SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Attackers shot dead three of India’s ruling party politicians in Kashmir late on Thursday, police said, blaming the fighters against the rule of India in the disputed area.
The militants shot at the three members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, aka BJP, in the southern district of Kulgam, police said in a statement. The three were taken to the hospital, where they died.
The Party says they are a member of the youth wing of the BJP and one is the party̵7;s general secretary of the Kulgam district. In a tweet, the BJP condemned the murders, calling them a “barbaric terror attack.”
“Those responsible for this will not be spared,” it said.
Police said government forces opened a search for the shooters. Officials did not immediately disclose other details and no rebel group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both claim sovereignty over the entire area. Rebels have been fighting against Indian domination since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmir support the rebel’s goal of unified territory under Pakistani rule or as a state. independence.
The attack comes two days after India enacted laws allowing its citizens to buy land in Kashmir, exacerbating concerns from citizens and human rights groups who see those measures as to change the demographics of the Muslim majority region.
Until last year, Indians were not allowed to buy real estate in Kashmir. But in August 2019, Modi’s government removed the region’s special statute, abolished its separate constitution, divided it into two federal territories – Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir – and eliminated the Inherited protection measures for land and employment. The move caused widespread anger and economic destruction amid constrained security and loss of communication.
Police arrested several pro-Indian Kashmiri politicians who were opposed to the new land law on Thursday as they tried to oppose the policy in the region’s main city, Srinagar.
Altaf Thakur, a local BJP spokesman, said the party lost nine members in rebel attacks this year. In July, militants shot and killed a top politician along with his father and brother, who were also members of his party.
India describes the Kashmiri militia as a terrorist funded by Pakistan. Pakistan denies the accusation and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces were killed in the conflict.