BJP leader from south Kashmir cremated in Jammu amid outrage over terror killing

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Jammu, Jun 3 (PTI) BJP councillor Rakesh Pandita, who was shot dead by militants in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, was cremated here on Thursday in the presence of scores of mourners, including leaders of his party and other organisations.

Pandita, the municipal chairman of Tral, was killed by unidentified militants in the Tral area of Pulwama district late on Wednesday evening. He was visiting a friend, Mushtaq Ahmad, when three militants opened fire at them. Ahmad's daughter was also injured in the incident.

Pandita's mortal remains arrived at his Roopnagar residence here at 8.45 am and a number of people, including top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, thronged his home despite Covid restrictions, officials said.

Emotions ran high as the body arrived. The inconsolable family members broke down while people shouted 'Rakesh Pandita amar rahe' (long live Rakesh Pandita).

Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina, MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta and former legislator Ajay Bharati were among those present. Wrapped in the tricolour, Pandita's mortal remains were taken in a cavalcade led by Raina amid Covid restrictions to the cremation ground, where a few hundred people gathered to pay their last respects.

The Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief said Pandita's 'martyrdom' will not go in vain.

'Pakistani terrorists have once again bled the Kashmir Valley. The coward Pakistanis attacked Pandita, a dedicated and committed BJP worker who always dared Pakistanis in the valley, in the darkness of the night. Pandita's martyrdom will not go in vain,' he told reporters. BJP General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Kaul termed the attack as a 'security failure' and asked how terrorists are roaming freely targeting people.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the BJP leader's killing.

'Shocked to hear that BJP leader Rakesh Pandita has been shot dead by militants. These senseless acts of violence have brought only misery to J&K. My condolences to the family & may his soul rest in peace,' the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said in a tweet.

CPI(M) leader Mohamad Yousuf said that violence in any form is condemnable.

Terming the incident as unfortunate, he said that there is no justification to kill any unarmed person. There is an urgent need to put an end to civilian killings, he said.

The Apni Party condemned the terror attack and killing of the Kashmiri Pandit councillor.

Some members of the Kashmiri Pandit community also protested against the alleged security failure.

In June last year, a Kashmiri Pandit sarpanch was shot dead by militants in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.

Ajay Pandit (40), who was a Congress member and the sarpanch of the Lukbawan Panchayat halqa in Anantnag's Larkipora area, was shot dead by militants in his native village, police had said.

Rakesh Pandita's killing was the second such incident targeting Kashmiri Pandits in 17 years.

Outfits representing the community alleged that it was an attempt to trigger a 'fear psychosis' among Kashmiri Pandits as was done in the valley in the 1990s. PTI AB KJ