Unidentified gunmen shot dead prominent advocate Babar Qadri, who had taken up many cases concerning human rights and juvenile justice in Kashmir, in Srinagar on Thursday evening. The attack came three days after Qadri had tweeted about a possible threat to his life.
Qadri was shot at close range outside his residence in Hawal, in downtown Srinagar by assailants who managed to escape. He was rushed to hospital but declared dead on arrival. SP, Hazratbal, Sudhanshu Verma said, “This occurred around 6 pm. We are conducting an investigation.”
Sources in the J&K Police said, “He was shot as he was stepping out of his house. He tried to run inside and was shot again.”
Qadri often appeared on TV debates and wrote in the opinion pages of local newspapers. He argued that Kashmir was a trilateral dispute, involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir. He questioned separatists as well as mainstream political leaders and said he was “pro-Kashmir while not being anti-India”. He had also been vocal against the J&K High Court Bar Association, and floated a separate body.
In a tweet on September 21, Qadri wrote, “I urge the state Police administration to register FIR against this Shah Nazir who has spread wrong campaign that I work for agencies. This un true statement can lead to threat to my life.” He also posted a screenshot of his conversation with an individual on Facebook who accused Qadri of being “projected by the agencies”.
Sources in the police, however, said Qadri had not lodged any official complaint with them.
In June 2018, shortly after the killing of Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari, Qadri had questioned why blogs “linked to assailants” of Bukhari were still operational. “If anything wrong happens to me, responsibility lies on Syed salahudin and JRL as both UJC and JRL have maintained… silence on the hit list.” While UJC stands for United Jihad Council, a group of miltiant outfits active in J&K and headed by Salahuddin, JRL is Joint Resistance Leadership, an umbrella separatist body including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik.
Active in student politics while at the University of Kashmir, Qadri had been practising law since 2008. In one of his tweets, he had challenged the legality of the bar association, saying, “Consulting my all friends for filing petition against Bar council of india, state Bar and high court Bar association. Challenging the legality of Assn and delegation of powers to it by State bar.” In 2012, he floated an association termed Lawyers Club Kashmir.
On Kashmir, Qadri had tweeted, “Kashmir is a trilateral dispute and it needs amicable resolution through trilateral dialogue.”
All political parties in Kashmir condemned Qadri’s killing, coming a day after a Block Development Council member was shot in Budgam. National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said, “The sense of tragedy is all the more because he warned of the threat. Sadly his warning was his last tweet.”
People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone tweeted, “One more Kashmiri falls to bullets. Yet another victim of conflict.”
The BJP’s also expressed shock while the Congress urged the administration to “ascertain the identity of killers for exemplary punishment”. Iltija Javed, tweeting from her mother Mehbooba Mufti’s handle, said, “As Kashmiris, we write condolence messages day after day. Party workers, journalists, lawyers – innocent people who are killed for no reason.”
J&K Apni Party vice-president Ghulam Hassan Mir said the killing of a “young and promising lawyer who represented members of the poorest, most marginalised parts of Kashmir… including many of the victims of conflict and their families, has a devastating impact on access to justice in Kashmir”.
Qadri is survived by his wife and two young daughters.
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