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A Spurt in Militant Attacks on BJP Workers in Kashmir and the Dilemma of Their Grief-stricken Kin

There has been a recent spurt in militant attacks on BJP leaders in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in the past one year period. In the latest attack, militants in Kulgam on Thursday killed three BJP workers, including Fida Hussian, a 29-year-old general secretary of its youth wing, and two other supporters in their early 20s.

The police said that the militants had arrived in the village of Yar Khusipora in an Alto and intercepted the car carrying the three BJP men. They opened indiscriminate fire, leaving them wounded. Later, all three succumbed to their injuries.

The Kulgam strike was very similar to the one carried out in July in Bandipore when a prominent BJP functionary, Wasim Bari, his father and brother were killed in an ambush. Three other BJP workers were shot dead in separate incidents, taking the toll to nine.

Soon after political killings in Kashmir, several BJP workers usually announce their resignation from the party on social media and also ask for forgiveness from the militants.

Recently, Mohammad Ashraf Wani, a BJP worker from Aishmuqam, Anantnag announced his resignation from all positions of the BJP and requested his friends and neighbours to help propagate the message.

TRF Owns Attack, Warns BJP Leaders

The Resistance Front (TRF) a militant outfit in Kashmir, has owned responsibility for Thursday’s attack in Kulgam.

”We were issuing warnings but people under the effect of power and money were no taking it seriously. Our today’s action again serves as a hard warning to people trying to weaken the resistance or strengthen the occupation. We also warn general people against organising or attending the funeral of these dead traitors. Since our martyrs are buried without a funeral so shall these stooges,” read the TRF handout.

The National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party and Congress have together lost over 7,000 supporters to militant attacks in the last 30 years. However, most of the brunt has been born by the NC.

Mohammad Yusuf Halwai, NC’s block president was the first political worker killed by militants in 1989, the year armed militancy broke out.

The Kulgam killings precede the Panchayat by-elections for the 13,000 seats scheduled in November and December. Though the main Panchayat elections were held in 2018, these bypolls would be the first electoral exercise in Jammu and Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories.

Mourning and Charges against Police in Kulgam

As the bodies of the three BJP workers were handed over to their families, the grief-stricken relatives and neighbours poured in for consolation. A few relatives and friends at one funeral service told News 18 that they were not even sure if the deceased had joined the BJP. ”We were under this impression that they were working in some office in Srinagar, but we are surprised when we came to know about their links with the BJP,” said a relative.

However, both the family members and top party leaders have blamed the Jammu and Kashmir police for their “lax” attitude towards securing their lives.

Altaf Thakur, BJP spokesperson for Kashmir, said, “Our district president had met SP Kulgam demanding security for two of our workers. He had given it in writing but there was no action.”

Meanwhile, Vijay Kumar, IGP Kashmir, said that Hussian was among many BJP workers who were provided security in a Pahalgam hotel, but he left the place after giving an undertaking. “We are investigating as to how he reached this far from their residence,” he said.

Kumar said they have identified the module behind the killing. “Two local residents and a Pakistani national of Lashkar-e-Taiba have carried out this attack,” he said. The police believes the TRF is used by the LeT to own such killings.

BJP Supporters and Their Dilemma

Some of the representatives of the saffron party say that they are consciously drawn to the ranks of the party, but it is a tightrope walk for smaller workers putting up in remote villages. They have to hide their affiliations and work very cautiously and slyly. In many cases, their families are not aware of this occupational hazard.

Farooq Ahmad Malik, general secretary for Pulwama district, said he joined the BJP four years ago, but over the last one and half years he has not visited his home once. “These killings won’t deter us to carry our mission forward. We are steadfast and ready to offer sacrifices,” he said.

Malik and 50 other BJP workers are currently holed up at a Srinagar hotel. “I miss my wife and my three children, but militancy in south Kashmir is forcing me to stay away. A lot of people raise issues and we offer our help. I will continue to do so even at the risk of my life.”

Meanwhile, Thakur said that it is BJP’s growing popularity that has led to these militant attacks. “They don’t want us to work for people. They want to hold their sway and that is why we are their prime target,’” he said.

IGP Kumar added that militants carry out the attacks at the behest of handlers from across the border.

Thakur said that the popularity of the BJP can be guaged from the fact that 5.30 lakh people have signed up for BJP membership in the last six years. He regretted that out of the 3,300 delegates only 157 were given security. “Only two to three leaders have a double escort security, around 10 have single escort security. A bulk of our supporters live dangerously, especially in remote villages. They just go invisible in the villages. They are the actual underground workers – their affiliation hidden to their closest family members,” he said.

“The BJP is a prime target because it is the only active party at this point of time. All other parties are grounded and their activists are dormant,” said a noted journalist.

Mohidduin Mir, a former legislator of the NC, said, “I have been caged in this party office for the last 14 months. My security has been taken away and I cannot even visit my home which is only 3 km away from this place.”

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