With Bari’s Death, Malla’s Abduction, Kashmir BJP Goes Underground

Sources said many party workers have gone underground to prevent getting targeted.

Published23 Jul 2020, 04:16 PM IST
India
3 min read

Video Producer: Shohini BoseVideo Editor: Vivek Gupta

The assassination of a BJP leader in Bandipora earlier this month has cast clouds of uncertainty and fear on the party’s plans of gaining a foothold in turmoil-hit Kashmir that remains under the central rule.

On 8 July, senior party leader, Sheikh Wasim Bari, was assassinated along with his father and brother by suspected militants in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

“Our workers are scared,” Abdul Rehman Thikrey, BJP’s district president of Bandipora where the killings took place, told The Quint.

“I have given a list of 300 workers and leaders who are under threat to the police. If anything happens to them, it will be the responsibility of the government.”
Abdul Rehman Thikrey

The scare doubled after suspected militants abducted Mehraj-ud-Din Malla, a BJP leader and vice-chairman of Watergam Municipal Committee, who was rescued reportedly after police brought the family of a local Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, believed to be behind the abduction, to a police station.

“He has been shifted to a secure place. I have also moved to Srinagar,” Gulzar Ahmad, president of Wattergam Municipal Committee, said.

According to sources in J&K Police, hundreds of party leaders, workers and activists have fled their homes after Wasim’s assassination.

“Some of them have been taken to south Kashmir. They have been lodged in hotels secured by police to thwart any militant attacks on them,” sources said.

A Concern for BJP, NC, PDP and Congress Alike

Last year, the BJP had said that the abrogation of Article 370 will end the militancy in Kashmir.

However, while the militant kills have gone up significantly, 143 in first six months this year as against 160 in the entire 2019, there has been an uptick in insurgency-related violence as well.

"This is a concern for all political parties; be it National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party or Congress, we are all vulnerable. We have asked our workers to take precautions."
Mudasir Ahmad, BJP’s North Kashmir coordinator

The party has petitioned the J&K government to provide secure accommodation and security cover to its workers, leaders and their families.

“We have stopped political activities and asked our workers to stay quiet till the situation improves. The government is also taking some measures,” Thikrey, who has been with the BJP since 2008, said.

“My children told me they are not afraid of anyone. They believe it is part of politics and everyone has a right to be in the politics. Army and police will deal with those who are involved in terrorism and bloodshed,” he said.

Looking for an End of Uncertainty

Following the triple killings, senior BJP leader and party’s J&K incharge Ram Madhav and J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina met with the widow of Wasim Bari in Bandipora. They also held a meeting with Kashmir-based leaders and workers of the party in Srinagar.

“We are living in an atmosphere of fear, not just in Kashmir but across the country.  We can’t live in our homes. In Wasim’s death, I have lost a friend and a brother. We are shocked,” Ashraf Reshi, who has been with the BJP since 2002, said.

Reshi said the BJP has appealed the government to provide security and accommodation to prominent leaders, “If we are killed, how will we run the party? We have appealed the deputy commissioner and SSP to end this uncertainty by securing our leaders and workers,” he said.

“The government has its limitations but they are doing their best to ensure that such incidents don’t recur,” he said.

(Jehangir Ali is a Srinagar-based journalist. He tweets at @gaamuk. )

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