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Subhas Kaul | HENB | Jammu | Aug 17, 2022:: A member of the minority Pandit community belonging to Hindu faith was shot at and killed, while his cousin was grievously injured, by militants Tuesday morning in Shopian district of south Kashmir.
The slain has been identified as 45-year-old Sunil Kumar, son of Arjunnath Kumar, resident of Chotigam village in Shopian district.
“He was a farmer by profession and lived in the village along with his family,” a police official from the district said.
He said that Sunil Kumar is survived by his three daughters and his wife. His brother Pritmber, alias Pintu, who also had bullet injury and has been shifted to a Srinagar hospital for specialised treatment.
“We are taking regular updates from the hospital and we have been told he is responding well to the treatment,” the police official said.
The incident took place at about 11:30 AM Tuesday in the ancestral village of Kumar – where he and his brother were working in their apple orchard.
According to police officials, “two terrorists belonging to the banned Al-Badar organisation, came to the orchard this morning and lined up everyone.
“After identification, they segregated Sunil Kumar Bhat and his cousin Pritmber Kumar Bhat and shot indiscriminately on them with their AK-47 rifle,” police said.
According to eyewitnesses and Pritmber Bhat’s statement, “while one terrorist was firing indiscriminately, the other was capturing the horrific incident on his smart phone.”
Police said that Sunil Kumar died on the spot, while Pintu was rushed to a nearby hospital and then to Srinagar for treatment. “We have registered a case and investigation has been taken up in this regard,” the official said. “Searches were also carried out in the area to try and nab the attackers, who had managed to flee by then.”
Sources said a masked terrorist, presumably a Pakistani, and a Kashmiri accomplice sneaked up on the victim brothers when they were pruning an overgrowth of willow trees on the orchard with the help of three local hands. The terrorists told the the hired hands to leave before the masked man shot at the brothers.
This was the second attack in Kashmir on minority communities in less than twenty-four hours. Monday evening, a Rajput man was injured seriously in a grenade explosion. The incident had taken place in Gopalpora area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, where suspected militants hurled a grenade at members of the Rajput community near a security barrack.
The attacks on Pandits and other minorities in the Kashmir valley have continued unabated since last year, when a renowned chemist and medical shop owner named Makhan Lal Bindroo was shot dead in the busy Iqbal Park area of Srinagar.
Fear and panic have been palpable among Pandits and other minorities in May this year after the killing of a Kashmiri Pandit, a Revenue department employee named Rahul Bhat, in Chadoora area of Budgam district.
Most of the Pandits are yet to resume their duties since and have been demanding transfers to “safer” places.
Following the killing, condemnations and condolences kept pouring in from all quarters of political and social spheres in Kashmir. LG Manoj Sinha has yet again vowed to not spare people behind this barbaric act.
“Pained beyond words on the despicable terror act on civilians in Shopian,” Sinha tweeted. “The act deserves the strongest condemnation from everyone.” He also visited the injured Chintu at the army’s base hospital in Srinagar later in the day.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President, Omar Abdullah, said he was “terribly sad” over the incident. “I condemn the militant attack unequivocally,” he tweeted.
His tweet was followed by one from another former Chief Minister, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, who took a dig at the Government of India (GoI) for acting like an ostrich.
“Terribly sorry to hear about the targeted killing in Shopian,” she tweeted. “GOI continues to behave like an ostrich with its head buried deep under the sand.”
She further wrote that every resident of J&K has become cannon fodder in Delhi’s quest for “manufactured normalcy”.
BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur said, “Strongly condemn the dastardly act of terror on innocent minority community members at Shopian in which Sunil Kumar was killed and another injured. Terror has no religion. Killers should be punished.”
People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone condemned the attack as a “heinous act of violence” and expressed his condolences to the family of the victims.
The state units of BJP, Congress, Apni Party and Shiv Sena (Thackeray), National Conference as well as Panun Kashmir, an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, condemned Tuesday’s Chotigam murder.
Congress, Sena and Panun Kashmir blamed the Centre for repeated attacks on Kashmiri Pandits, while Apni Party said the killings are aimed at promoting hate.
BJP state chief Ravinder Rana slammed “cowardly Pakistani terrorists” for the attack. “Two brothers—Kashmiri Hindus— were targeted by coward Pakistani terrorists. Pakistan wants bloodbath in Kashmir, Pakistan terrorists are enemies of people of Kashmir,” he said.
Panun Kashmir president Virender Raina said the problem isn’t about development or economic, but radicalisation and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Unless these two are crushed with an iron hand, things won’t improve in J&K, he said.
‘Qatal-e-nahaq na manzoor’ (killing of innocent not unacceptable) and chants of unity reverberated in the air as villagers of Chotigam took out a procession to condemn the killing of Sunil Kumar Bhat by terrorists on Tuesday morning. He was cremated in the evening.
The incident shook the minority community, which was already reeling under fear following the killing of an employee Rahul Bhat in May. A call for fresh exodus from the Valley was issued by Kashmir Pandit Sangharash Samiti (KPSS), an organisation which has been taking up the cause with the government in the Valley.
The increased attacks in the past week have left the security agencies worried as the terrorists have now again started targeting members of minority community, police personnel and outside labourers.
A policeman was killed in Nowhatta on Sunday and a migrant labourer was shot dead in Bandipora last week. Two grenade attacks took place in Budgam — in which a Kashmir Pandit civilian was injured — and in the Police Control Room at Srinagar on Monday.
Following the back-to-back attacks, KPSS has asked the community members to leave the Valley.
“With another deadly attack on Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir, the terrorists have made it clear that they are going to kill all the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir valley,” KPSS chief Sanjay Tickoo said.
He said he has urged all Kashmiri Pandits to leave the Valley and move to safer places like Jammu and Delhi.
__Inputs from Agencies.