Kulgam: A day after three young Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers were assassinated in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, hundreds attended their funeral prayers in their respective residences calling for an end to violence in the restive region. The killing, suspected to have been carried out by insurgents, has again put into spotlight the safety of political party members, whose fears are increasing constantly.
Fida Hussain Itoo, BJP district youth general secretary and his two associates Umer Hajam and Haroon Beigh were killed at around 8:20 p.m on Thursday, October 29, on the banks of Khidder nallah which runs through the YK Pora village. A local resident said he heard about 6-8 gunshots and after the firing stopped he went outside his house when he heard cries. “Many people had gathered near the spot where a car was parked on the roadside, two bodies were lying besides it. I was too scared to move any closer,” the resident told NewsClick.
According to police, the three were shot inside their car by militants who reached the spot in an Alto car allegedly belonging to another resident, Altaf. “The militants came close to their vehicle and began firing indiscriminately, injuring them grievously,” IGP Kashmir Police Vijay Kumar said.
While Fida and Umer were closer to home, Haroon lived about 3 km from the spot in a nearby village, Sopat. The bodies of the three were brought to their respective homes on Friday morning and three separate funerals led to sombre scenes with wails and cries reverberating.
Funeral procession of BJP worker Umer in Ykpora kulgam. Photo by Kamran Yousuf/Newsclick
At Fida’s funeral, an emotionally charged Imam leading the burial prayers called for end to violence in Kashmir. The prayers were attended by hundreds who responded in unison as the Imam led the invocation. “Be it mujahideen, the policemen or the Ikhwan (state-backed counter-insurgency militia), it is only a Kashmiri who suffers, who is being killed. May God end this violence against us,” the Imam said.
The residents of YK Pora knew 29-year-old Fida as someone who could help them with official work, if they needed any help in the local administration or had any governance issue. He was known in his family and neighbourhood as “Tipu”.
“When he was born, there was a TV serial that portrayed the life of Tipu Sultan (18th century ruler of Mysore) and we named him after that,” Bashir Ahmad, Fida’s uncle, told NewsClick.
An inconsolable Bashir sat in shock as his nephew was being given the ghusal (funeral bath). “He was the only son, among six sisters and has left behind a two-year-old daughter. I can’t imagine how it is going to be (for them) here onward. He was such a nice kid and we will never know what killed him except because he is a Kashmiri,” Bashir said.
Relatives mourn the death of BJP yuva morcha member Fida Hussain. Photo by Kamran Yousuf/Newsclick
He, however, said he did not know that Fida was an active member of the Right-wing BJP. “If any of us knew, we would not have allowed him to continue. There was no need for him to join politics of any side. He had a good life,” he added.
Like Fida’s uncle, the family of 24-year-old Umer Hajam denied any knowledge of Umer’s association with BJP. “He was a student and worked as a driver. He had just come back after a month to his home from travel,” Ghulam Ahmad, Umer’s cousin who lives right next to his house, said.
“It is very unfortunate and Umer has been a victim of unfortunate situation,” he added.
According to IGP Kumar, however, the attack was preplanned. The police believes it was carried out by three militants of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), including local militants Nissar Khanday and Abass Sheikh of Kulgam’s Khudwani village.
Soon after the attack, the police said it seized the Alto car used by militants at Telwani village near Achabal area, around 20 km away from the spot.
The BJP leaders who arrived at Fida’s residence on Friday to offer condolence alleged that the Jammu and Kashmir Police did not provide them security cover despite repeated demands.
“Our district president demanded security for them but it did not happen. Two of our dear colleagues have been killed now,” BJP’s spokesperson Altaf Thakur said.
According to IGP Kumar, as many as 157 BJP workers have been provided PSOs and 30 guards. The IGP police said that Itoo, who was kept in a secure location alongwith hundreds of other vulnerable persons left the area after “signing an undertaking.”
Mother of BJP worker Umer mourn the death of his son. Photo by Kamran Yousuf/Newsclick
Another security official posted in the area said Fida and his two associates did not figure in the list of Protected Persons (PP).
Over a dozen members of BJP have been killed in Kashmir this year and many other workers from various political parties, a majority of them in South Kashmir. Earlier in July, in another major setback to the party in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, suspected militant killed a BJP youth leader, Waseem Bari, and his father and brother outside his residence. The attack was carried out close to a police station and despite Bari’s security cover.
The fresh attack on three BJP workers in Kulgam has been condemned by all political parties in the region including BJP rivals National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and Congress.