SHEIKHPORA (BUDGAM): “Har Ghar Rahul Nikli Ga” (There will be a Rahul from every home).
For ages, a large part of Kashmir valley was abuzz with slogans against India and the Indian army. On Thursday, Kashmir was once again abuzz with the slogan. But it is a slogan of a different kind as hundreds of people – pandits and locals – bridged their religious divide and tided over their chequered history as they marched together to protest the gruesome murder of Rahul Bhat, a pandit, by terrorists.
Migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who have returned to Kashmir under the Prime Minister’s rehabilitation package, and locals joined hands as they denounced the killing of the Bhat, who worked in the Revenue Department at the Tehsil office in Chadoora Budgam, and blocked the Srinagar-Budgam highway outside their security colony is Shiekhpora area.
In a significant development, the local Muslims too joined the protest and denounced the killing of Bhat, who is survived by his wife and a nine-year-old daughter.
The protestors, who included women and children, were demanding stringent punishment for the killers of Bhat. Alleging that the government has failed to protect them, the protestors said that if rehabilitation costs life, they will prefer to resign en masse and leave the valley forever.
“We are being made soft targets by targeted by terrorists,” said one of the woman protestors who is a teacher by profession. “If the terrorists are out to kill all of us, they should tell us clearly,” they said.
Alleging that the government has failed to protect them, they shouted “Fail hai, fail hai, administration fail Hai” slogans.
When IGP, Kashmir Vijay Kumar visited the spot, the protestors asked him how the terrorists managed to enter the tehsil office and kill Rahul. They also asked, “Why are these killings taking place? Who are these terrorists? Why are they killing us?”
The police chief tried to calm the agitated protestors as he assured them that the terrorists will be eliminated soon.
Jammu and Kashmir Police said that two terrorists were involved in carrying out the attack and shot Rahul with a pistol.
It’s the first time since the 90’s that the Kashmiri Pandit community has come out to protest against a killing.
The Kashmiri Pandit community took out protests in central and north Kashmir to condemn the killing. Protests were also reported from the Veesu and Mattan areas of the Anantnag district as well as Handwara and Baramulla.
Reports said that the protestors blocked the Srinagar-Jammu national highway at Qazigund leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded for hours.
Another massive protest was held along the Pulwama-Shopian highway outside KP migrant colony Nikas.
Condemning the attack, LG of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha said, ‘‘I strongly condemn the barbaric killing of Rahul Bhat by terrorists at Budgam. Those behind this despicable terror attack will not go unpunished. J&K Govt stands in solidarity with the bereaved family in this hour of grief’’.
Politicians from Valley have also condemned the killing and called it a gruesome murder.
‘‘Condemn the gruesome act wherein a Kashmiri Pandit boy Rahul Bhat was murdered in Chadoora. Another life ended and another family was devastated. My heart goes out to the bereaved family in this hour of grief. It also belies the false claims of normalcy in Kashmir,’’ said Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, tweeted, ‘‘I unequivocally condemn the murderous militant attack on Rahul Bhatt. Rahul was a government employee working in the Tehsil office in Chadoora where he was attacked. Targeted killings continue & a sense of fear grows unchecked. My heartfelt condolences to Rahul’s family. RIP’’.
There has been an increase in the target attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and other non-locals in the valley in the last few months. It has raised a lot of fear among the minority communities living in the Valley.