Unified Hqrs put strategy in place for security of Sarpanchs

Unified Hqrs put strategy in place for security of Sarpanchs

1 October 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said today that some vested interests were trying to derail peace and democratic process in the State by targeting elected representatives of Panchayats including Sarpanchs and Panchs and called upon police and other security agencies to thwart their designs. In his brief address at Unified Headquarters meeting at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar this afternoon, Omar reportedly directed all security agencies for making proper security assessment of elected Panchayat members to provide security cover to them in vulnerable areas. He called upon police and all other security agencies to remain alert and take necessary steps to instill confidence among the elected representatives. The Chief Minister is understood to have called for a through review of threat assessment of Panchayat members to be undertaken by the police and also provide personal security to them in areas where presence of security forces is minimal. The Unified Headquarters meeting that lasted about one and a half hour reviewed recent incidents of violence against the Panchayat members and discussed the measures, which could be taken to protect them as it was not possible to provide individual security to about 33,000 Sarpanchs and Panchs. Top police officials informed the meeting that a number of cases related to violence against Sarpanchs and Panchs have been investigated and worked out. They told the meeting that in some cases, it was observed that subversive elements and their sympathizers were being used by anti-social elements for meeting their political and personal ends. Official sources told the Excelsior that issue of providing protection to the Panchayat members dominated the Unified Headquarters meeting though some other issues like infiltration from the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, security scenario in the State etc also figured. Sources said several measures were discussed by the security agencies and a strategy was put in place to protect the Panchayat members from the militant threats. The meeting stressed for area domination by security forces to protect Sarpanchs and Panchs. While ruling out individual protection to all Panchayat members, the meeting called for having a review of case-to-case and, if required, some of them could be given security cover. 'The best option discussed and favoured by the majority view was night patrolling of vulnerable areas to thwart the militants’ threats’’, sources said, adding that night patrolling by security forces and police could be revived in some vulnerable areas. The meeting noted that the militants could target some more Panchayat members to create panic among them. There had been some intercepts to this effect, sources said. During the meeting, police and other security agencies were said to have highlighted the role of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit for being the brain behind the creation of terror among the Panchayat members of the Kashmir valley, sources said. 'It was decided that while the Army would step up night patrolling in rural areas, coordinated efforts should be made by the civil administration in liaison with the Army and other security agencies to create a congenial and secure environment’’, the sources said. Certain areas in North Kashmir were listed as vulnerable to terror threats to Panchayat members and it was decided that a multi-layered security ring would be thrown around the areas involving Army, CRPF and local police, they said. Some Sarpanchs and Panchs have sent in their resignations apprehending threats to their lives in the wake of the killing of Panchayat member Mohammed Shafi Teli at Kreeri in Pattan area of North Kashmir on September 23. While highlighting the need for area domination, the Unified Headquarters meeting also felt that the Army and other para-military with the help of spotters from State police should ensure that no militant mingled with the local population. The Army was told to keep the local police in the loop during search and cordon operations to prevent collateral damage, they said. Besides Teli, two other Panchayat members, targeted by the militants, were Ghulam Nabi Yatto on September 10 in Palhallan Pattan in North Kashmir and Gulzar Ahmad Dar of Kulgam on February 9. During the meeting, police officers highlighted the cracking of the case relating to the gunning down of a Panchayat member in Kulgam earlier this year and said some Hizbul Mujahideen militants, allegedly involved in it, had already been arrested. The Unified Headquarters meeting among others was attended by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani, GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen KT Parnaik, Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Principal Secretary, Home Iqbal Khandey, GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Om Prakash, DGP Ashok Prasad, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister BB Vyas, Additional DGP Law and Order K Rajendera Kumar, IGP Kashmir SM Sahai, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Samoon, Special DG CRPF, Joint Director IB, DIG CRPF (Administration), Kashmir, DIG CRPF (Operations), Kashmir, DIG BSF Kashmir, IGP CIR, J&K, Additional Commissioner SB and Media Advisor Bharti Vaid.