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Security for Valley BJP leaders in focus as many quit amid rise in militant attacks

Among the latest resignations was that of Thikrey’s colleague, BJP’s Bandipore unit general secretary Avtar Krishan, who quit on Sunday.

Written by Bashaarat Masood , Arun Sharma | Jammu, Srinagar |
Updated: August 11, 2020 11:04:56 am
“Everyone is scared,” said Abdul Rehman Thikrey, BJP’s Bandipore district president. “They (BJP activists) are resigning out of fear.” (File)

Following a series of militant attacks on BJP leaders and activists in Kashmir in recent days, more than a dozen workers and leaders have publicly announced their resignation from the party over the last one week, leading to panic and fear among its members here, according to party leaders.

“Everyone is scared,” said Abdul Rehman Thikrey, BJP’s Bandipore district president. “They (BJP activists) are resigning out of fear.”

Among the latest resignations was that of Thikrey’s colleague, BJP’s Bandipore unit general secretary Avtar Krishan, who quit on Sunday.

The same day, Abdul Hamid Najar, BJP’s OBC wing district president in Budgam, was shot at by suspected militants while out on morning walk. He succumbed on Monday.

On August 6, militants killed BJP sarpanch Sajad Ahmad Khanday at Vessu, in Qazigund area of Kulgam district. The police said Khanday lived at a secured accommodation provided by the administration but had left to visit home when militants attacked.

Read| Another BJP man shot at in J&K; militant claims TA soldier killed, buried

A day before, militants had fired at and wounded another BJP sarpanch, Arif Ahmad, at Akhran village of Qazigund.

Concerned over the attacks, BJP central leaders said the Union government will “certainly” address the issue “soon”.

“The leaders obviously are under fear, and the three (recent) killings have really frightened many of them. There has been a spurt in the threats recently… it’s an attempt to scare elected representatives,” a BJP leader said in Delhi.

In recent times, militants first targeted a senior BJP leader and his family in Bandipore on July 8, when Sheikh Waseem Bari, who was a member of BJP state executive committee, his father and brother — both party members — were killed. While Bari and his family had police protection — J&K Police terminated 12 personnel for failing to secure Bari’s life — most BJP activists, including panches and sarpanches in the Valley, are without any security.

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“I have been allotted security,” Rifat, a panch from Panzinara village in north Kashmir, who is also BJP women’s wing vice-president for Srinagar district, said. “But other panches and sarpanches here don’t have security. Some of them are from my party, and some from other parties.”

Over the last 18 months, panches and sarpanches have been demanding personal security officers (PSO), a demand officials say is difficult to meet. “In fact, we have been demanding security for the last eight years,” said Shafiq Mir, chairman of J&K Panchayat Conference, an apex organisation of panchayat leaders from the Union Territory. Mir said he recently raised the issue before then Lt Governor G C Murmu at the district board meeting in Poonch.

Thikrey said, “When our (J&K) party president Ravinder Raina visited here (Bandipore), we raised the (security) issue with him. He called the I-G and asked him to provide security to every vulnerable member.”

Romaisa Rafiq, BJP Mahila Morcha’s vice-president in Kashmir, said they have also raised the issue with party leader Ashok Koul, BJP’s J&K unit general secretary (organisation).

“We brought the matter to the notice of J P Nadda (party’s national president) and sought enhanced security cover for our workers,” Koul was quoted by PTI.

While party leaders in Delhi said those who have resigned were mostly lower-rank members, one leader said this could “create a perception issue”.

Rafiq said, “Workers of parties such as NC, PDP and the Congress have decided to remain silent. They have locked up their offices. That is why only we are the targets.”

But BJP’s Budgam president Aga Mohsin said the blame also goes to some party leaders. “We are here for development… Why should we talk against someone?”

Panchayat Conference chairman Mir accused the BJP of politicking, thereby endangering lives of ground-level leaders and workers. “Panchayat elections were held on non-party basis, so all panches and sarpanches were Independent,” Mir said. “After the elections, some of them may have joined BJP but the party is making life difficult for them by claiming they belong to it.” —With inputs from ENS, NEW DELHI

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