Indian politician killed by assailants in Kashmir, police blame ‘terrorists’

Assailants fatally shot a politician belonging to India’s ruling party in disputed Kashmir, police said Thursday, blaming separatist rebels for the attack.

The unidentified assailants fired at Rakesh Pandita late Wednesday in the southern town of Tral, where he was visiting a friend, police said. He was declared dead in a hospital.

Rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been fighting the central government for decades. Suspected militants carried out a string of deadly attacks last year on members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in Kashmir. Among those killed was a top BJP politician and his father and brother, who were also party members.

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Pandita had a secured accommodation in the region’s main city of Srinagar and was protected by two police guards, but he went to Tral without them, a police statement said.

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Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in Kashmir, and BJP leaders condemned the killing. “Terrorists will never succeed in their nefarious designs, and those responsible for such heinous acts shall be brought to justice,” Sinha said in a tweet.

No rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Click to play video: 'Kashmir grenade blast injures 10 amid India lockdown'

Kashmir grenade blast injures 10 amid India lockdown

Kashmir grenade blast injures 10 amid India lockdown – Oct 5, 2019

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim it in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India says militants are sponsored by Pakistan, but Islamabad denies the charge. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

In 2019, Modi’s Hindu nationalist party pushed through with constitutional changes that stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and statehood that gave its residents special rights in land ownership and jobs. The region was also divided into two federally governed territories. Many Kashmiris and critics have likened India’s changes as the beginning of settler colonialism.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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