‘We Don’t Need Security As We Are Not Against Anybody’

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Don’t politics panchayat elections, Panchayat body tells political parties

SRINAGAR — The Jammu Kash­mir’s Panchayat body is apprehend­ed that political parties may politi­cise the panchayat elections in the state that could land them in trouble.

The State Administrative Coun­cil (SAC) headed by Governor N N Vohra on Thursday reversed the PDP-BJP government’s controver­sial decision of indirect election for Sarpanchs and amended the law to facilitate direction election for the village body heads.

The SAC amended the J&K Pan­chayati Raj Act-1989 to pave way for direct election of Sarpanchs.

Welcoming the amendment, All Jammu and Kashmir Pan­chayat Conference, Chairman Shafiq Ahmad Mir said that that PDP-BJP government had eroded the democratic institution.

“It is not a political institution. We have nothing to do with poli­tics. Ours is a community institu­tion,” Mir told KNS.

He said that they were ready to participate in panchayat elec­tions. “Government has to decide the date. But all political parties should stay away from it,” he said.

Earlier, the PDP-BJP govern­ment had announced that pan­chayat polls would be held from February 15. After failing to improve the situation, the alliance partners “mutu­ally agreed” that delay­ing the polls was necessary to avoid de­teriorating the situation ahead of the 2018 summer.

The panchayat body believes that government will put them in “great threat” if political par­ties again use them for “political gains” and link panchayat elec­tions with the Kashmir issue.

He apprehended that political parties make politicise panchay­at polls. “They did it last time fol­lowing which many of our people got killed. We have no political affiliation. The panchayat body is to resolve the local issues of peo­ple. They (political parties) should not politicize it,” he said.

In 2011, people largely participated in panchayat polls as it was meant for lo­cal governance of rural areas in Jammu and Kash­mir. After the elec­tions, some pro-India politicians branded it as a referen­dum of the Kashmir issue. What followed were a string threats and attacks on panchs and sarpanchs.

“We don’t require any secu­rity. We are not fighting against anybody. We are not against any­body,” Mir said.

Elections to Panchayats were last held in April-May 2011 during Omar Abdullah led National Con­ference-Congress regime after a gap of 37 years. During previous Panchayat elections, there were 4098 Sarpanch and 29,402 Panch constituencies.

Between 2011 and 2015, the government has said that 10 Sar­panches were killed and three injured by gunmen in the val­ley while 20 resigned following threats from militant outfits. “Six Sarpanches were killed and three injured in Baramulla district, while three were killed and two in­jured in Pulwama. One Sarpanch was killed and one injured in Shopian,” former Minister for Ru­ral Development and Panchayati Raj, Abdul Haq Khan had said.

The United Jihad Council had issued threats to Panchayat repre­sentatives in 2013, saying they were being used as “tool by Indian agen­cies”. After which many Panchayat

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