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Terrorists gun down Kashmiri Pandit, injure brother

Terrorists gun down Kashmiri Pandit, injure brother
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Srinagar: Terrorists shot dead a Kashmiri Pandit and injured his brother on Tuesday at an apple orchard in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, which had seen similar attacks on the minority community in April.
The victim Sunil Kumar Pandit had gone with his brother Pitambar Nath Pandit alias Pintu to his orchard in Chotigam village of Shopian along with their cattle when they were attacked with AK-47 assault rifle.
“Terrorists fired upon civilians in an apple orchard in Chotipora area of #Shopian. One person died and one injured. Both belong to minority community. Injured person has been shifted to hospital. Area #cordoned off. Further details shall follow,” a police spokesperson tweeted.
According to police officials, two terrorists came to the orchard in the forenoon. While one started firing with his AK-47 rifle on the brothers, the other captured the act on his mobile phone camera.
Sunil Kumar, who leaves behind four daughters and his wife, died on the spot, and his brother was battling for life at an army hospital here.
Terrorists had struck in the same village in April when they opened fire on Kashmiri Pandit chemist Balkrishen Bhat alias Sonu Kumar, who miraculously escaped death. He was injured and remained in hospital for a long period.
After the incident, the administration had assured that the presence of security forces where minorities were living would be increased.
There has been a sudden spike in attacks on minorities, labourers and police personnel in the valley since the beginning of this year. The death toll in targeted attacks has gone up to 21 this year which includes two Kashmiri Pandits.
An obscure Kashmir Freedom Fighter group claimed responsibility for the attack but security forces believe it to be an act by the terrorists of banned Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Meanwhile, reports said that heated arguments were witnessed outside the residence of the victim when officials from the administration visited the family. The brother of Balkrishen Bhat confronted the officials and accused them of failing in their duties to ensure the safety of minorities.
“After my brother was shot, I personally met the Deputy Commissioner of Shopian and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir for our safety. They told me nothing can be done and we should continue to stay where we live,” Anil Bhat claimed.
An agitated Bhat held the administration responsible for the killing and alleged it has failed in its duty to safeguard people’s safety.
There are only two or three Kashmiri Pandit families in Chotigam, nearly 10 km from the Shopian district headquarters and 70 km from Srinagar. The region is a hotbed of terrorism and is considered a stronghold of the terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Moahmmed.
The incident shook the minority community, which was already reeling under fear following the killing of an employee Rahul Bhat in May.
The increased terror attacks in the past week have left the security agencies worried as the terrorists have now again started targeting members of minority community, police personnel and outside labourers.
A policeman was killed in Nowhatta on Sunday and a migrant labourer was shot dead in Bandipora last week. Two grenade attacks took place in Budgam — in which a Kashmir Pandit civilian was injured — and in the Police Control Room at Srinagar on Monday.
“With another deadly attack on Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir, the terrorists have made it clear that they are going to kill all the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir valley,” KPSS chief Sanjay Tickoo said.
He claimed that the victims of Tuesday’s attack had approached senior officials of the administration to move them to safer places in view of the intelligence inputs that suggested that terrorists might target more minority community members.
“It is ironic that the officials told them that they have to live in their villages. What is the deal here? They have inputs about possible attacks and yet they do not secure us,” he said.
Tuesday’s killings saw widespread condemnation from administration and political parties.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that he was “pained beyond words on the despicable terror attack on civilians in Shopian. My thoughts are with the family of Sunil Kumar. Praying for a speedy recovery of the injured. The attack deserves the strongest condemnation from everyone. Terrorists responsible for the barbaric act will not be spared”.
The Lt Guv later visited the Army Hospital in Srinagar and inquired about the health of the injured civilian.
The Lt Governor enquired about the well-being of Pitambar Nath Pandit and asked the doctors to ensure the best possible medical care for his early recovery.
Meanwhile, condemning the killing, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Terribly sad news from South Kashmir today. An accident and a militant attack have left a trail of death and suffering. I condemn the attack in Shopian unequivocally in which Sunil Kumar was killed and Pinto Kumar injured. My condolences to the family.”
BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur said, “Strongly condemn the dastardly act of terror on innocent minority community members at Shopian in which Sunil Kumar was killed and another injured. Terror has no religion. Killers should be punished.”
People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone condemned the attack as a “heinous act of violence” and expressed his condolences to the family of the victims.
Several groups staged protests against the killing and demanded adequate measures to ensure safety of the minority community members in the valley.
The protesters, who gathered at different places including Rani Park, Press Club and Panama chowk in the heart of Jammu, also raised slogans against Pakistan and the terrorists besides criticising the government for its alleged failure to stop targeted and selective killings.
A group of people also staged a protest at district headquarters in the border town of Poonch.
In January, one policeman was killed in a targeted attack in Anantnag. March saw the highest of seven such killings — five civilians and an on-leave CRPF jawan in Shopian and a special police officer (SPO) in Budgam. The brother of the SPO also lost his life in the same attack.
In April, two civilians, including a sarpanch, were killed, while in May, five persons — two cops and three civilians — were killed. The civilians were Rahul Bhat, a government employee recruited under the prime minister’s special package for Kashmir Pandits, TV actor Amreen Bhat, and teacher Rajini Bhala.
In June, a non-local bank manager and a non-local labourer were shot dead by terrorists, while a sub-inspector of police was also killed. Two non-local labourers have been killed so far in August.
Later in the day, Divisional Commissioner (Div Com) Kashmir, Pandurang K.Pole visited Chotigam area of Shopian .
The Div Com during the visit met the bereaved family of Sunil Kumar and expressed condolences with them. He strongly condemned the target killings of the civilians and assured of all possible help from the administration to the family.
He was accompanied by District Administration Officers including ADDC, ADC, ACR, Tehsildar and other officials.
It is worth mentioning here that the District Administration officers also participated in the last rituals of the deceased. (with inputs from KV News Desk)

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