CHANDIGARH, INDIA, Sept 19, Reuter: Unknown assailants assassinated the leader of the Bharatiya Janata party in Punjab on Monday, two days before Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was due to visit the Northern Indian State, police said.

They said Hit Abhilashi, Punjab head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), died in a hail of automatic gunfire as he left his office in Chandigarh, the Punjab Capital,

Police said two persons leapt out of a van as Abhilashi walked from his office to a car, opened fire with AKH47 assault rifles and then drove off at high speed.

Abhilashi bodyguard was seriously injured in the shooting, which tore up the car the BJP Leader was about to enter.

Gandhi’s one day visit to Punjab on Wednesday, his first for three years, will take him to some of the strongholds of Militants fighting for an independent homeland they call Khalistan (Land of the Pure),

More than 1,900 people have been killed this year in the separatist campaign, compared with 1,230 in all of 1987. Meanwhile Bharatiya Janata Party has given a call for a national Bund to protest the killing of Mr. Hit Abhilashi.

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