A relentless series of attacks against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers in Kashmir have created a sense of fear among those associated with the saffron party, most of whom are now forced to live away from their homes.
The members of the BJP have been the target of fatal attacks in several districts of Kashmir valley, despite a security cover provided to them. The first major attack was carried out in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district last year when the party’s district president Wasim Bari was killed.
This week, a BJP sarpanch Ghulam Rasool Dar and his wife Jawahira were shot dead by militants at their rented accommodation in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
BJP’s State Working Committee member Asif Qureshi told The Kashmir Walla that twenty BJP members have been killed so far in the region and “six among them belong to Kulgam district”.
The spate of attacks has caused intense fear among the remaining BJP members, whose strength in the region remains a fringe despite efforts by the party to increase its foothold.
“Fear is natural,” Qureshi said. “These attacks are carried out by militants to show their presence,” he said.
“The political workers of NC and other parties have been killed since the 90s. Now our leaders are being targeted as some people don’t want BJP to grow here,” he said.
Qureshi said nearly hundred BJP workers have government security and around 200 to 300 are putting in hostel-type secure accommodations, living away from the homes where they face a threat of attack.
From low rank workers to high rank office bearers of the BJP in Kashmir, many expressed concern over the continuous attacks saying it has severely impacted their work.
“We are unable to work for the party,” said Ghulam Nabi War, who was elected as Sarpanch in Gundbrath village of north Kashmir’s Baramulla.
“The continuous attacks on BJP workers have scared us and impacted our work and movement. I’m not able to work for my people as I’m locked in a government accommodation in Srinagar- [nearly 60 kms away from his village],” War, 50, said.
War said he was the only person who filed a nomination form for Sarpanch in his village despite “threats from militant outfits”.
“Many people like me put lives at risk to work for people. As I have not done wrong with anyone but, if I am killed, before that I want to work for my village which I want to see developed,” he said.
“During the day, I am allowed to visit my village but that is not enough. I have time and again asked authorities to allow me to stay at home but I’m not allowed,” he said. “What kind of life is this?”
Most of the BJP workers in Kashmir have been provided with security; however, many have left the party after facing threats and attacks. In August 2020, nearly a dozen BJP workers in Kashmir resigned from the party following an attack on the party’s Other Backward Class (OBC) Morcha district president Budgam, Abdul Hamid Najar.
Farooq Ahmad Rather, a sarpanch of a village in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, also left the BJP after feeling “threatened”.
“I left the BJP as I was scared and felt threatened for being associated with the party,” he said. Farooq joined the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) led by Altaf Bukhari, a former minister in the PDP-BJP government.
Rather has been staying up in a single room provided by the government in Srinagar – nearly 60 kilometres away from his village – which he shares with another BJP worker of the Srinagar city.
“My village has nearly 1400 voters and only 60 people cast their ballot in the Panchayat elections,” Rather said. “I secured 45 votes against my opponent from the Congress Party got 15 votes.”
“I have two personal security guards (PSOs) and have applied for security at my native village in Dangerpora, Baramulla which the authorities have not provided yet,” he said.
BJP J-K General Secretary Ashok Kaul said the continuous attacks on party workers do impact their work.
“Nearly one hundred fifty workers associated with BJP have been provided with secure government accommodation and it is not possible for the government to provide security at every house and every mohalla,” Kaul said.