Panchayat members continue to quit in J&K

Notwithstanding assurances given by the state and Central governments, panchayat members continue to resign in Kashmir with local newspapers publishing paid advertisements by panchs and sarpanchs announcing their resignations for the last one week.

On Sunday, leading Urdu dailies of Kashmir carried at least 40 paid advertisements in which dozens of panches and sarpanches announced their resignations. Some of the panchyat members who resigned from their posts also included members of minority Sikh community.

Eight panchayat members, including sarpanch Sardar Ranjit Singh, announced their resignation in a joint paid advertisement which reads: “We, the elected panches and sarpanches of Halqa Hardozanam Rafiabad (Baramulla) announce our resignation and, from now onwards, we won’t have any affiliation with any political party.”

Fresh threats

Fresh handwritten posters of Lashkar-e-Toiba terror outfit threatening panchs and sarpanchs of “dire consequences,” if they don’t resign till October 3, had surfaced in Drangbal, Naranthal and Jalsheeri areas of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Friday.
The threats have triggered more panic in the north Kashmir where two sarpanchs were gunned down by terrorists this month.

Over 800 panchayat members have already resigned in the last eight months due to fear and intimidation.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday asserted that his government would do everything to ensure the security of panchayat members. On Wednesday, a delegation of panchayat members called on All India Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Union minister of state for Home in New Delhi where both leaders reportedly assured them of their security.

However, panchayat members hope the assurances from the Central and state governments will translate into a concrete action and provide them full protection.
“It's up to the government now on what kind of message it wants to send to the people of J&K. It’s not about resignations, this time if they don't support the sarpanches, no one will even dare to file nomination papers the next time,” said Mohammad Amin, a sarpanch from north Kashmir.

Meanwhile, opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has accused that ruling National Conference was behind the killings of panchayat representatives in Kashmir to create fear psychosis among the people and rig the upcoming assembly elections.

“I don’t know who is behind these killings but the needle of suspicion moves towards the National Conference,” senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig said, while addressing a press conference on Friday.

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