Anger, protests in Kashmir after killing of migrant Kashmiri Pandit

Rahul Bhat, in his 30s, was working at the revenue department where he was shot dead by suspected militants. | Photo by arrangement

Killing of a Kashmiri Pandit in Kashmir valley has evoked sharp reactions in the Pandit community with several calling for the mass resignation of more than 350 Kashmiri Pandit Prime Minister Package employees. 

Muhammad Raafi | 

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NEW DELHI — Anger, grief and protests marked Kashmir valley after the killing of a Kashmiri Pandit days ago in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. 

On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir Police foiled a protest march of Kashmiri Pandits at Sheikpora, Budgam. The Pandit community, which is a Hindu minority in Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir, was protesting against the killing of a Pandit employee shot dead by suspected militants on Thursday.

Police used tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters at Sheikhpora, Budgam after the magistrate repeatedly requested and tried to pacify the protesters not to proceed towards the busy Airport road.

Demonstrations were also reported from Qazigund, Pulwama, Budgam, Ganderbal and Baramulla, Indian Express reported.

The Pandit demonstrators were marching towards Sheikh-ul-Alam Srinagar International Airport. The protesters said that they were waiting for Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha till 11 am and as he didn’t turn up, they decided to march towards the airport to lodge their protest against the killing of their colleague Rahul Bhat.

Dozens of Pandit protestors assembled outside the migrant colony Sheikhpora, Budgam to register their protest. “We had informed the administration and police that LG should visit the spot and give us assurance about our protection and ensure culprits involved in the killing of Rahul Bhat won’t be spared. But LG didn’t arrive at the spot and we were left with no option other than to march towards Srinagar airport,” a protester told

The protestors were shouting slogans like, “DC Budgam hai, hai; Kaatil Ko Pesh Karo. (Down with DC Budgam. Produce the culprits)”

Witnesses said that as the protestors started marching towards the airport, policemen present at the spot fired a few tear smoke shells to prevent the protestors from marching towards the Airport. “The protesters were pushed back and barred from proceeding towards the Airport,” they said. Officials said, “some miscreants” among the protestors pelted stones at the police forcing the cops to use mild force to quell the protestors. “The situation is under control at present.”

A police official told that the protesters while ignoring repeated requests started proceeding towards the Airport road while forcibly breaking all the physical barriers en route and pushing the police and security forces.

Reacting to the reports of police personnel foiling the march of the Kashmiri Pandits, NC leader Omar Abdullah called the move shameful and backed the community’s right to protest. “It’s shameful that legitimate & justified protests are met with a heavy-handed response. This is not new for the people of Kashmir because when all the administration has is a hammer every problem resembles a nail. If the LG’s Govt can’t protect KPs they have a right to protest,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

Killing evokes sharp reactions
Bhat’s killing has evoked sharp reactions in the Pandit community with several calling for the mass resignation of more than 350 Kashmiri Pandit Prime Minister Package employees in Kashmir. The letter of calling for mass resignation was sent to Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha.

Rahul Bhat, who had got the job of a clerk under the special employment package for migrants in 2010-11, was killed by suspected militants inside the Tehsil office in Chadoora town. Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha met the relatives of Rahul Bhat and assured justice to the family.

A police constable, in the meanwhile, was shot at and killed in the Gudoora area of Pulwama Friday morning. Government officials said that suspected militants fired upon Riyaz Ahmad Thoker at his house. He succumbed to injuries at the Army base hospital.

Meanwhile, on Friday, mourners visited Bhat’s house as his family and relatives waited for his body and the father demanded a probe into the incident. “His body should be returned immediately and an inquiry ordered into the incident to identify all those who are involved in his killing,” his father Bita Bhat told media in Jammu.

Bhat’s father has demanded an investigation into the motive behind the killing. He said that his son gave his life to the government.

Wails and shrieks filled the house as mourners including neighbours and relatives rushed to comfort the family after hearing about the killing of Bhat, who was in his early 30s.

Various political leaders condemned the killing and demanded stern action against the perpetrators. “Militants have bled Kashmir by the cold-blooded murder of Bhat. Those behind the killings will not be spared and will be eliminated,” J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti alleged she was put under house arrest before her planned visit to Budgam, where, she said, she wanted to go to express solidarity with the protesting Kashmiri Pandits. “Wanted to visit Budgam to express my solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits protesting against GOIs failure to protect them. Have been put under house arrest as the fact the Kashmiri Muslims & pandits empathise with each other’s pain doesn’t fit into their vicious communal narrative,” she said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Jammu Kashmir Police said that the militants “who were involved in the killing of Kashmiri Pandit government employee Rahul Bhat at Budgam on Thursday have been neutralised by the security forces within a day of the ghastly incident.” 

Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He tweets at @MohammadRaafi