Sheikh Waseem Bari (31) of Bandipora town, along with his entire family, has been associated with the BJP since 2014, when Narendra Modi took over as prime minister, with the promise of strengthening the ‘nationalist forces’ in strife-torn Kashmir.
After functioning as BJP’s Bandipora District President, Bari was appointed as a member of the party’s state executive committee in March 2020. On 4 June 2020, he was also appointed as the Kashmir in-charge, of the party’s Department of Training. His father, Bashir Ahmad Sheikh (60), and brother Umer Sheikh, have held different lower rung positions in the BJP. They had also established the BJP’s District Office at their two-storey house opposite to local police station. The Sheikh house in the Muslimabad neighbourhood, with the high-flying Indian tricolour and the BJP’s party flags hoisted on a terrace, is a landmark for the town.
Minutes after Bari returned from a visit to his in-laws and was with his father and brother at one of the shops on the ground floor at 8:45 PM on Wednesday, 8 July, an unidentified militant ambushed them and shot them dead.
All three died after receiving bullets to their heads. From Prime Minister Modi to the senior J&K BJP leader and Minister of State in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, many in the government sent their condolences to the bereaved family – of two women and two children.
Did A ‘Security Lapse’ Lead to the Triple Murder?
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, visited the scene of crime on Thursday, 9 July, when three coffins were being wrapped in green cloths and being prepared for the last rites. He described the triple murder as the result of a ‘security lapse’, while revealing that 10 personnel — two from the Security Wing and 8 from the District Police — had been assigned to protect Bari and his family.
Eight of them were on duty and present in a different room when the incident took place. Yet, none of the BJP leaders’ Personal Security Officers (PSOs) were around when the ‘pre-planned’ militant attack took place.
He said that all the 10 PSOs had been arrested for criminal negligence of duty, and they were being dismissed from service. The IGP also claimed that, with the help of the CCTV camera at the police station, the assassins had been identified. One was a local militant of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) group, and another was a foreigner.
As per norms, the police station opposite Bari’s house has registered a First Information Report (FIR), even as the police continue to grope in the dark.
Of all the mainstream political parties, the BJP had remarkable visibility in Bandipora. Years of peace in the area gave a false sense of security and nonchalance to the BJP members as well as the police. In the last six years, not more than two BJP leaders had been attacked and killed by militants in the valley — both in the Pulwama-Shopian belt of southern Kashmir. Over a month ago, the ITBP static guard was removed from Bari’s house. He would not only visit the areas and meet people, but would often organise the BJP’s national events at his office.
- The Quint has independently learnt that Bari’s assassination is the first killing in Kashmir that was ‘predicted’ and ‘promised’ on social media, carried out with precision – and celebrated within hours of the shootout, on Facebook.
- Bari’s killing, along with his father and brother, on Wednesday, has sent shockwaves across the Valley. The security bandobast of all BJP workers is being beefed up.
- Immediately after the shootout, the police rushed to the residence of a woman BJP leader and accommodated her in the fortified NHPC colony at Bandipora.
- The residents of Bandipora do not remember any political leader’s killing in the last 15 years since the assassination of prominent Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) worker Abdul Gaffar of Ashtengo.
How the J&K BJP Leader’s Death Was ‘Planned’ & ‘Predicted’
On Monday, 6 July 2020, Bari and his colleagues paid floral tributes to the Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee on his 119th birth anniversary, with fanfare. He uploaded a video of the remembrance ceremony at 8:23 PM – the same day – on his Facebook profile, drawing abusive flak from the pro-autonomy, pro-azaadi and pro-Pakistan trolls. It was to be his last Facebook video update.
While the Cyber Cell of the Jammu and Kashmir Police is believed to be on the job, The Quint has learned independently that Bari’s assassination is the first killing in Kashmir that was ‘predicted’ and ‘promised’ on social media, carried out with precision – and celebrated within hours of the shootout, on Facebook.
On 28 June, Bari uploaded a video on his Facebook page, in which he is seen watching Prime Minister Modi’s weekly broadcast ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on his laptop at the BJP office. One ‘Samir Ahmad’, on the same day, posted this comment: “Inshallah u will stay in hell soon (sic).”
On 27 June, Bari uploaded to his Facebook page the video of some NC, Congress and PDP activists joining the BJP, with this caption: “Today, Number of senior leaders from different parties like N. C. PDP Congress joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) In the presence of Senior Leader and Kashmir Incharge Department of Training and State executive member Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Waseem Bari (sic).”
On 7 July, a day after the tribute to SP Mookerjee, one ‘Huzaif Lone Huzaiflone’ commented on Bari’s post: “Ye Shaikh Waseem Ko Kuyn nhi marta hai koi” (Why doesn’t anybody kill this Sheikh Waseem?)
As Sheikh Waseem was shot dead at 8:45 PM on 8 July, one ‘Amir Iqbal’ posted this question to ‘Huzaif Lone’ on Bari’s thread of comments (to his 27 June video at 11:30 PM, in Kashmiri language): “Huzaif Lone Huzaiflone hoo cxe ma peer” (Huzaif Lone, are you a soothsayer?)
Five hours after Bari’s killing, at around 1:00 AM on 9 July, ‘Huzaif Lone’ triumphantly responded to ‘Amir Iqbal’ on the slain BJP leader’s (same) Facebook thread: “Amir Iqbal hahahaha bavish wani such nikli bro” (Amir Iqbal brother, the prediction has come true).
A Triple Political Murder In Bandipora After 15 Years of Calm
Bari’s killing, along with his father and brother, on Wednesday, has sent shockwaves across the Valley. The security bandobast of all BJP workers is being beefed up. Immediately after the shootout, the police rushed to the residence of a woman BJP leader and accommodated her in the fortified NHPC colony at Bandipora. None of the mainstream leaders, other than Usman Majid, has adequate police protection – the kind required to safely venture out in the district. Their escort vehicles had been withdrawn and PSOs limited after their detention in August 2019, when Article 370 was revoked in J&K.
The residents of Bandipora do not remember any political leader’s killing in the last 15 years since the assassination of prominent Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) worker Abdul Gaffar of Ashtengo.
In the 15-year-long spree of political killings, ex-minister and ex-MLA Usman Majid’s brother, Ghulam Nabi, was killed in 2003. Usman himself is a militant-turned-counterinsurgent, who worked with the Congress for a long time before joining Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party in 2019. Senior PDP leader and ex-MLA Nizamuddin Bhat’s three relatives in the Parray family of Potshai were also killed. His nephew and a cousin’s son ‘disappeared’ after they were kidnapped. Seven years later they were declared dead. Bhat’s brother went into terrible depression and died after.
Trail of Political Killings in Pre-2005 Bandipora
PDP’s Ward Member of Maddar, Ghulam Hassan, was grabbed allegedly by counterinsurgent Ikhwanis on the way to his home. According to the residents, his wife begged for his life and left her toddler on the feet of the gunmen. They didn’t relent. Hassan, a postgraduate in science, was shot dead on the road. His wife was spared but she is still in depression. PDP leaders Mohammad Kamal Bhat and Abdul Ahad were also killed. A National Conference Block President, relative of Bari’s in-laws, was also gunned down.
Other prominent political activists shot dead in Bandipora included JeI amir Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Argam, Congress leaders Mohammad Yousuf Lone and Ghulam Nabi Bhat.
Persecution of the political activists had in fact begun with the kidnapping of senior Congress leader and then MLC Habibullah Bhat by Allah Tigers.
He was, however, let off within a month. Years later, Dr Ghulam Qadir Wani, formerly a senior leader of the Muslim United Front (MUF), who had quit militancy after a tryst with the JKLF, was also assassinated in Bandipora.
“The mainstream activity and visibility in Bandipora has been reduced to almost zero. I am left with 3 PSOs and no vehicle or escort. How do you expect me to even travel from Srinagar to Bandipora,” PDP’s ex-MLA and ex-MLC Nizamuddin Bhat told The Quint.
“We are terribly shaken by the gruesome killing of the three BJP leaders. They have been killed like lame ducks. Other parties’ leaders’ fate can only be imagined,” journalist-turned-politician Bhat asserted. Even when a key police counterinsurgent Altaf ‘Laptop’ was killed several years ago, Bandipora was considered to be largely militant-free. No major incident had occurred in several years.
The writer is a Srinagar-based senior journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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