Sans Security, BJPs ‘Atal’ In Kashmir Loses Life To Bullets

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SRINAGAR: As Gul Mohammad Mir’s family is mourning his killing, there are two things they are talking about loudly. One, how the government withdrew the security to him despite his requests that he is under threat? Second, how the BJP, for which Mir actually had a popular name-change, avoided even to mourn his killing? Mir was known as Atal in his area. Possibly this was because he loved the BJP’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The funeral of BJP’s district vice president Gul Mohammad Mir being taken to the local graveyard. KL Image: Shah Hilal

Mir, lived in Nowgam village of Verinag and was associated with the BJP for many years. He unsuccessfully contested the 2008 and 2014 assembly election from Dooru. Currently, he was the party’s district vice president for Anantnag.

On Saturday around 9:30 pm, unknown gunmen believed to be militants fired upon the BJP leader when he was home. Son of Abdul Karim Mir, Atal was around 60 years of age. They barged into his residence and took away the keys of his car. After securing the keys, they fired upon at him and left in his car out of the village.

In the incident, Gul had received critical bullet wounds in his chest and abdomen. He was later evacuated to district hospital Anantnag, where doctors declared him brought dead. Hospital sources said he received five bullet wounds, three in chest and two in the abdomen. “He was declared brought dead at the arrival,” the source said.

The body was handed over to the family late hours on Saturday and for the entire night, they were mourning the death. At around 8:30 am on Sunday, Mir’s last rites were held in the local Eidgah. A modest gathering offered his funeral prayers.

Zahoor Ahmed Mir, 37, the son of Mir, told reporters that he had left home at around 9 pm and he heard from locals that there has been an attack. “Last night around 9 pm, I was outside and I received a call from Anantnag that some firing incident has happened but the information was hazy and I rushed to the home, but I couldn’t see anybody there,” Zahoor said. “My father had been taken to hospital where he succumbed to injuries.”

Zahoor blamed the police for his father’s killing. He said the police withdrew his security and did not extend it again despite the party’s requests. Till February 2019, Zahoor said, his father was guarded by two SPOs. “Since then we were pleading police authorities for the security cover but all in vain and this is the result,” Zahoor told reporters at his home.

At the same time, Zahoor was quite vocal against BJP for not even visiting them to mourn the killing. “We were around 200 locals who attended his last rites,” Zahoor said. “Nobody from the party turned up.”

The female relatives of the slain BJP activist Gul Mohamad Mir mourning their ancestral Nowgam residence in Verinag. Mir was killed by suspected militants at his home on May 4, 2019. KL Image: Shah Hilal

However, later in the afternoon, BJP delegation from Jammu reached Zahoor’s home. It included State General Secretary, Ashok Koul, MLCs Surinder Ambardar, Ramesh Arora and others. They spent almost an hour there and returned to Srinagar. They have assured the family full support and promised them that killers will not be spared.

The killing took place literally on the eve of the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polling. In fact, part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency is also polling on Monday. The areas that will go to the poll include the districts of Shopian and Pulwama.

Governor Orders Probe

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has directed state Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam, to get an enquiry conducted into the killings of political people belonging to various political parties in the state in the last few months. Malik has asked for identifying any lapses on the part of security agencies regarding ensuring the security of political people and has emphasized that from now onwards, all political people should be protected at every cost.

Besides, Governor directed K Vijay Kumar, Advisor to Governor to ensure early arrest of those responsible for the killing and spare no one who so ever tries to create fear and panic among the people.

Political Class Reacts

But the post-killing statements by the governor are not being taken by the political class seriously. All the political parties have condemned the killing and insisted that the government created deliberate insecurity to the political class. This, they insist, was despite the insistence by them that security of the political workers should not be compromised with.

Jammu and Kashmir’s former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the assassination of BJP leader in south Kashmir on Saturday only confirmed what he had feared.

“Not long ago senior BJP leaders were bragging about how undeserving people had had their security withdrawn in J&K. I’d warned against the decision then & yesterday’s assassination of Gul Mohd Mir only confirms what I’d feared – it was a foolish decision disconnected from reality,” Omar wrote on his twitter. “Questions need to be asked but they can’t be answered by the person who was responsible for the actual order to withdraw security. The security withdrawal had been opposed by state & central intelligence agencies so who overruled them & went ahead regardless?”

Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the killing of Mir. Taking on to Twitter, she wrote, “i strongly condemn the killing of @BJPIndia leader Gul Muhammad Mir in Verinag, South Kashmir. My condolences to the bereaved family and prayers for the departed soul.”

“The killing of Mir is a security lapse and Government must fix the responsibility as who were the officers who withdrew security of political leaders. Why was such a decision taken in haste when the overall security situation in Kashmir was not conducive. Withdrawing the security cover of several Congress leaders also hampered the party’s poll campaign, especially in the militancy-hit south Kashmir region,” Ghulam Nabi Monga, a Congress leader, said. “Withdrawal of security to political leaders in election time has increased their vulnerability to threats. Instead of upgrading the security, the Government in haste withdrew the existing security which is unfortunate. It is high time that this decision is revoked so that the precious lives of political leaders are not lost in future.”

“Reportedly the security of the slain BJP activist, like hundreds of other political activists, had been withdrawn due to which he became a soft target of the assailants,” Communist leader Yousuf Tarigami said in a statement. “Political process in violence-hit Kashmir is itself a difficult task and the activists cutting across political lines are risking their lives and doing their bit to strengthen the process of peace.”

Party’s Condolence

Prime minister Narendra Modi condemned the killing of Mir. In his tweet, Modi said, “His contribution towards strengthening the party in Jammu and Kashmir will always be remembered. There is no place for such violence in our country. Condolences to his family and well-wishers.”

Party’s national president Amit Shah also condemned the killing and said these efforts are made to scare BJP workers. “I am saddened by killing of Ghulam Mohammed Mir, BJP leader from Anantnag. His contribution in strengthening the BJP in the valley was immense. Extremist forces in the valley can’t demoralise BJP karyakartas with violence. My condolences with the bereaved family,” Shah tweeted.

The local BJP leaders accuse security agencies for the killing. As quoted by The Indian Express, party’s local spokesperson Altaf Thakur has said “his security was withdrawn by the authorities, currently he was without any security. We are holding security agencies responsible for the killing because they withdrew his security despite writing to them.”

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