According to authorities, assailants have fatally shot a politician in the latest of a string of deadly attacks over the last year.
A string of deadly attacks last year on members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in Indian-controlled Kashmir by suspected militants led to the deaths of a top BJP politician and his father and brother.
The latest attack in which Rakesh Pandita was shot occurred while visiting a friend in the southern town of Tral. Pandita was supposed to be accompanied by two police guards, but he chose to go to Tral without them.
He was later declared dead in a hospital.
Rebels have been fighting the central government in Kashmir for decades, though no rebel group has claimed responsibility for the murder of Pandita.
Kashmir is currently under divided control, as both India and Pakistan claim it in its entirety.
Muslims in the country support the rebels, with the goal being uniting the territory under Pakistani rule, or becoming an independent country.
Party leaders, including Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in Kashmir, have condemned the attack.
“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.
UPDATE: An Islamic terror group known as the “People’s Anti-Fascist Front” has claimed responsibility for the murder. The group issued a press release to explain their actions with outlandish claims, writing:
“The cadres of People’s Anti Fascist Front neutralised a Fascist Hindu extremist Rakesh Pandit in Tral. This extremist was not only involved in creating a network of informers but was also involved in drug trafficking and other immoral activities.
If the Hindutva thugs believe that their evil designs can take roots in Kashmir then it is a delusion of great magnitude. We have an eye on every activity of theirs and we will deal with them appropriately.”
An op-ed published by the news outlet OP India denies these claims. “It is important to mention here that the murder of Rakesh Pandita had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with his religion,” the article reads. “He was murdered because he was Hindu. The Congress party and other opposition leaders by accusing the BJP of being ‘fascist’ have provided terrorists with a convenient excuse to indulge in terrorism.”
The writer also mentions that the fact that this terrorist group claims to be “anti fascist” is not a coincidence. “It’s not just liberals in India that the statement is geared towards, it is also designed to appeal to western liberals,” the article states. “Western liberals claim that anyone who is not a fascist is Antifa. That is how they have justified political violence against Conservatives in the United States of America and whitewashed the intense spell of rioting by Antifa in cities across the country.”
“Now, we are in a situation where Islamic terrorists have started calling themselves ‘Antifa’. The irony of the situation is enough to make heads explode in disbelief,” the writer continues. “Islamic terrorists in Kashmir wish to appeal to western liberals by the usage of the term and since, those in the latter camp are predisposed to consider every Hindutvavadi a Nazi, terrorists might even succeed in finding takers for their extremist ideology among liberals in the West.”