Panic Grips Panchs, Sarpanchs In North Kashmir

Panic Grips Panchs, Sarpanchs In North Kashmir

25 February 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: Panic gripped Panchs and Sarpanchs of North Kashmir following the killing of a Sarpanch in Kreeri area last evening by suspected militants. Security forces have launched a massive operation in Kalantra village and adjoining areas against the militants responsible for the killing of the Sarpanch. The Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police, 52 Rashtriya Rifles, 29 Rashtriya Rifles and 2 Rashtriya Rifles of Army has reportedly laid ambushes in the area to trap the militants who killed the Sarpanch. Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, who visited the village today directed Deputy Inspector General of Police, North Kashmir, to conduct inquiry into the incident within two days. The killing of the Sarpanch comes at a time when there was tension across Kashmir valley in the aftermath of execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. According to reports, large number of Panchayat members in North Kashmir are feeling scared after the killing of National Conference worker and Sarpanch of village Kalantra, Payeen in Kreeri area of Baramulla district, Javed Ahmad Wani. Wani was killed by militants last evening in his village Kalantra in Kreeri area in district Baramulla. He was shot thrice by militants and was removed to Kreeri hospital, where he was declared brought dead. Sources said that Panchayat members in sensitive areas of Baramulla have fled their homes in panic to avoid becoming soft targets. “They have either taken shelter with their relatives or friends”, they added. Sarpanch of village Panzoo in North Kashmir’s Handwara area, Ghulam Hassan Punzoo, who is also chief spokesman of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, told Excelsior that he got frantic calls from over 50 Panchayat members of North Kashmir today. Punzoo said that these Panchs and Sarpanchs were disturbed and told him that they are feeling scared and are under pressure from their families to dis-associate themselves from Panchayat Raj Institution. He said that in such a situation, he can’t force them to continue with the Panchayats. “I told them if they want to resign, they can, as they can better judge the ground situation. I, however, told them the AJKPC is taking a decision in a couple of days regarding security of Panchayat members”, Panzoo added. Punzoo said that around 50 Panchs and Sarpanchs have fled Kashmir during past two weeks due to fear. However, IGP Kashmir range, S M Sahia said here: “Guru’s hanging has not created any new threat which would compel the Panchs or Sarpanchs to leave the Valley.” It may be mentioned here that the AJKPC last month rejected militant diktats and said that they won’t be cowed down by killing of Panchayat members at the hands of militants. In the meantime, MoS Home, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, visited the family of deceased Sarpanch, Wani, in village Kalantra, Kreeri and directed DIG NKR, Rajesh Kumar, to conduct inquiry into the incident within two days to find out the circumstances that led to the killing of the Sarpanch, even when he was provided security cover. He asked the DIG to initiate strict action against the delinquent security personnel. Kitchloo expressed condolences to the bereaved family. He also instructed the District Administration to process ex-gratia relief and job in favour of the next of kin of the deceased family. The Minister later chaired a meeting of police and civil administration to review the overall law-and-order situation in the district especially in the wake of killing of Sarpanch. Wani’s killing is second killing of a Sarpanch in North Kashmir this year. Earlier, militants killed a senior Congress workers and Sarpanch Habibullah Mir of Gooripora Bomai in Sopore area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district on January 12. They also targeted a woman Panchayat member, Zooni Begam, of Hardshiva village of Sopore. However, Zooni survived the attack. Killing of Mir led to the resignation of over 100 Panchayat members in the area and since last year around 1600 have resigned due to militant threats. Army and police are patrolling sensitive areas of Kashmir valley to give a sense of security to the Panchayat members after militant threats in which 5 Panchayat members were killed since last year.