The last rites of BJP councillor Rakesh Pandita, who was killed by militants in Tral on Wednesday night, were carried out at his Jammu residence Thursday, with senior leaders including the party’s J&K president, Ravinder Raina, attending.
Pandita’s son, Paras, who is in Class 12, said his father had “died for the nation” and hoped that the country would now look after the family that had lost its only earning member. Pandita’s father died just last month, and he is survived by his mother, wife and son. Paras, 17, also demanded a probe into the attack.
Pandita, who lived under security in a government accommodation in Srinagar, was killed while on a visit to meet a friend. He had not taken his security officials along.
A relative said Pandita had been home till Monday, having arrived on May 18, when his father had died. Police in Srinagar said he had driven from Jammu straight to Tral.
J&K BJP general secretary (Organisation) Ashok Koul said Pandita took the risk and stayed in Kashmir as he wanted to serve his constituency. Tral, a militant stronghold, was also Pandita’s hometown.
The party said while Pandita had erred in leaving his security behind, the government could not escape its responsibility. “Did the government machinery and police not know that terrorists were present in Tral?” Koul said. “I believe that it is the failure of the government and police… People with guns are openly moving around in the Valley.”
He recalled the killing of BJP leader Waseem Bari along with his family members at their home in Kashmir last year. “They had 10 PSOs, but terrorists killed Bari, his father and brother.”
BJP spokesperson Anil Gupta said the omissions behind the killing of Pandita should be investigated to ensure these didn’t recur. Such killings will hamper any move to return Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, he said.
Gupta asked why Pandita’s PSOs had not informed the police control room when he left without them. “Isn’t it part of the SOP?” he asked, while also questioning how the terrorists knew Pandita was going to be in Tral.
In the Valley, as police issued an advisory urging those given security not to travel without allotted PSOs, mainstream political leaders accused officials of using “security as a tool”, and demanded that both the administration and police should face action for failing to secure politicians.
“No protectee should go anywhere without PSOs. Visits are allowed only after ground assessment of the local threat,” IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said Thursday. “Request is to all protectees not to violate SOPs and risk their lives.”
Former minister and People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone, who has Z-category security, pointed out that a bullet-proof vehicle bought by him for his use is still stranded at a Chandigarh factory due to lack of government clearance. “So much about security u talk after someone dies. We know how you use security as a tool,” Lone tweeted, wondering what would happen to “lesser mortals” given that a Z-class protectee could be kept waiting .
He added that it was in the hands of Centre and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to correct this. “They will have to convey the indispensability of political class in a democracy… Let heads roll if heads are rolling physically.”
Following Lone’s tweet, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted, “We also wanted to order two bullet proof vehicles for our senior Kashmir based office bearers who are being denied proper protection out of spite. The permission request is collecting dust on some desk in the administration.”
Raina said Pandita’s “martyrdom” will not go in vain. ”Pakistani terrorists have once again bled Kashmir… Pandita, a dedicated and committed BJP worker, always dared separatists and terrorists in the Valley,” he said.
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