Sarpanches Go Underground In Kashmir Valley After Latest Killing

Sarpanches Go Underground In Kashmir Valley After Latest Killing

10 April 2013
India Today


Srinagar: The recent murder of Pulwama sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad Lone has triggered panic among elected village representatives in Jammu and Kashmir. Several sarpanches in the valley have gone underground and many others have been threatening to pull out of local bodies in protest. Headlines Today found posters put up by militants warning sarpanches to quit. The atmosphere of fear and tension has been palpable as several sarpanches were found to have gone into hiding. Reacting to the latest killing, J&K Panchayat Conference chairman Shafiq Mir said on Tuesday that the state government has failed to protect sarpanches and panches. 'It is very sad that today Jammu and Kashmir's sixth pillar has fallen. He was our sixth sarpanch (to be killed). This did not happen all of a sudden. It happened after blackmailing. The government has been appealing that sarpanches should be provided with security,' Mir said as he held the state government responsible for the murder. 'I appeal to the human rights organisations of the entire world that they should intervene in this. Murdering these panches and sarpanches is against the humanity. The government has been trapped on the issue of empowerment,' he said. Lone, who was affiliated to the ruling National Conference, was gunned down by suspected militants in Pulwama district of south Kashmir on Monday night. No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the killing so far. Militants have targeted several panchayat members, killing six of them, in the valley since the panchayat elections were held in April 2011. On January 11, sarpanch Habibullah Mir was shot dead in Sopore township of Baramulla district, prompting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to order more security to panchayat heads.