Omar Dares Militants To Attack Him

Srinagar, Sept 26: Assuring of all necessary measures to ensure security of sarpanchs and panchs in vulnerable areas, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, Wednesday sought to dispel the impression being created that the situation in the valley had gone out of hand leading to a spate of resignations by the elected village heads.

Addressing a press conference here he said the government would not remain a silent spectator to the attacks. He dared militants to carry out an attack on him. “But, they will not do it as they are aware of the response,” he said.

Downplaying the number of resignations, the chief minister said his government had received only 50 resignations since the elections were held last year and that none of these had been accepted so far.

Asserting that his government would not allow militants to derail the process of strengthening of Panchayat Raj system, he said he had convened a meeting on October 1 to discuss the issue. “We have to increase the deployment of security forces or change its pattern according to the threat perception," he said, adding the gun-wielding people were acting against the interests of the state as was evident from their recent attempt to stop work on the Wullar project “to benefit the neighboring country.”

On empowerment of sarpanchs and panchs, the chief minister said the transfer of power to them had not gone down well with a section of politicians, MLAs and bureaucrats. "Many MLAs and even two ministers from our coalition partner (Congress) have come to me asking not to transfer block level powers to the Panchayats," he said, adding there was resistance to the empowerment within the system as well.

On the Congress and its state president, Saif-ud-din Soz’s insistence to implement the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India in the state, Omar categorically ruled out such a possibility. "The debate on amendments is unnecessary. We will give all powers to panchayat members to discharge their duties. We can amend our constitution for that but we do not need the 73rd and 74th amendments," he said.

The chief minister said an impression was being created that the government believed that after panchayat elections, the political issues of the state had been resolved.

"We never said that holding of panchayat elections has resolved the Kashmir issue," he said, adding the panchayats were meant for devolving power to grassroots levels.

Reacting to JKPCC chief, Saif-ud-din Soz's letter to him, Omar said such matters should not have been made public. "The chairman of the coordination committee should not have made his letter to the chief minister public," he said, adding there were no differences within the coalition on empowerment of panchayats.

"This (differences) cannot be farther from the truth. The National Conference believes in autonomy and pre-1953 position while the Congress believes in 1975 Indira-Sheikh accord. That does not mean we cannot work together," he said.
Asked if increasing the police deployment for security of panchayat members would weaken his demand for AFSPA revocation, Omar said there was no connection between the two.

"We never said remove AFSPA from Sopore or Baramulla town. We want removal of the Act from Srinagar and surrounding areas where the effects of militancy have reduced substantially," he said.

On the army's claim that the number of militants had increased, Omar said in that case, "the force needs to explain its work on the borders".

"The problem is not in the hinterland. If the number of militants has increased, where have they come from? What were they (army) doing at the borders?" he asked.

The chief minister said the situation in the state was improving as there were fewer incidents of violence this year compared to last year.

Responding to Soz’s suggestion that there could be reasons also behind the killings of panchayat members other than militancy, the chief minister said "I have seen no evidence to support this."

"If Soz has any evidence, let him share it with the Home Department or police," he said, adding that the investigations had revealed involvement of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker-e-Taiba militants in the killings. (With inputs from Agencies)

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