A BJP leader and municipal councillor was shot dead by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district. Rakesh Pandita was at his friend's home in Pulwama's Tral area when three terrorists barged in and opened fire around 10:15 pm on Wednesday, said sources in the police. His friend's daughter also suffered injuries and was hospitalised in a critical condition.
The attack was condemned by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and leaders cutting across party lines, including Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone.
According to the police spokesperson, Pandita was a "protected person" and had been provided with two Personal Security Officers (PSOs) and a secured accommodation in Srinagar.
At the time of the incident, Pandita was without any PSO as he defied the standard operating procedure (SoP) and went to his native village in the south Kashmir district without his security.
Police have registered a case and investigation is in progress. Officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of this terror crime, besides why he was without any security at the time of the incident, the spokesman said.
The area has been cordoned off and a search is going on to nab the attackers, he added.
Five BJP leaders were killed last year in a spate of targeted killings. After this, there was a review of the security arrangement and most of them had been provided with secured accommodation in Srinagar, the summer capital of the union territory.
Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha condemned the attack.
"Saddened to hear about the terror attack on the Councillor Shri Rakesh Pandita at Tral, Pulwama. I strongly condemn the attack. My condolences to the bereaved family in this time of grief," the LG said on his official Twitter handle.
Sinha also said "terrorists will never succeed in their nefarious designs" and those responsible for such heinous acts shall be brought to justice.
PDP president and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti expressed shock over the killing.
"Shocked to hear that BJP leader Rakesh Pandit has been shot dead by militants. These senseless acts of violence have brought only misery to J&K. My condolences to the family and may his soul rest in peace," she said in a tweet.
BJP's Jammu and Kashmir unit General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Koul condemned the killing of the party's councillor and termed it "barbaric".
He said the attack was a cowardly act by the militants and such acts will not bring down the morale of the BJP leadership on the ground.
"Those who are responsible for this will not be spared. The militants are targeting party workers and innocent civilians but they did not know that every person is ready to give sacrifice for this country," he said.
Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone in a tweet said the gun was a curse and the people of Kashmir had seen enough.
"Yet again gunmen attack a non-combatant. This gun is a curse. Just ponder. Since the day this menace came into Kashmir. What have we seen? In a nut shell total disempowerment of the Kashmiri. Dear gunmen. Can u please go back where u came from. We have had enough," he said.
The National Conference also condemned the killing of the BJP leader.
With PTI inputs