BJP village head in Kulgam shot dead; second in 3 days
A 48-year-old village council head was on Thursday shot dead near his home at Vessu in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district in the second such attack on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers in the Kashmir Valley in three days.
Inspector general of police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said unidentified terrorists killed Sajjad Ahmad Khanday, who was Vessu’s sarpanch, 20 metres from his home. Kumar added he was staying at a high-security residential complex along with several other sarpanchs and had left it on Thursday morning to visit his family. “He later succumbed to his injuries,” said Kumar.
Dozens of local bodies members, especially those affiliated with the BJP, were shifted to safer locations following intelligence inputs that they may be targeted on the eve of the first anniversary of the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that stripped Jammu & Kashmir of its special status in August last year, officers aware of the matter said. They added security forces have launched an operation to track down Khanday’s attackers.
Khanday was killed two days after another sarpanch, Arif Ahmad Shah, was shot in his neck in Akhran village of Kulgam’s Devsar area. Police said he was fighting for his life in a critical condition at Srinagar’s Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences.
The attack on Shah triggered panic and prompted three BJP functionaries from Kulgam, Nisar Ahmad Wani, Sabzar Ahmad Paddar and Ashiq Hussain Palla, to announce their disassociation from the party.
BJP’s youth wing leader, Marouf Bhat, was among two activists to resign from the party in July after its former Bandipora district president, Sheikh Waseem Bari, was killed along with his father and brother. Jammu & Kashmir police have said Lashkar-e-Taiba members were involved in the killing of Bari and his kin. Ajay Pandita, another sarpanch, was also killed in South Kashmir’s Larkipora in June.
BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur condemned Khanday’s killing and sought security cover for sarpanchs and panchs (village council members) under threat. “Killing of Sajad is very unfortunate. He was our constituency president for Vessu. Attack on him is the second incident in the same area in the past three days,” Thakur said.
He appealed the administration to look into the issue and work out a security cover model for the vulnerable sarpanchs and panchs, especially those affiliated with the BJP. “The list of sarpanchs, panchs, and other activists who are vulnerable to militant attacks has already been submitted to the police,” he said.
Jammu & Kashmir Apni Party chief Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari condemned the killing. “Today’s cowardly attack on a grassroots level representative has added to the fear psychosis among the Panchayat representatives and other political activists who witnessed three such attacks in the last 10 days,” said Bukhari. He urged the government to take cognizance of this incident.