English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Three months after ceasefire, first terror attack on a BJP leader in Kashmir

Rakesh Pandita, a BJP leader in Jammu and Kashmir, who was killed on June 2 night

With the fresh ceasefire between the Indian and the Pakistani troops on the LoC and the International Border holding to a great extent since 25 February 2021, when it was simultaneously announced by the two Director-Generals of Military Operations, the first major terror strike on a BJP leader in Jammu and Kashmir has occurred in the militant-infested Tral area in southern Kashmir.

Rakesh Pandita (50), who was gunned down in Tral on Wednesday night, had all the qualifications of becoming a terror target.

Living in the Batnag neighbour of Tral, the Panditas with other families of the minority community had migrated to Jammu in the very beginning of the armed insurgency in 1990. His uncle Jawlal, a retired headmaster, returned in September 2002 to contest that year’s Assembly elections on the BJP ticket. He was among the candidates defeated by PDP’s Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, who seemed to be contesting with the secret support from the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Hurriyat.

Also read: Mirwaiz, Lone assassinations proved a nemesis for Kashmir's separatist movement

Subsequently, Rakesh Pandita too joined the BJP. With the mainstream majors National Conference and the PDP staying out, Pandita on the BJP ticket found it easy not only to win from a ward in the Urban Local Body elections of 2018 but also to be elected as President of the Tral Municipal Committee. So he was a BJP leader, an elected representative and a Kashmiri Pandit.

Even as the ceasefire on the borders does not cover the non-State actors’ terror acts, many people in the valley like Pandita appeared to be relieved. They began compromising their security guidelines and roaming about without the Police protection.

According to the Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar, Pandita was a protected politician with at least two personal security officers (PSOs) attached to him. He had also been given accommodation at a guarded hotel in Srinagar.

Pandita’s father Prem Nath, living in Jammu’s Roop Nagar locality, passed away in the third week of May. After performing his last rites for 12 days, Pandita drove all the way to Srinagar on Monday, 31 May. He visited his protected accommodation and left for Tral without informing his PSOs or the Police Control Room, breaching the Standard Operating Procedure for all protected persons.

Also read: Pakistan-based Hurriyat faction on life-support in Kashmir

According to the residents, Pandita was at the office of the Tral Municipal Committee on the 1st and the 2nd June. He is believed to have stayed at a friend’s house in the town on the night of 1-2 June and gone there again next night. At 9:45 pm, when an encounter was underway between a detained militant operative, Irfan Malik—who had grabbed a constable’s rifle at the local camp of the Special Operations Group—and the security forces, three unidentified gunmen appeared at Tral Bala and they shot dead Pandita. The daughter of his friend and host sustained gunshot wounds.

Even as the Police are still verifying whether Pandita was killed in a ‘booby trap’ or some other planned strike, IGP Kashmir has alerted all protected persons against venturing out without PSOs and without informing the PCR in advance.

Pandita has met his destiny in 15 days of his father’s death, leaving behind his aged mother, a psychologically unstable brother, wife and a son who is a 12th standard student at a school in Jammu. Jawlal is telling his relatives and friends how he had tried to stop Pandita from visiting Kashmir just on his father’s 13th day after death.

With Pandita’s killing, yet another family of a BJP leader, a Kashmiri Pandit and a peoples’ representative has been left traumatised. Kashmir’s militant organisations have not been claiming such civilian killings since long. However, some groups, suspected to be the militants’ front outfits, have been issuing claims and statements through social media. Shortly after the killing in Tral, a claim purportedly from ‘Peoples Anti-fascist Front’, said that its cadres had “neutralised a Fascist Hindu extremist Rakesh Pandit in Tral”.

“This extremist was not only involved in creating a network of informers, but was also involved in drug trafficking and other immoral activities. If the Hindu thugs believe that their evil designs can take roots in Kashmir, then it is a delusion of great magnitude. We have an eye on every activity of theirs and we will deal with them appropriately”, said the press release in English from the group’s spokesperson.

Simultaneously, another flash from ‘The Resistant Front’, which according to the Police is a front for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, said: “Lone wolves strike again. The stooges and collaborators are already on the list of countdown board. Depends upon the time and place to strike. More on the cards. Stooges and collaborators have to fall.


Days before the fatal attack on Pandita, a hit list of over 20 Kashmiri journalists appeared on the blog of #KashmirFight which had previously issued open threats to several others including the senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and advocate Babar Qadiri.

While Bukhari was subsequently gunned down in 2018, Qadiri was shot dead at his home in 2020. The blog which has been blocked by the authorities in India is said to be operating from Pakistan. It denigrates and trolls all the journalists and intellectuals not toeing the militants’ line of narrative and calls them as ‘collaborators, traitors, stooges and Indian agents’.

Early this year the last murderous attack on a member of the minority community happened days before the ceasefire announcement on 17 February. The son of a famous eatery owner, Akash Mehra (25) was critically injured in the armed attack at Krishna Dhaba at Durga Nag, Sonwar, in Srinagar. On 28 February, he succumbed to injuries at a hospital. Exactly a month later, two independent councillors of the Sopore Municipal Council were shot dead in a terror strike on their meeting. Thereafter, there was no such attack.

In the year 2020, a number of similar terror attacks on political activists and the local peoples’ representatives had happened in Kashmir. Those killed in these attacks included BJP’s prominent leader Waseem Bari along with his brother and father in Bandipora, Bhupinder Singh, Chairman of Block Development Council Khag in Budgam district and Ajay Bharti Pandita, a Sarpanch of the Congress party in Kokernag area of Anantnag district.

The chain of the political killings, which began with the broad daylight assassinations of the National Conference worker Mohammad Yousuf Halwai and the BJP leader Tika Lal Taploo in 1989, is continuing unabated in Kashmir despite a thaw in the border skirmishes with Pakistan.