Gunmen kill a leader of India’s ruling party in disputed Kashmir

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Unidentified gunmen killed a leader of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir state late on Thursday, prompting authorities to impose a curfew in the area.

Anil Parihar, 53, state secretary of the BJP, and his brother, Ajit, were shot dead in the predominantly Muslim town of Kishtwar, while they headed home after closing the family bookshop, police said.

Authorities imposed a curfew and deployed extra troops on Friday. Police are investigating whether it was a militant attack or a criminal act, a senior police officer said.

Anil Parihar was an influential leader in the region. He was considered a moderate and had a sizeable support base, even among Muslims, media reported.

Protesters demand action

The incident triggered protests in the town in the south of the Muslim-majority state. Kishtwar has a mixed Hindu-Muslim population and activists from the Hindu-dominated party took to the streets to demand action.

The BJP leader in the state had two bodyguards but they were not with him at the time of the attack, said Kishtwar’s senior police official, Rajinder Gupta.

“The situation is under control and an investigation into the incident is going on,” Dilbag Singh, director general of police, told AFP.

Indian Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority state, has been beset by a 29-year-old insurgency. Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, rarely strike in Kishtwar district.

Fearing sectarian tensions, Muslim leaders used mosque speakers on Friday to also demand the attackers be found.

India accuses Pakistan for sheltering anti-India militants but Pakistan denies that, calling for talks to decide the region’s future.

General election soon

Kashmir is under direct rule by the federal government, which gives the BJP a free hand to control it ahead of a general election that must be called early next year.

Federal home minister Rajnath Singh said he was shocked and pained by the killing of the brothers.

“Police will leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Singh said on Twitter.