New Delhi: A Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader has criticised the union territory administration for being “indifferent” to the security concerns of local political leaders that led to the murder of a Congress-affiliated sarpanch in Anantnag district earlier this week.
In an article in RSS mouthpiece ‘Organiser’ published Thursday, BJP spokesperson Girdhari Lal Raina said the killing of sarpanch Ajay Pandita ‘Bharti’ is a “sure setback to all those members of the displaced community who would have been thinking about returning to their origin”.
“The administration can’t escape its part of the blame. They refused or remained indifferent to the security concerns of ground-level political workers from the displaced community who accepted the call given by Hon’ble Prime Minister from ramparts of red fort New Delhi,” wrote Raina, a former MLC.
Pandita, a Kashmiri Pandit, was the sarpanch of Lukbawan village in south Kashmir’s Larkipora area. He was shot dead by unidentified militants when he was in his orchard Monday.
Raina said Panidta was “unarmed and unprotected”. He was not “a BJP or RSS man but a grass-root level social worker of ‘secular’ Congress party”.
“(He) dared to settle in his hamlet without looking towards return package and the idea of a proposed township for return and rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri Pandits,” he wrote.
Setback to rehabilitation of ‘displaced community’
The BJP spokesperson said: “(Pandita)… became a refugee in his own country. This man chose to return to his roots irrespective of what others of his ilk said or did. He went further to construct a new house in his village — a very risky and imprudent step by any standards for a displaced person to do.”
He said the “vicious slaying of Ajay Pandita ‘Bharti’ is a sure setback” to all those members of the displaced community who might have been thinking about returning to their native place.
“… if Ajay Pandita ‘Bharti’ was targeted for being a sarpanch then his electors and all other colleagues are equally responsible. Will all of them be eliminated? Are 80-90 per cent electors of Kashmir Valley who participated in one or the other elections also wajibul-qatal (worthy of being murdered)? Is this really the case?” Raina wrote.
‘Must be some other reason for eliminating Pandita’
Raina also said the “most striking aspect” was the absence of a boundary wall around Pandita’s house.
“Most striking aspect for me was the absence of a boundary wall around his house that provides some sense of security to the inmates — a concept not uncommon even in the majority community of the Valley also,” he said.
“Why did Ajay Pandita choose to do so? Was it for economic reasons or did he consider goodwill of majority community more dependent than a brick wall?” Raina questioned, and continued: “… I don’t know! But if it was later one, then the message is loud and clear; ‘Good Will is no Guarantee of Security’. And any person desirous of returning to the valley must factor that in.”
He added, “…. there must be some other reason for eliminating Ajay Pandita. That inconvenient question of knowing TRUTH needs to be asked. Majority community of Kashmir will have to confront this reality, and sooner they do it is better for Kashmir and Kashmiris.”
Sarpanch murder will ‘hamper’ democratic process
J&K BJP general secretary Sunil Sharma echoed Raina.
Speaking to ThePrint, he said: “This murder will hamper democratic process. We have continuously tried to build an atmosphere where the election process can take place, where people can fearlessly participate in democratic process, but this will create fear and it is a setback for government efforts to normalise the situation in J&K.”
Meanwhile, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav Thursday asked the J&K unit to assist Pandita’s family and provide a job to one of his family members.
Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu has announced Rs 20-lakh compensation for Pandita’s family.
BJP general secretary (organisation) Ashok Kaul told ThePrint: “We have earlier suggested these sarpanches should be provided security and it should be provided in respective districts. They should be segregated in clusters at the district level and then they should be provided security in groups. But the administration grouped them in Srinagar to provide security, which did not serve the purpose.”
‘Impossible’ to provide security to each sarpanch
Some J&K BJP leaders told ThePrint they communicated the issue of security concerns to Delhi in the last 3-4 days, but the J&K administration has ruled out individual security cover to each elected representative.
A J&K administration official, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint: “We have provided security in Srinagar but it is quite impossible to provide individual security cover.”
He added, “There are 25,000 elected members at panchayats. If we provide two men to every person, it will require 50,000 police personnel, which is impractical and impossible. Here, either displaced Pandits can be provided security or community policing can be done, but this decision is to be taken at a higher level.”
Last September, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had assured security and Rs 2 lakh life insurance cover to each panch and sarpanch in the UT due to their vulnerability to terror threats. But security was never provided to them.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.