At least eight leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party have been killed in Kashmir between May and October this year. Many panch and sarpanch have been gunned down and the pressure is increasing on the administration to provide more security to these leaders. But, with political activities resuming and electoral preparations starting, it is turning out to be a big challenge for the security forces.
Since August 5, 2019, 1,600 people in the Valley have been designated as 'protected person'. They are kept in safe houses and hotels and discouraged from traveling home. Senior officials in Jammu and Kashmir police said that Fida Hussain, who was gunned down in Kulgam by alleged Lashkar terrorists on Thursday, was kept in the Dolphin hotel of Pahalgam for three weeks. Officials said he was allowed to leave the hotel only after giving a personal undertaking about his safety and security.
"There are Do's and Don'ts for protectees, but often the terrorists wait for the individuals to make a slip. We appeal to the protectees to not venture into unknown areas, especially at odd hours without informing security," IG Kashmir Vijay Kumar said.
According to Jammu and Kashmir police data, 157 BJP workers have personnel security officer, 30 have guards at residence and the administration is considering enhanced security. It is, however, easier said than done.
Officials in the grid point out that political workers can't be kept away from villages and general public for long, especially in the run up to elections. "BJP leaders can be kept in safe houses, but they have to interact with local population. Their families and residences still make them vulnerable. While the workers have to always be careful, the terrorist need one chance to strike," an official said.
Data seems to support the assessment. In August this year, then LG GC Murmu had called the killing of local leaders "desperate, sporadic attempts which were being taken care off."
"We have already assessed the situation and seen wherever soft targets are there. Since terrorism has been removed and many terrorists neutralised, these are desperate attempts in sporadic cases. In one to two cases, we are watching the situation and wherever needed, we are sprucing up security. We are also providing individual security. It is a continuous process to assess the threat," Murmu had told News18.
But even after those reviews and enhanced security mechanism killings continue.
October 29: 3 BJP leaders gunned down in Kulgam
October 7: PSO of BJP leader Martyred after an attack at the leader's residence in Ganderbal
August 19: Sarpanch Nisar Ahmed Bhatt killed, body found in Shopian days later
August 10: Budgam Hamid Nazar killed
August 6: Qazigund sarpanch and BJP leader Sajjad Ahmed Khanday killed
August 1st week: Kulgam leader Arif Ahmed Shah killed
July 8: Wasim Bari, his father and brother killed
July 5: Pulwama's Shabbir Bhatt gunned down
June 8: Sarpanch Ajay Pandita killed
June 30: Shopian BJP leader Gauhar Bhatt killed
May 4: Anantnag's Atal Gul Mir killed
LG Manoj Sinha after taking over assured panch, sarpanch and local leaders that their safety will be ensured. Central BJP leaders like Ram Madhav and Jitendra Singh have also taken up the issue with the UT administration.
In the Kulgam case on Thursday, police suspects a pre-planned conspiracy and an ambush style terror attack with proper knowledge of the movement of the BJP leaders. Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists and local commander Altaf are suspected to be behind the indiscriminate firing at the car the leaders were travelling in.