Bhartiya Janata Party leader and municipal corporator Rakesh Pandita was shot at by three militants in the Tral area of South Kashmir's Pulwama district on June 2 evening. He succumbed to injuries in the hospital within hours of the attack.
Another woman, daughter of his friend with whom he had gone to the Tral town, also received bullet injuries and is currently hospitalised.
The attack marked the third killing of a councillor in Kashmir in 2021. On March 30, militants had stormed the office of the Sopore Municipal Council and killed two BJP councillors and a policeman. In 2020, five BJP leaders were killed in a series of targeted killings.
Among all such incidents, however, the police reaction to Pandita's killing sounds ridiculous. The police statement seems to put the blame of security lapse on the deceased.
Bhartiya Janata Party leader and municipal corporator Rakesh Pandita, who was shot at by three militants in the Tral area of South Kashmir's Pulwama district on June 2 evening.
In a statement, Jammu & Kashmir Police said that the deceased was a protected person, and two PSOs were deployed for his security. "He was also given secured accommodation in Srinagar. However, at the time of the incident, he was without any security as he defied the SOPs and went to his native village without PSOs," the police said.
Rakesh was a councillor from same Tral and so there are logical questions.
If a democratically elected representative is not supposed to be safe in his own constituency, or needs police permission to visit his people, what will be the fate of democracy - that too, in the world's largest democracy?
And, why a secure accommodation for him in Srinagar, which is some 44 kilometres away from his constituency?
What if he was intercepted by militants during travel? Could two cops have been enough to save him from three militants, who actually attacked him in Tral?
These are common-sense queries.
This was the third civilian killing in South Kashmir in less than a week.
On May 29, militants killed two civilians in the Jablipora area of Bijbehara.
While mainstream politicians including former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir have condemned Pandita's killing, the BJP has called it a security lapse.
"It is a security lapse. Were security agencies not aware that three unidentified militants were roaming in the area? Is this not a security lapse? We agree with the fact that our leader had not taken PSOs along with him," BJP General Secretary, Ashok Koul, told reporters.
Ironically, killing of BJP leaders due to an apparent lapse on the part of the authorities is taking place when the BJP is the party in power at the Centre.
In May 2019, BJP's district Vice-President for Anantnag, Gul Muhammad Mir AKA Atal Ji, was shot dead by militants in the Verinag area of South Kashmir.
Back then, BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur alleged that Mir's security was "recently withdrawn" and the matter was taken up with the government, but that no action was taken.
Actually, in February that year, the Security Review Coordination Committee (SRCC), which looks into such issues, held its meeting. But, in an unconventional move, instead of a senior police official assigned the job, the meeting was reportedly chaired by the then Chief Secretary BVR Subramaniyam.
The meeting reportedly ordered the withdrawal of the security of dozens of protected persons, including Mir.
So, be it on the part of the civil administration or the police, there have been allegations of lapses from time to time. These lapses have gone on to claim precious human lives.
The problem lies in the absence of smart policing, although in the past, Kashmir has been iconic for smart policing. As of now, the police seem to be ignoring even common sense.
New Delhi needs to review its policy on Kashmir. At least with regard to the revival of smart policing — something that can save human lives — and also prevent the police from issuing statements which seemingly abuse the idea of democracy.