Ahead Of Lok Sabha Polls, Kashmir Panchayat Members Fear The Worst

Ahead Of Lok Sabha Polls, Kashmir Panchayat Members Fear The Worst

24 March 2014
DNA
Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

Srinagar: Sarpanch Mohammad Shaban Dar could not sleep for days after his children gave him the ultimatum to quit or else they would flee from their homes to escape the militants fury. Dar's family has been living under perpetual fear after the militants assassinated their 80-year-old father Ghulam Mohammad Dar on March 8. Under pressure Dar went to the local mosque and publicly announced the resignation to pacify the militants and save his family from falling apart. 'My father had gone to offer evening prayers when he was shot dead. It created a fear psychosis. My children said they would flee their homes. Therefore I went to the mosque and announced my resignation publicly,' Dar, who was the People's Democratic Party (PDP) Sarpanch of Dogripora village of Awantipora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, told dna. Welcome to the Valley of fear, where panchayat members are feeling the militant's heat ahead of the general elections starting next month. Unfazed by repeated snubs from the people, separatists have again called for a poll boycott in Jammu and Kashmir. Leading the charge is Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has asked people to stay away from the polls in Jammu and Kashmir. 'The elections in Jammu and Kashmir are merely a military operation rather than a democratic tool,' said Geelani. Four panchayat members including three panches have announced resignation in a last ditch effort to save themselves from the militants' wrath. 'We have been saying from the beginning that when the poll process will begin the panchs and sarpanchs will be the soft targets of militants. Militants have made their intentions clear when they killed the father of a sarpanch,' said Shafiq Mir, chairman of J&K Panchayat Conference (JKPC), an apex body of 33,540 panchs and sarpanchs. Figures released by JKPC reveal six panchayat members were killed and 15 others were injured in militant attacks since 2011 elections. Hundreds of panchayat members have resigned following militants threats so far. The fresh spree of resignation has send shivers down the political parties which are gearing up for the hectic canvassing in Jammu and Kashmir. 'It (assassination) has created sense of fear and anxiety in other halqas. Police should redouble their efforts to find out the killer and resolve the mystery,' said Mustafa Kamal, additional general secretary of National Conference and the uncle of J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah. Not to miss the opportunity, PDP put the Omar Abdullah government on notice to clear the air on the issue in an apparent bid to avert crisis. 'The government must come out with the explanation. They should come with the details of the investigation,' said Naeem Akthar, PDP chief spokesman. Special director general of Jammu and Kashmir Police, K Rajendra Kumar said joint efforts should be put in place to ensure peace and security at all places to thwart sinister designs of bad elements. 'Security of the candidates and maintaining law and order during campaigning is should be focused so that people could participate freely in democratic process,' Kumar said while chairing a meeting to review the security arrangements for polls. Additional companies of police and paramilitary forces are being mobilized to ensure peaceful elections. 'Additional companies of paramilitary forces are arriving. Efficient arrangements for their mobility and accommodation have been chalked out to ensure peaceful elections,' Kumar said.