Sarpanch shot at by militants in Sopore

 A panchayat member was shot at and injured by militants in north Kashmir’s Sopore town on Friday, creating a fresh wave of fear among the grass-root elected representatives in the Valley.

Reports said two unidentified pistol-bearing militants shot at sarpanch Khazir Mohammad Parray, 45, soon after he came out after Friday prayers at a mosque near his residence at Krankshivan Colony Sopore, 52 km from here, around 2:30 pm.

Parray was rushed to a local hospital, from where doctors referred him to the SMHS hospital here for specialised treatment. He has sustained an injury on his cheek. Sopore Superintendent of Police Imtiyaz Hussain Mir told Deccan Herald that they have identified the attackers. “They are local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen. One of them is from Sopore, while the other is from the Pattan area of Baramulla district,” said Hussain, adding, “A manhunt has been launched to arrest the attackers.” However, no militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. 

Eyewitnesses said soon after the attack police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel cordoned off the entire area and started searches to nab the assailants.

Terror outfits Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been asking panchayat members for over a year to resign from their posts or face death.At least eight panches and sarpanches have been killed by militants since the election for panchayats in the state were held after a gap of 33 years in 2011. The election witnessed a record 80 per cent turnout.

J-K Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Ali Mohammad Sagar condemned the attack and maintained that such incidents cannot weaken the democratic set-up.  “Forces who are carrying out such attacks want to create an atmosphere of chaos and disrupt the peaceful environ of the state,” he said.Meanwhile, police on Friday arrested a sarpanch and a panch in Sopore town on charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust by a public servant. 

Sopore Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Dr Haneef Balkhi said his office had received complaints of bungling in the implementation of various centrally-sponsored schemes, including NREGA, from locals. He said, the case was handed over to the police for investigation. “Today (on Friday), sarpanch Abdul Rahim Ganie and panch Ghulam Mohammad Ganie, both residents of Rakh Haigam in Sopore, have been arrested by Tarzoo police,” said the SDM.

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