Resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits was one of the major election vows of Indian PM Narendra Modi. Separatists and even the top militant commanders had assured the displaced community of so-called ‘protection’ and talked about brotherhood and ‘Kashmiriyat’ and things started to look positive.
The brotherhood bubble was soon ruptured when armed militants killed a prominent Kashmiri Pandit – Ajay Pandita Bharti, a sarpanch in LukBhawan Larkipora area of Anantnag in South Kashmir. Fired upon from a point-blank range near his house, Pandit was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to injuries.
Pandita belonged to Congress party and had returned to the Kashmir valley a few years ago to bridge the gap between the once ‘harmonious’ communities. In fact, he was one of the first few Kashmiri Pandits to rebuild his house in the valley after the exodus in 1989.
Nitin J Ticku, an expert on Kashmir affairs at EurAsian Times believes that such killings could be detrimental to re-settlement efforts of the Pandit community in Kashmir. With the killing on Pandita, KPs would be extremely apprehensive of working in the valley while ‘adversaries’ would continue to add anti-Kashmiri Pandit, anti-India narrative.
The killing of Pandita was condemned by a host of celebrities and politicians in the country. Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to condemn the terror attack and prayed that his soul rests in peace.
Very sorry to hear about the killing of sarpanch Ajay Pandita in Anantnag earlier this afternoon. I unequivocally condemn this terror attack on a grassroots political worker & pray that his soul rests in peace.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 8, 2020
‘’It is a desperate attempt by anti-national elements to defeat the process of grassroots democracy, which is sought to be established in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,’’ said Union Minister Jitendra Singh.
Veteran actor Anupam Kher also spoke about the killing of Ajay Bharti in a video message posted on twitter. A Kashmir Pandit himself, Kher questioned the silence of people over the incident and expressed sorrow and anger over the brutal murder of Bharti.
Deeply saddened & angry at the merciless killing of the lone #KashmiriPandit sarpanch #AjayPandita in Anantnag yesterday. My heartfelt condolences to his family. There is an obvious silence from the usual suspects who cry their heart hoarse otherwise. #JusticeForAjayPandita pic.twitter.com/5TnLpABOh2
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPKher) June 9, 2020
Iltija Mufti, daughter of former CM of J&K, also offered her condolences to the family of Ajay Pandita via Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter handle. However, much like her People’s Democratic Party, Mufti said that shrinking political space in Kashmir has made political party workers all the more vulnerable. They are stuck between punitive actions of a vindictive government & militants on the other end.
Terrible news.Condolences to the family.Shrinking political space in Kashmir has made political party workers all the more vulnerable.They are stuck between punitive actions of a vindictive government & militants on the other end https://t.co/NFvz1lswOA
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) June 8, 2020
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) national executive member and former MLC Sofi Mohammad Yousuf also termed the killing an act of cowardice act. Sofi, in a statement, further said that this act will not hamper the peace process in Kashmir and the culprits should be punished immediately.
The Congress demanded a judicial enquiry into the gruesome incident. Congress lashed out the lack of security provided to Bharati and said that the government is morally responsible for the death. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted about the incident and said that violence will never win.
My condolences to the family and friends of Ajay Pandita, who sacrificed his life for the democratic process in Kashmir. We stand with you in this time of grief.
Violence will never win.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 8, 2020
Is Pakistan Fuelling Hate Against Kashmiri Pandits?
While all political parties and prominent personalities mourned the death of Ajay Bharati, EurAsian Times discovered the twitter handle of Jason Blake. Blake claims to be an American-Canadian Human Rights activist who has served in American embassies in different locations and also worked in Kashmir.
However, it is highly possible that the twitter account tweeting about Kashmiri Pandits playing the victim card could be sponsored by Pakistan.
Islamabad has resorted to such tactics in the past with fake accounts operating under the guise of Omani princess that threatened to weaken relations between India and Oman.
The account by Jason Blake also speaks ill of Jewish people. In what looks like a ‘fictitious’ Twitter poll, Blake asks if the Jews had played the victim car better or the Kashmiri Pandit community.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is usually extremely very active on any incident in Jammu Kashmir, did not comment or tweet about the killing of Ajay Pandita. The lack of condolence for the murder of Bharati, also a Kashmiri, exposes the bias Khan has for Kashmiri Pandits.
In another tweet, Blake writes: Kashmiri Pandits are actually Bandits, they have mastered the art of playing the victim card. Wherever they go, they cry, they are morally corrupt, quite abusive & rejoice when anyone is killed but still Kashmiri Muslims sympathize with them & wipe away their crocodile tears.
Militancy is on the rise in the valley and despite the coronavirus, Kashmir continues to burn. Tensions over militancy and anti-insurgency operations have been soaring. Close to 100 militants have been killed in Kashmir this year till May and 14 militants in less than a week.
Experts believe that killers of Pandita would be hunted soon, but that would not be enough. The message from radical organizations and their masters is very clear – any person liked to India is not welcome in Kashmir, including the native inhabitants of the valley – Kashmiri Pandits.
With Invaluable inputs from Nitin. J Ticku