Political tags make panches vulnerable

Political tags make panches vulnerable

Photo for representation only

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 6

Political affiliations of elected panchayat members in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have made them more vulnerable to terror attacks, especially in Kashmir Valley, notwithstanding Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) considered as “community institutions”.

So far, 20 Panchayat members have been gunned down by armed militants in J&K since 2011.

On Thursday, a BJP-affiliated sarpanch was shot dead in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. This was the second attack in less than 36 hours on a BJP panchayat member in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.

‘Affiliation Problems’

The BJP began an exercise to affiliate panchayat members with it to make political gains. Mainstream political leaders are well-secured, but panchayat members are easy target of militants. —Shafiq Mir, Chairman, All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference

On August 4, Arif Ahmad, a panchayat member of the BJP, was critically injured when militants fired at him near his house at Akhran in Qazigund.

“Political parties need to be blamed for repeated attacks on sarpanches and panches as they affiliated them for their own petty interests while risking their lives. Terror groups don’t want to allow pro-India parties to expand their base in Kashmir,” Shafiq Mir, chairman of the All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), said.

Mir regretted, “The panchayat elections were held on a non-party basis, both in 2011 and 2018, but the BJP began an exercise to affiliate panchayat members with it to make political gains. Mainstream political leaders are well secured and protected, but panchayat members don’t have such facilities and they become the easy target of militants.”

An elected panchayat member from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, who declined to be identified, said, “Militants have been targeting sarpanches and panches who have affiliation with a particular political party. If we keenly observe the trend of attacks, these have become more frequent since political parties started affiliating panchayat members.”

On July 8, Congress-affiliated sarpanch Ajay Pandita Bharti was gunned down by militants in Anantnag. Earlier, sarpanches, having affiliation with political parties, were attacked in Kashmir.

The first-ever elections to the block development councils (BDCs) — the second tier of PRIs — were held on party basis in 2019, but three major political parties, including the NC, PDP and the Congress, had decided to stay away from these polls but backed proxy candidates.

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