A Kashmiri Pandit, who was a farmer by profession, was shot dead by militants in south Kashmir's Shopian on Saturday. The incident evoked criticism by regional parties in Kashmir, as at least six members of the minority community have been killed in targeted attacks by militants this year.
The victim, identified as Puran Krishan Bhat, was on his way to an orchard in Chowdari Gund Shopian when he was fired upon. His relative shifted him to a nearby hospital but he died on the way.
"Initial investigation suggested that one militant was involved in the act. The others may be nearby. A guard was monitoring the cluster (of minority community) at the time of attack. If any security lapse is found on part of the security guards and any official in charge of the area, definitely action will be taken," Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), central Kashmir, Sujit Kumar, said.
Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, Sachin Kumar Vaishya said assistance was being provided to the family, which is planning to hold the last rites in Jammu. "The administration has made all the arrangements for the same," he added.
The victim, who owns orchards in Shopian, is survived by two children and wife.
Meanwhile, the Kashmir Freedom Fighter (KFF) group has claimed responsibility for the attack. "We have already warned about our attacks on Pandits and non-locals working on the Modi-led agenda of settler colonialism post the abrogation of Article 370," the KFF said in a purported claim made online. It has warned of more attacks.
The killing has fuelled a wave of fear among the minority communities in Kashmir, especially Pandits. "Each killing shows the failure of L-G Manoj Sinha in personal capacity and the failure of security forces and policies of the Government of India. The Kashmiri society created these monsters who want KPs to leave Kashmir like 1990. Moulvis, Muftis and Mirwaizs cannot hide their dual faces behind condemnations," Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti chairman Sanjay Tickoo said.
At least six members of the minority community, including a Hindu school teacher, a Hindu bank manager and a Kashmiri Pandit government employee, were killed in targeted attacks in Kashmir this year. The government has already increased surveillance and posted additional personnel in areas where members of minority communities live in Kashmir.
The fresh killing also sparked street protests by Kashmiri Pandits living in a transit camp in Budgam.
Meanwhile, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha termed the killing "a dastardly act of cowardice". "I assure the people that the perpetrators and those aiding and abetting terrorists will be severely punished," he said.
Senior leaders of National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also condemned the killing.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat expressed shock and grief over the killing of the Kashmiri Pandit. "The Hurriyat denounce the killing. Every single life lost in this manner is very painful and sad," the Hurriyat said.