Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

Kashmiri Pandit Govt Employees Threaten Mass Resignation, Police Lathi-Charges Protesters

Kashmiri Pandit Killing

Kashmiri Pandit Govt Employees Threaten Mass Resignation, Police Lathi-Charges Protesters

Kashmiri Pandits held protests across the Valley after a community member's targeted killing. Police lathi-charged them and fired tear-gas shells.

Abandoned Kashmiri Pandit houses in Kashmir. (File photo-Representational image) Getty Images

Rahul Bhat was on Thursday shot to death in his office in Chadoora town of Budgam district. Two terrorists entered the tehsil office and shot Bhat at point-blank range, according to the police.  

Protests were held in Sheikhpora, Vessu, Qazigund, and Mattan Muthi, Hazuribagh, and Buntalab. Hundreds of protestors blocked roads and burnt tyres. They threatened to resign en-masse, alleging the government had failed to provide adequate security to the community members who were provided employment under the Prime Minister's package for the displaced community members.

The Sheikhpora camp in Central Kashmir's Budgam, where Kashmiri Pandit employees have been provided make-shift accommodation, was the epicentre of these protests with people marching towards the airport and shouting slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

A heavy detachment of police personnel stopped the protesters after appeals requesting them to disperse failed to yield any result, leading to clashes during which they lathi-charged the protesters and fired tear-gas shells. There were no reports of any injury but some purported pictures of people allegedly wounded during the police action circulated on social media.

The protestors raised slogans against the J&K administration and demanded that Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha should come and assure them about their safety. However, the Lt Governor was in Sopore attending a function at that time.

Sinha's office tweeted that he had met the relatives of Bhat and "assured justice to the family".

"In this hour of grief, the government stands firmly with Rahul's family. Terrorists and their supporters will have to pay a very heavy price for their heinous act," it said.

Bhat was cremated on Friday in Jammu amid protests by members of the Kashmiri Pandit community. As the mortal remains of Rahul Bhat reached his home in Durga Nagar area of Jammu on Friday morning where hundreds of mourners had gathered, his relatives wept inconsolably.

Rahul Bhat’s wife and daughter, who were staying with him at Sheikhpora migrant colony in Budgam, accompanied the body as it arrived here from Kashmir. His brother Sunny lit the pyre at the Buntalab cremation ground as chants of "long live Rahul Bhat" rent the air.

The community members, including Rahul Bhat's family, accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of making young Kashmiri Hindus "cannon fodder" in the name of rehabilitation of the community. They also said the incident has shattered their dream of resettling permanently in the valley.

"You have formulated a plan to get young Kashmiri Pandits killed in the name of giving them jobs and rehabilitating them," Somnath Bhat, a relative of Rahul Bhat, alleged.

Such people are "sitting ducks" for terrorists who are using them for "target practice", he added.

(With PTI inputs)