Kashmiri Pandits stage protest in Valley, face tear gas, seek justice for Rahul Bhat

Bhat was killed by militants in the Valley, the third such attack this year; community says gov't indifferent to plight


“We are not safe. Give us safe passage out of here. The police were laughing at us. We were protesting peacefully… were teargassed. Kashmiri Pandit employees want security, one time solution, a safe passage to Jammu… Do not fire from our shoulders… What will you do with Mandirs, if the priests do not survive?” Enraged voices of Kashmiri Pandits who have been protesting the death of Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit, are ringing out loud and clear.

Rahul Bhat, who worked at the revenue department in Budgam as a PM Package employee, sustained serious injuries after terrorists fired at him on Thursday at his workplace in the Tehsil Office in Chadoora. He was rushed to a hospital in Srinagar where he died shortly afterwards.

Scores of Kashmiri Pandits have been protesting on the streets since then, demanding justice for the Bhat family, as well as protection from the community. They have clearly said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union government and the Union Territory administration have done nothing for the community. 

Even the peaceful protests have been met with aggressive resistance from the administration, videos from protest sites show tear gas shelling on protestors. A video from outside Sheikhupura camp where the community has been protesting through the night, on the national highway, clearly shows tear gas shells being fired to force them back inside the migrant camp, said sources.



According to local sources, in Baramulla BJP leader Surinder Ambardar, who had gone to meet the protesters, “was heckled and there were slogans against BJP.” In Jammu too, outside the cremation ground, there were slogans against BJP Jammu chief Ravinder Raina on Friday morning, when Rahul Bhat’s body was brought for last rites.

Meenakshi Bhat, the wife of Rahul Bhat, said her husband had felt “insecure” while working in Chadoora. According to a report in India Today TV, Meenakshi Bhat said her husband, Rahul, had requested the local administration to transfer him to the district headquarter but “despite repeated pleas, he wasn’t transferred.”

A terror group named, ‘Kashmir Tigers’, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing. However, according to India Today, Rahul Bhat’s wife lashed out at the BJP government saying, “PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah are making Kashmiri Pandits scapegoats. They are using Kashmiri Pandits as cannon fodder for their politics. I challenge them to come to Kashmir and roam around without security. Kashmiri Pandits are being persecuted. The nation is silent. PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are totally indifferent towards Kashmiri Pandits.”



Vijay Bakaya, General Secretary Apni Party, and a former chief secretary of J&K, has expressed shock at the brutal killing of Rahul Bhat. Bakaya expressed apprehension that “this dastardly act could be an attempt to scare and unsettle the KP employees who have been working diligently and efficiently and have adjusted peacefully to the place of their birth, after having grown up in hard conditions in heat and rain, in tents and one room tenements in Jammu after their parents were forced to flee from the atmosphere of terror created by some monstrous elements.” He urged the Administration to take effective measures to prevent recurrence of such inhuman assaults on innocent people.

Kashmiri Pandits in Valley continue protests

Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley continue to protest on the streets after the killing. The protesters included migrant employees who told the media that  the government had failed to ensure their security. The militants had just barged into a government office in central Kashmir’s Budgam district and shot Rahul Bhat. According to the police “two militants were involved in the attack and Bhat was shot point blank with a pistol.”  According to news reports demonstrations have been taking place in various areas including Qazigund, Pulwama, Budgam, Gandebal and Baramulla.  The massive protests also spilled onto the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, blocking it.

The protesters have also “threatened to resign en masse if the killings were not stopped.” According to a report in Indian Express, protesters also “raised slogans against the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking protection.” Rahul Bhat’s father Bitta Ji Bhat, a retired assistant sub-inspector of police, was quoted by Indian Express responding to the government’s claims to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, asking, “Is this how they will take us there? Whosoever is living there is spending days on his own. The government has totally failed to protect Kashmiri Pandits.’’

The demands now being heard from the protestors include that the ‘Prime Minister’s Package for rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits’ which was devised for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants to the Kashmir Valley be extended to Jammu as well. However that is the opposite of what the policy intended. According to a report in Times Now, “Nearly 3,800 migrant candidates returned to Kashmir in the last few years to take up the PM package jobs, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed on March 17, 2021.” This included as many as 520 migrant candidates who returned to Kashmir to join jobs offered under the scheme after the abrogation of Article 370. 

According to Kashmiri Pandit leader Sanjay Tickoo, this is an indication of the government’s failure of the promises it had made to the community. He told SabrangIndia that the Kashmiri Pandit community was among the most vulnerable groups in the Union Territory, as were the non-Kashmiri migrant labourers. While at times, there has been a slight disconnect between the KPs who remained in the Valley all these decades, and those who had migrated to Jammu, on what they wanted from the government, the community is united in grief today at the death of Rahul Bhat, a young man who had his whole future ahead. 

Now, after the recent attack, the All PM Package Employees forum has written to the Lt Governor that the  authorities had failed to ensure a “sense of security to all Kashmiri Pandit minorities serving in the Valley for the last 12 years.” They have threatened to resign en masse. 



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