Divisive politics appeared to take a break on Monday at the home of Sanjay Sharma, a 40-year-old Kashmiri Pandit and bank security guard killed by militants a day earlier.
Rival politicians from the BJP and the People’s Democratic Party sent out messages of amity and visited the house at Achan village in Pulwama where Sharma’s wife, two daughters and son grieved.
Hundreds of Muslims too arrived to mourn Sharma’s death, express support for his family, and participate in his last rites. Several local people publicly condemned the killing.
Among the politicians who visited the house were former chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and Jammu and Kashmir BJP president Ravinder Raina.
Sharma’s wife told Raina that local Muslims were camping at her home and had not cooked meals at their homes following her husband’s murder. The family, however, told the visiting politicians that they no longer felt safe at their home.
Raina later said that Kashmiris had risen above the religious divide to condemn the act of terrorism.
“People are extremely grieved by the killing. The entire village is camping there. I saw tears and pain in their eyes. This bloodshed should stop,” Raina told reporters.
“I saw people in large numbers visiting the family for the last rites. Since yesterday, all Muslims from the village and surrounding areas have been here to mourn the death. This is the identity of Kashmir. Hundreds of Muslims lifted his body on their shoulders for his last rites.”
Raina hit out at “Pakistan-sponsored” militants. “What (evil) had Sanjayji done while he was living in Pulwama for the last many years? But these cowardly terrorists attacked him,” he said.
Mehbooba said Muslims should take up the responsibility of saving Pandits.
“It is my request to my community, Muslims.... There is no denying we are facing an onslaught. On the one side, the BJP is committing atrocities on us, and on the other is the gun of the militants,” she said.
“Kashmiri Pandits are our wealth, a symbol of Kashmiriyat…. For God’s sake, we should do everything in our hands to save them.”
She told reporters: “If militancy, as we are told, is over, then who killed him (Sharma)? What is the government doing to protect Pandits? I want to appeal to the government to provide a job to the widow.”
Mehbooba later said in a tweet that instead of promoting films that sowed hatred, it would help if the government of the country actually made the lives of minorities secure in Jammu and Kashmir.
All Party Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed the killing “a gruesome act”.
“The killing of human beings in such a manner is a tragedy that Kashmir has been witnessing for the past three-and-a-half decades now, with no seeming end in the near future,” the Mirwaiz, who is under house arrest, said in a statement.
“A state policy of extreme repression and unilateral interventions countered by equally extreme and viscous vengeance is a vortex we have got caught into, leading to extreme suffering of Kashmiris of all hues.”
The Mirwaiz said that in this situation, Kashmiri Pandits living in Kashmir had become soft targets.
“Besides, in the prevailing coercive environment with no space for outreach, contact among communities and people is also fast disappearing,” he said.