A Kashmir politician who died of gunshot wounds on Monday has become the fifth member of India’s ruling nationalist party to be killed by militants in the turbulent region since last month.
The string of attacks have sent panic through local ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a year after prime minister Narendra Modi’s government roused anger in the Himalayan territory by abolishing its semi-autonomous status.
The elected village chief was shot near his home on the edge of the main city Srinagar.
‘He was attacked while taking a morning walk,’ said a police official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
His death followed a militant attack which killed a BJP leader, his brother and father — also members of the party — in the Bandipora area of Kashmir early last month.
Suspected rebels killed two other elected village officials affiliated with the party last week.
At least 16 BJP members have publicly quit the party since the attacks began last month — eight of them in the last two days. They insisted they had ‘no contact’ with Modi’s party anymore.
Authorities moved scores of BJP officials and activists from their homes to secure government facilities in the wake of the attacks.
Altaf Thakur, the party’s spokesman in Kashmir, told AFP that the BJP was being targeted because it was the only party ‘reaching out to local people since last August at the grassroots level’.
Kashmir, where an armed uprising erupted in 1989, has been especially tense since Modi’s decision to revoke the territory’s constitutionally mandated local autonomy last August.
All prominent political leaders from other parties were arrested around the time of the controversial move, including three former chief ministers of the region that has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Most have been released since, but have not been able to resume political activity.
Internet access was also cut for months as part of a stringent security clampdown.
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