‘We won’t leave Kashmir’, says family of slain Pandit sarpanch
The mortal remains of sarpanch Ajay Pandita alias Bharti who was shot dead by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag on Monday, were cremated at Jammu’s Shakti Nagar crematorium on Tuesday.
Pandita (40) was the sarpanch of Lukbawan village in the Larkipora area. He was a member of the Congress party.
“We won’t leave Kashmir but I have a demand that the government should first create a regiment of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley,” said Vijay Pandita, brother of the deceased, who lit the pyre.
“He was helpful to all. He loved his roots and always extended a helping hand to the needy. After becoming sarpanch he had decided to work for the welfare of Muslim villagers”, he added.
Ajay’s father Dwarika Nath Pandita described his son as a lion and patriot.
“My son was a lion. He was a true patriot. In 1996 we returned to Kashmir and re-started our lives. At that time Ajay was around 21 years old. He took bank loans and reconstructed our orchards and house,” he said.
Pandita recalled that Ajay always rejected his suggestions that they should leave Kashmir because the situation was not normal.
“He used to say that it is our home. He used Bharti in his name to show his love for the country. Some anti-nationals are behind his killing. They shot him in his back. He was a lion. My son has sacrificed his life for the country,” said Pandita.
“There are forces, who don’t want Pandits to return and my son fell to the bullets of such ideology. We are not afraid, but will return and fulfill my son’s mission”, he added.
Last December, Pandita had spoken about threats to his life and had demanded security.
Dr Mahesh Kaul, a prominent writer on Kashmir and a community leader said Ajay’s murder was “part of a jihad to eliminate Kashmiri Pandits at different levels”.
All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC) leader Vinod Pandit accused the government of playing with the lives of minorities and demanded a probe into the killing.
“We strongly condemn the killing of Ajay Pandita (Bharti) by terrorists. He was always under threat for being a sarpanch, and especially because he was a Kashmiri Pandit. Why did the government withdraw his security? Why play with minority lives in Kashmir? A probe is needed.”