Govt cautious over providing guards to Kashmir sarpanches, panches

 The Union Home Ministry is cautious over providing security to some of the 32,335 sarpanches and panches facing threats from militants in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Officials believe only genuine cases would be entertained, given its implication on the security apparatus.

Less than a month ago, news reports stated that 58 sarpanches had resigned from their posts owing to threats from militant outfits. Union home secretary RK Singh wrote a letter on September 22 to J&K chief secretary Madhav Lal drawing his attention to the incident.

Seeking a report from the state, Singh expressed his concern and described the situation as: “Disturbing and affects the image of the government as also public opinion about the state of affairs in J&K.” The ministry is yet to get a formal reply from the J&K government.

Ministry sources said that security cover would be provided to sarpanches and panches only after vetting the threat perception by the law enforcement agencies since it would be practically impossible to cover them all, given the huge volume.

Also, it would have a cascading effect. Village representatives of other troubled states would start demanding personal security, especially from the naxal affected states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharastra and Odisha, government sources said.

 In the naxal infested district of Gadchirolli, political activists and sarpanches had put in their papers due to threat from the ultras.

Mass resignations started pouring in since February after posters by militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad surfaced in many parts of the Valley. The National Conference sarpanch Gull Mohammad Dar of Kulgam was killed by militants to send a message to Kashmiris to keep away from the democratic process.

Sources said, much of the resignations came from south Kashmir. Of this, 16 were Sarpanches and 255 were panches of villages spread across Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama and Baramulla. The NC, Congress and PDP leaders are facing the heat equally.

The reasons attributed in official resignation papers were domestic and personal issues. “Obviously, none would write that they are resigning due to terror threats,” sources said.

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