| Relatives mourn the death of Abdul Aziz Mir in a Srinagar hospital. (Reuters)
Srinagar, Dec. 20: A ruling party MLA was gunned down as he was leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, dealing a blow to chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s “healing touch” policy.
Abdul Aziz Mir had won the October election from saffron-rich Pampore, 15 km from capital. He was headed home after offering namaz at the local mosque when two militants, waiting in a narrow lane, fired at him.
“The MLA was hit in the chest and abdomen. We rushed him immediately to SMHS hospital here, where he succumbed to his injuries. Doctors tried their best to save him,” a senior police officer said.
Although the MLA’s police escorts fired back from automatic weapons, the militants managed to escape, he added.
One of the police guards accompanying Mir said: “There were lot of people around and we retaliated in time. However, the militants managed their escape. People shook hands with the MLA before the militants opened fire.”
Mir was first taken to a hospital in Pampore, from where he was shifted to Srinagar. His body was taken home to Pampore in the evening by grieving relatives.
The Save Kashmir Movement, a new militant outfit, telephoned local newspapers in Srinagar to own responsibility for the killing.
This is the first attack on any senior People’s Democratic Party leader and sitting MLA after the party came to power in alliance with the Congress.
The ruling PDP has 16 members in the Assembly. The death of a senior leader and sitting legislator has dealt a severe blow to Mufti’s “healing touch” policy.
An essential feature of the policy has been ground-level interaction of PDP leaders with people across the Valley, as against the previous government, whose members had insulated themselves from the public because of the high security risks.
Mir’s killing is likely to impede the interactive approach of the new government. Priority would now have to be given to the personal security of PDP and Congress leaders.
“I have always believed in finding solutions through ballot and not the bullet,” the chief minister had said in Jammu yesterday. Under fire from several quarters for releasing political prisoners, he added the alienation of the people could not be addressed “unless the hearts of the people are won”.
Three women were killed in a village in the mountainous Rajouri district late last night.
Police said three militants went to Batiya village past midnight, identified the women —Shanaz Akhtar, Tahira Parveen and Norrin Qausar — and dragged them out of their homes. The militants then slit the throats of two and shot dead the third.
One of the victims was married and the others were students in their early twenties.
The killings come just days after posters appeared ordering women to wear burqas, adds Reuters. “There is a possibility that these killings are linked with the diktat on dress code,” an official said.
The posters, signed by the little-known Lashkar Jabbar, appeared in Rajouri town and neighbouring villages, asking women not to step out of their homes without burqas.
But no group has claimed responsibility for the killings. Police sources said it was also possible that militants suspected the three women of colluding with security forces.