Day after Kashmir killings, a village in shock & families surprised by BJP connection

Day after Kashmir killings, a village in shock & families surprised by BJP connection

 

Kulgam: Grief, shock and allegations hung heavy in the air in Kulgam a day after three BJP members were killed by suspected militants in YK Pora, a village located around 75 kilometres from Srinagar.

As the village tried to come to terms with the bloodshed, the BJP trained its guns on the Jammu & Kashmir Police, saying the party had requested security for two of the slain members last week but it was ignored. The families and friends of the three men, meanwhile, were shaken, allegedly unaware that they were members of the BJP.

Fida Hussain (29), Haroon Rashid (22) and Umer Ramzan (24) were shot dead at YK Pora Thursday night. According to police and witness accounts, the three had just parked their car in the Reshipora locality of the village when a vehicle with two-three militants pulled up and launched a barrage of bullets at them. Two of the men attempted to escape, but could not outrun the volley of bullets.

The three men were taken to a hospital in Qazigund, where they were declared brought dead.

“We heard 5-8 rounds of fire in the evening. We were very scared to check what had happened but, when we finally did, we saw a parked car whose front glass was shattered by bullets,” said a resident. “Two bodies were lying on the road while the third was inside the car. The attackers were not there.”

Another resident, a woman, added, “Thursday started with the Army visiting our homes to carry out survey exercises. And in the evening, our village was struck with horror. The village was swarming with police and military officials.”

Police claimed the attack was planned, saying they suspect the involvement of three militants, including two local residents and a Pakistani national. The attackers, police said, belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and were now part of the outfit’s shadow group, The Resistance Front, which has also reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The trio, police sources said, are among 13 BJP members killed in Kashmir this year alone.

Kashmir BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur Friday accused J&K Police of ignoring the party’s requests for security for its members.

“Our district president held a press conference last week asking the J&K Police to provide security to two of our party workers. That did not happen. Now three dear colleagues have been killed,” said Kashmir BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur.

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Division) Vijay Kumar visited the spot Friday. “Mr Fida Hussain was among 1,619 people who were taken into police protection ahead of 5 August last year (when Article 370 was revoked). He was lodged at Hotel Dolphin in Pahalgam where he was provided security. A few weeks later, he left the hotel for his home after signing an undertaking. We are having discussions about what he was doing in a car so far from his home,” said Kumar.

All the three slain men lived close to the village. While Hussain and Ramzan lived within a kilometre of YK Pora, Rashid, identified by the BJP as their district youth general secretary, lived within a distance of three kilometres.

Although IGP Kumar did not address the allegations made by the BJP, local police sources said Hussain maintained a very low profile and did not even figure in the list they maintained of people who need to be provided security because of threats they face to their lives.

At the homes of the three men, their deaths brought not just grief but also shock, since families and friends claimed they were unaware about their BJP affiliation.

“We knew he was close to the government but we were not sure in what capacity. We knew he was influential and even helped some villagers some times with his contacts,” said a neighbour of Hussain.

The son of a government school teacher, Hussain dropped out of school after Class 12. He started a small business selling cars and got married in 2017. He is survived by a two-year-old daughter and his wife. He is believed to have joined the party in 2017-18.

“His father was aware that he was involved in politics but, his family, especially the sisters, did not know at what level. Had they known he was an office-holder in the BJP, they would have stopped him,” said Hussain’s paternal uncle, Bashir Ahmed Itoo.

One of his sisters added, “I would tell him to stay put but he wouldn’t listen.”

While Hussain’s family had some idea of his political linkages, the families of the other slain men claimed they were not aware the two had joined the BJP.

“He left his home in the evening. We thought he was going to the nearby shop. Moments later, we heard gunshots,” said Ghulam Ahmed, Ramzan’s cousin. Ahmed said Ramzan was a graduate and, like Hussain, was involved in the vehicle trade.

“He had nothing to do with politics,” Ahmed added.

Ramzan’s father is a government employee and like, Hussain and Rashid, he was the only son among the siblings.

Dilawar, a friend of Rashid, claimed the deceased was not involved in politics and was “friends” with Hussain and Ramzan. “He had a large friend circle and Hussain was a friend,” he added.

Asked about the families’ and friends’ claims, a local BJP leader said the trio might have concealed their party membership, fearing reprisal from militants and social boycott. “The party wasn’t strong in Kashmir but it has lost a lot of face after 5 August 2019,” the leader said, requesting anonymity.

Spokesperson Thakur, however, had a different assessment, saying the BJP’s “popularity” has rattled militants. “The militants know that they are losing but our resolve gets stronger,” he added.

The funeral processions for the three men drew massive crowds Friday. Laying Hussain to rest, a local imam said a prayer seeking an end to violence in Kashmir.

“Be it militants, policemen, an Ikhwani (government-backed militia), in the end, it is only Kashmiri lives getting wasted. Let us pray that we see an end to this,” he said. (ThePrint)

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