Activists protesting against India's new land laws in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Mukhtar Khan/AP
Militants shot dead three young workers of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party in Kashmir late on Thursday, days after his government changed laws allowing people from the rest of the country to buy land in the disputed region.
Many Kashmiris have been simmering with anger since Modi's nationalist government last year annulled the decades-old autonomy of India's only Muslim-majority region, and then detained several local political leaders to suppress dissent.
The government says it is trying to better integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country and make laws uniform across states, though militants have in response stepped up attacks on Kashmiri members of Modi's Bharatiya Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kashmir Police Chief Vijay Kumar told Reuters that a hunt had been launched for the militants who killed the BJP workers on Thursday evening in the region's southern district of Kulgam.
The BJP said on Twitter that “those who are responsible for this will not be spared”, while Modi condemned the killings.
“They were bright youngsters doing excellent work in J&K,” he said about the Jammu & Kashmir federal territory.
“My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace.”
Earlier this year, five other BJP workers were killed in Kashmir, prompting the police to move hundreds of village leaders who are close to the party to high-security zones.
The mountainous Kashmir region is ruled by India and Pakistan in parts but both claim it in full.
India has amended a law in Jammu and Kashmir allowing Indian citizens to buy land in the disputed territory, said officials, sparking opposition criticism about a steady erosion of the rights of Kashmiri people.
When Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance to power in 2014, India was ranked 27th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. In the 2020 index, released last week, it is at the 53rd place in the list
The militants opened fire on Gul Mohammad Mir, who belonged to a local unit of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at his house in south Kashmir on Saturday night.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan.
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