Killings: Panchayat members blame mainstream

SRINAGAR: The elected representatives of village Panchayat members Monday blamed mainstream political parties for the killing of at least four of their colleague in past few weeks. The frightened members held a protest demonstration in Press Enclave and threatened to go for mass resignation “if the guilty are not brought to the book.”

“We want a thorough investigation into the matter and want guilty to be punished. We are protesting so that the persons involved in the killing of our colleagues are punished at the earliest,” said Khurshid Malik general secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Association.   

“National Conference  is saying that People’s Democratic Party is behind the killings and PDP alleges that NC was doing it.  We feel they all are killing us together,” said Khurshid adding that the representatives have got disillusioned by the system and almost everybody now feels “we are being used.”

The Panchayat members termed Kashmir as a dispute and asserted that they too were the stakeholders in the solution.. “We have been elected as the representatives for the social services and 85 percent of people participated in those elections.”

They stated further that if the guilty were not punished and a thorough probe was not ordered, they would boycott the forthcoming elections for the local assembly. “We will not vote in the elections nor will we allow anyone to go near to the polling booth,” They said adding that they will hold a detailed meet with Kashmir’s pro-freedom camp so that “we could get some help from them for holding the killers of the Panches and Sarpanches accountable.”

Khurshid said Panchayat members were ready to resign  but had decided to hold deliberations with separatist leaders to clear their stand. “We are ready to go for en masse resignation but before that we are going to meet separatist leaders. We have formed a six-member committee. We will go to them and clear our stand. We will tell them that we are not a hurdle to the Kashmir issue,” Malik said.

Few days back, the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference demanded the constitution of a judicial commission to probe the killings of Panchayat members in the state. In the latest case, a panchayat member was shot dead by armed assailants in Kulgam district last Thursday.

The killings have scared thousands of panchayat(village council) members and their respective heads who have long been demanding personal security guards at par with legislators. This is reportedly the seventh panchayat member who has been killed since the Panchayat elections were held in April 2011. Ghulam Mohammad Lone, 45, was shot dead by the militants inside his residence at Kulpora village of the same Pulwama district last year on April 08. He belonged to the ruling National Conference. Another Sarpanch was killed last year in January. The killings of panchayat members had triggered a wave of resignations across Kashmir.

The panchayat elections were held in Kashmir in 2011  after a 10 year long break with a record 80% turnout.  Around 34,000 representatives were elehted in the election which is only the third in 34 year old history of panchayat polls in the state.kk

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has in past condemned such killings and promised to step up the security for the village heads.  “It is necessary to put in place security measures to protect the sarpanches in the state,” he said on the sidelines of a “Students’ Parliament” organised by Maharashtra Institute of Technology, Pune, last year. However, Omar said there was a need to establish which elements were behind the killing, indicating the killings were the result of political rivalry rather than a militant action.

Despite suffering the worst security scenario the state’s fledgling Panchayat system has managed to stay on course. In December last, an overwhelming number of panches and sarpanches  defied threats and voted to elect candidates for the four Legislative Council seats under the Panchayat quota.  The polls for these seats were held after a gap of 38 years.

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