Another sarpanch shot dead

PULWAMA/SRINAGAR: Unidentified gunmen on Monday night gunned down a sarpanch in South Kashmir district of Pulwama . This is the sixth killing of the Panchayat representatives in Kashmir since elections were held in the autumn of 2011.

Police said, Ghulam Mohammad Lone, 45, was shot by the gunmen inside his residence at Kulpora village, 35 km from Srinagar.

Lone, who was affiliated with the ruling National Conference, died on the spot, they said. Police blamed militants for the killing. However no militant outfit has so far claimed responsibility for Lone's killing.

This is the sixth instance in the last eight months in which a sarpanch has been killed in the state. While three sarpanches were killed in September last year, another was shot dead in January. On February 24, sarpanch Javed Ahmed Wani was shot at and critically injured by the suspected militants inside his house in the Kreeri area of Baramulla.

On January 11, sarpanch Habibullah Mir was shot dead in Sopore township of Baramulla district in north Kashmir, prompting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to order more security to panchayat heads.

Members of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), a body of village representatives, have threatened to resign if the government failed to check attacks on them.

"If anything untoward happens to anyone of us then all the panchayat members will quit and its responsibility will fall on the state government, particularly on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah," AJKPC Kashmir president Imtiaz Afzal Beig told reporters here last month.

Raising concerns over the security of panchayat members, Beig added that despite repeated requests, "the state and central governments have not taken any step to ensure security of panchayat members".

"Following the recent fidayeen (suicide) attack and an attack carried by militants on security forces, the panchayat members in the state, particularly in the Kashmir Valley, are terrified," he said.

Threatened by militants, about 600 elected village representatives have been forced to resign till date.

There are around 33,000 elected panches and sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir.

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