Kishtwar town in Jammu and Kashmir was on the edge Thursday night after BJP state secretary Anil Parihar and his elder brother Ajit Parihar were shot dead by unidentified gunmen, prompting authorities to impose curfew.
The attack, suspected to have been carried out by militants, comes days ahead of the panchayat polls in the state which will be held in nine phases starting November 17. Son of late BJP leader Sewa Ram Parihar, Anil Parihar was an influential leader of the region. He was considered a moderate and had a sizeable support base even among Muslims. Read In Malayalam
As word of the killings spread, people in large numbers rushed to the local hospital. They clashed with police who tried to stop them. Anticipating trouble, authorities imposed curfew.
Jammu Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Verma said the killings appeared to be a “subversive activity” and an enquiry was being ordered.
Sources said the Parihar brothers were returning home from their stationery shop in Tapal Gali, opposite the old office complex of the Deputy Commissioner. They were shot dead very close to their home by unidentified men who fled the spot. While Anil died on the spot, Ajit was said to have succumbed to injuries on the way to hospital.
A senior BJP leader who was already on a terror hit-list, Anil had been provided personal security officers (PSOs). At the time of the attack, sources said, the PSOs were not accompanying him.
Anil had been active in Kishtwar politics even at the height of militancy, especially during BJP’s Doda Bachao Andolan when senior party leaders from the Centre had also courted arrest in Jammu in the 1990s. He was considered close to Jitendra Singh, Minister at the Centre, and Sunil Sharma, who was elected MLA from Kishtwar on a BJP ticket. He had actively campaigned for both during the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
Jitendra Singh expressed grief over the killings and said he would be heading to Kishtwar at the earliest.
J&K BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi expressed shock over the killings and said it looked like a terror attack since Parihar had been on the campaign trail for the panchayat elections in the district. He said it could be an attempt to sabotage the panchayat elections. Sethi urged Governor Satya Pal Malik to strengthen the security grid in view of the current situation in the state.