptable) and chants of unity reverberated in the air as villagers of Chotigam took out a procession to condemn the killing of Sunil Kumar Butt, a Kashmir Pandit, by terrorists on Tuesday morning.

The village saw the second terror attack in four months.

The residents took out the procession from the house of the victim to the cremation ground where the body of Sunil Kumar was consigned to flames amid slogans of “Hindu Muslim Sikh Itehad (unity of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs)”.

Those who took part in the procession raised slogans against the killing of Kumar and said it was against the principles of Islam.

Several people from the area joined the procession from Butt’s residence where Muslim neighbours were seen consoling the family.

He was cremated this evening.

Meanwhile, the Divisional Commissioner (Div Com) Kashmir, Pandurang K. Pole also visited Chotigam and expressed condolences with the bereaved family. He strongly condemned the target killings of the civilians and assured of all possible help from the administration to the family.

He was accompanied by District Administration Officers including ADDC, ADC, ACR, Tehsildar and other officials.

A neighbor consoles the family of slain Kashmiri Pandit. Photo/Javed Khan

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