Rahul Bhat (1989-2022) was a migrant Kashmiri Pandit government employee who was gunned down by a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in his office in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on 12 May 2022.
Wiki/Biography & Career
Rahul Bhat was born in 1989 (age 33 years; at the time of death) in Sangram Pora, Beerwah, Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir. His hometown is Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. In 1997, when Rahul was eight years old, his family fled the Kashmir Valley and relocated to Jammu for safety purposes; they decided to leave their hometown after Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists came to their village, handpicked seven young men, and shot them from point-blank. In Jammu, they lived in Durga Nagar, Bantalab. At the age of 21, Rahul started working as a clerk in the revenue department of the Tehsil Office in Budgam. He had bagged the job under the special employment package for migrants. Following his employment, his family decided to return to their hometown, and they started living in a Migrant Colony at Sheikhpora in Budgam.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Dark Brown
Eye Colour: Brown
Family & Caste
Rahul Bhat was a Kashmiri Pandit.
Parents & Siblings
Rahul Bhat’s father, Bitta Ji Bhat, is a retired Indian police officer. Bitta was retired as an ASI and he was a part of the security wing of former National Conference leader Ali Mohammad Sagar. Not much is known about his mother. He had a younger brother named Sunny Bhat, who is also an Indian police personnel.
Wife & Children
Rahul got married to Meenakshi Raina Bhat in 2010. He had an eight-year-old daughter named Gungun.
He followed Hinduism.
On 12 May 2022, Rahul Bhat was attacked by a group of terrorists who fired bullets at him from close proximity inside the Tehsil office in Chadoora town in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir. After the incident, he was rushed to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar, where he was declared dead by the doctors.
In an interview, Rahul’s wife, Meenakshi Bhat revealed that she spoke to Rahul over the phone just 10 minutes before the attacks. She said,
He works at the DC office. I spoke to him at 3:45 PM, that is 10 minutes before the attack but did not feel any threat. I was at a birthday party when I spoke to him and he was speaking very normal to me. Later, I got a phone call about an attack on him where he has been shot in the shoulder, however, I was relieved that he will be saved. But they took him away from me and I am left all alone with nothing.”
Based on the initial investigation, Srinagar police revealed that two terrorists were involved in the utterly odious crime. The police also revealed that the terrorists had used pistols for committing the crime. During a media conversation, Rahul’s wife, Meenakshi Bhat ruled out the possibility that some people from Bhat’s office might have conspired with the terrorists to kill him. She said,
He used to say everyone behaves nicely with him and nobody can harm him. Yet nobody protected him, they (terrorists) must’ve asked someone about him, otherwise, how would they’ve known.”
She further said that her husband, who was a government employee in Chadoora, had pleaded with the local administration on several occasions to transfer him to the district headquarters as he felt insecure in the Budgam office, but despite repeated appeals, he was not transferred. Demanding a probe in connection to the incident, Rahul’s father, Bitta Ji Bhat, during an interview said,
First, they asked who Rahul Bhat is and then they shot him. We want inquiry. There was a Police Station 100 ft away. There must have been security at the office but nobody was there. They should check CCTV footage.”
The news of his death at the hands of terrorists deeply shocked his friends and colleagues. His colleagues remember him as a person with humane qualities and utmost kindness. While talking to a media person, a senior lady officer in Rahul’s department described him as,
conscientious official who worked hard in the difficult times post-August 5, 2019, when Kashmir was under lockdown for a month after the abrogation of the Article 370.”
She further said,
He worked day and night to help others and I am unable to deal with his death.”
Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, in a media conversation condemned the barbaric killing of Rahul Bhat, and said,
I strongly condemn the barbaric killing of Rahul Bhat by terrorists at Budgam. Those behind this despicable terror attack will not go unpunished. J-K government stands in solidarity with the bereaved family in this hour of grief.”
Soon after the news of Rahul’s death went viral, several working employees, including those from the majority community, came out on the roads of Jammu and Kashmir to protest against the killing of Rahul Bhat by the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The locals expressed their anger over Rahul’s killing and asked for a secure environment for Kashmiri Hindus living in the region. Speaking to a media channel, one local said,
Kashmiri Pandits should be given shelter at one place and jobs should be given in the nearby areas along with security. Only then they will remain safe. It is naturally a targeted killing. Barging inside the office and looking out for him is a targeted killing. This is being done to stop them from returning to Kashmir again.”
The protesters generally included the Kashmiri Pandit employees from the Sheikhpora-Budgam migrant colony. They first assembled at the Sheikhpora area of Budgam district, in central Kashmir and were marching towards the Srinagar International Airport when they were stopped by a posse of police personnel.
They were shouting the slogans, seeking the arrest of Rahul Bhat’s killers and a stern punishment for them. They said that they have informed the administration and police that the Lt. Governor should visit the spot and give them assurance about their protection and ensure that the culprits involved in the killing of Rahul Bhat would not be spared. The police requested the protestors to disperse but they refused to move and insisted on moving ahead following which the police used tear smoke shells and mild lathi-charge to disperse the protest carried out by the Kashmiri Pandit employees.
Rahul Bhat’s last rites were performed at the Bantalab cremation ground on 13 May 2022 in presence of his family members and police officers. Mukesh Singh, ADGP Jammu, Ramesh Kumar, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, and Avny Lavasa, Deputy Commissioner Jammu were present at the cremation ground for the last rites.
Rahul Bhat’s Murder Avenged
A few days after the brutal killing of Rahul Bhat, his killers were eliminated by the security forces in Bandipora. Both the terrorists were gunned down in a joint operation carried out by the Indian army and the Jammu and Kashmir police. The terrorists were identified as Faisal and Ukasa.
- Reportedly, Rahul was among the first three Kashmiri Pandits who returned to Kashmir after securing a government job under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation programme in 2010.
- Bhat was the second Kashmiri Pandit to have been shot dead since 2021; Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent member of the Kashmiri Pandit community was shot dead by militants on 6 October 2021. During the period between August 2019 and March 2022, around 14 people (including Rahul Bhat) belonging to Jammu and Kashmir’s minority Hindu community, have been killed by militants in various parts of Kashmir. The targetted persons mostly included prominent businessmen, sarpanch, and block development council members of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- When the locals started protesting over the slaying of Rahul Bhat in Jammu and Kashmir, the militants delivered a threat letter to the public, asking migrants and the RSS agents to leave the valley or face death. Directly targeting the Kashmiri Pandit community, the letter signed by the terrorist group’s commander says that there is no space for Kashmiri Pandits ‘who want another Israel in Kashmir to kill Kashmiri Muslims.’
- Reacting to the threat letter, Ashwini Bhat, Rahul Bhat’s cousin, appealed to the Indian government to give a befitting response to the militants. He said,
We need to see in the light and ensure that terrorism is lifted apart and no mercy is granted to any terrorists.”
- On 18 May 2022, Jammu and Kashmir administration handed over Rs. 5 lakh financial assistance to Rahul Bhat’s family. The administration also sanctioned the compassionate appointment of Bhat’s widow, Meenakshi Raina, in the pay level of Rs. 14,800-47,100 in government higher secondary school Nowabad, Jammu.