A former Congress and PDP leader Ghulam Nabi Patel died few minutes on way to the hospital in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district soon after suspected militants suddenly appeared in front of his Scorpio vehicle and fired multiple shots, two of them hitting his face on Wednesday. His son and two security personnel were also injured in the attack.
But ironically enough Patel, 67, a resident of Dangerpora Shadimarg on Pulwama-Shopian border in south Kashmir, who worked for different mainstream political parties in the Valley and was ostracised for the same reason in his own society, was disowned by the very same political parties in his death.
Last year in June the People’s Democratic Party distanced itself from the political activist telling people, in a statement, that they have nothing do with Patel. It is not clear why.
"He was not part of PDP and we have said this in a statement last year," PDP spokesperson Rafi Mir told Firstpost.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also expressed her condolences saying such killings achieve nothing and leave the families devasted.
"Heartfelt condolences to the family of senior Congress leader, G. N. Patel who was killed by militants today in Rajpora. Such cowardly acts achieve nothing but leave one more family devastated," Mehbooba tweeted.
This is not for the first time that a political worker of a mainstream political party has been killed in Kashmir. In fact, hundreds of political workers have laid down their lives for "bringing democracy to the grassroots level" in the conflict-torn Valley. These workers are seen as eyes and ears of the Indian state in the embattled Valley, and in recent years, their lives have been turned upside down particularly after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant leader Burhan Wani.
In south Kashmir, these grass root political workers have become easy targets for militants in recent years. They have appeared in their homes late in the night and made frightening videos only to put them on Facebook for people to keep a distance from mainstream political parties.
After both PDP and Congress leaders distanced themselves from the slain leaders National Conference working president Omar Abdullah came up with a different idea.
"How tragic that Patel Sahib, a political worker assassinated by militants in Kashmir is being disowned by both the PDP & Congress. If neither party is willing to own him as one of their own let’s just call him a NC worker so his death is not in vain," Omar said in a tweet.
Ghulam Nabi Patel is being denied the dignity of having been assassinated for belonging to a political party just so the PDP & Congress can lie to their workers to claim they aren’t at risk from militant bullets.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) April 25, 2018
The former Congress leader was shot at around 3 pm in the afternoon when unidentified militants appeared in front of his car and shot at the leader from close range. "He was not brought to the hospital. He died on the way," Pulwama hospital medical superintendent Abdul Rashid Para told Firstpost over the phone.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that Patel was a Congress leader long back and had left the party to join the PDP.
"I am not sure if he is in Congress now but was a party activist for many years. It is said that he paid the ultimate sacrifice for being a political activist," Mir said.
Patel’s and his two PSOs Imtiyaz Ahmad Zargar and Bilal Ahmad Mir suffered injuries, one of them is said to be critical and has been referred to Srinagar for further treatment. "He was fired upon and died on way to the hospital. Two of his PSO’s are injured they have been shifted," Pulwama senior superintendent of police Aslam Chowdhry told Firstpost.
The Kashmir Police said it has launched a manhunt to nab the assailants. According to eyewitnesses, the assailants were seen running towards a small lane after firing at the leader, "and looked like local militants".
Since armed insurgency erupted in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of political workers have been killed, a majority of them being from National Conference. In fact, if there is any community which is most vulnerable to militant attacks in the far and wide corner of the Valley, it is these thousands of workers belonging to different political parties.
The sarpanches and local leaders of different political parties have often been targeted by militants for their political affiliations. Between 2011 and 2015, a spate of such killings took place and at least 10 sarpanches were allegedly killed by the militants.
Most of these political workers are from South Kashmir—Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian—that has emerged as the epicentre of the present uprising in Kashmir.
In the recent months, there has been a clear sign of the shrinking space for mainstream politics in Kashmir as scores of political workers have left their homes and taken refuge in well-guarded hotels in Srinagar.
In one instance last year in October a former sarpanch, Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh, was killed when three militants barged into his house and attempted to abduct him. When the family resisted, they opened fire. Sheikh died on the spot but a militant was also killed in the scuffle.
Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 19:01 PM