Kashmir Indepth

Killings install fresh fear among Panchayat members

Militants believe Panchayat members mobilize people for any electoral process, says Shafiq Mir

Ishtiyaq Ahmad

Srinagar March 17 (KINS): Panchayat members are living under fear after three Sarpanches were killed since March 2 in South Kashmir.

Since March 2, three Panchayat members have been killed in South Kashmir.  In Kulgam district, many Panchayat members have either shifted to other places or avoided meeting anyone. The families of these Panchayat members are also worried for their safety.  Chairman All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) Shafiq Mir said 24 Panches and Sarpanch have been killed in Kashmir since 2012. “Panchayat members are always being targeted when political activities are started here. As the government says that assembly elections will be held within eight months in J&K, militants have started targeting Panches and Sarpanches. Three Panchayat members have been killed in this month alone. Militants believe that Panchayat members are first pillars of democracy who work on the ground and mobilize people for any electoral process,” Mir told news agency KINS.  AJKPC is an umbrella body of various associations of Panches and Sarpanches. 

Ilyas Ahmad, a 47-year-old Sarpanch from South Kashmir’s Shopian district said he rarely visits his home. “I have two children and wife at home. If I go, I have to inform the local police station and also carry the cops with me. My family remains worried 24×7 about me. We can’t roam freely. The recent killings have created a fresh fear among us,” he added.

Thousands of Panchayat members are either put in government accommodations or living at rented places fearing for their safety.  For these Panchayat members, life revolves around hotel rooms or inside four walls of their homes.

Anees ul Islam Ganie successfully contested the Panchayat elections from Sogam Kokernag in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

Since then his family has been worried about his safety and security.

“After elections, I stayed at home for some time. Then on December 4, 2020, I was attacked near my home. Four bullets hit me but luckily I survived after being treated for two weeks in a hospital. Since then I have been living at a government accommodation. But we live a pathetic life,” he said.

“I contested Panchayat elections to work for the development of my area. I had not expected that I would have to live a fearful life,” he said.

There are 4400 Sarpanches and over 35,000 Panches in Jammu and Kashmir. A Panch is given a monthly honorarium of Rs 1000 and Sarpanch 3000 by the government. (KINS)

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