Fear at the Grassroots
The recent killings and resignation of panchayat members is the new security concern
By Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: In September, the killing of two sarpanchs in North Kashmir spread panic among the panchayat members, leading to the resignation of over 100 in the area. The killings have forced the army to go for area domination in villages which they had abandoned after the situation improved in the last few years.

The new wave of resignation comes after posters threatening the members appeared in militancy-infested Pattan area of North Kashmir. The militants warned the members to resign or face the consequences. Later, two members were gunned down. Earlier on September 10, the militants shot dead sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo from village Rawpore Palhalan in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. He was killed when he was coming out of a local masjid after offering night prayers.

Even though the police and 29 Rashtriya Rifles of army launched a joint operation in the area soon after the killing, the militants could not be traced. The killing created panic in the nearby villages of Palhalan, Goshbugh, Tapar, Wusan and Kalsari Nehalpora, forcing over 50 panchayat members to resign immediately.

In order to cool down tempers and stop the members from resigning, the police claimed arrest of a leader of the Hurriyat Conference, Nasir Ahmad Ganie alias Nasir Molvi, for hatching a conspiracy to kill Yatoo. Yet, it could not stop the panic, and panchayat members continued to resign.

Some of the panchayat members were still indecisive about resigning when militants struck in the nearby Nowpora Jagheer village, killing a naib sarpanch, Mohmmad Shafi Teli on September 23. This led to more panic in the area and in the nearby villages of Nowpora; Nowpora-Jageer; Wagoora; Chenad; Soloosa; Khashi Tangan; Delina; Sangrama; Putkhah and Kreeri, leading to more panchs resigning. The numbers increased to over 100.

It wasn’t just North Kashmir where terror struck; panchs and sarpanchs of South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian were also threatened. Several panchayat members in these districts were either threatened or killed, leading to mass resignations. Most of the resignations appeared in the local newspapers through paid advertisements. Some even circulated hand-written posters in local masjids, announcing their dissociation with panchayats. The state government played down threats and attributed it to local rivalries.
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