TRAL: The killing of Congress Sarpanch, his son and a numberdar by unidentified gunmen here on Monday evening has led to spree of resignations from Sarpanchs and Panchs in this volatile area. Meanwhile, police has arrested six relatives of local Hizbul Mujahideen militants, the outfit police claims to be behind the triple killings.
The resignations poured in early Tuesday even as situation continues to be tense in the area, which is part of Anantnag Parliamentary constituency that goes to Lok Sabha polls on Thursday.
As the news about the three killings spread in Tral, nearly two dozen Sarpanchs and Panchs in the area tendered their resignation and pledged that they would have “no connection with any political party” in the future. The resignations were hastened by posters allegedly from Hizbul Mujahideen outfit threatening people of dire consequences if they participated in the elections and aided any pro-India politician. The posters described participation in the elections as “betrayal of the cause.”
The first ones to relinquish their posts were from Batagund village, where Sarpanch Ghulam Nabi Mir and his son Firdous Ahmad Mir were the casualties of one of the attacks. The five representatives from the village, which saw a large number of people attending the funeral of the father-son duo on Tuesday were identified as Ghulam Rasool Bhat, Muhammad Akram Sofi, Shafiqa Banoo and Sarwa Begum.
Many people in Batagund, who chose to speak to Kashmir Reader, felt that “mujahideen shouldn’t have killed Mir’s son Firdous”, for he had “no political connections.”
“Firdous should have been spared for he had no political links as far we knew him,” said a villager who wished not to be named.
Abdul Rehman Wani, a Panch from Gulshanpora village next to Batagund gave a frightened look while announcing his resignation. “I was Panch till today, but now onwards I will have no association with any political party,” said Wani who called it a day along with his colleagues Bahadur Singh and Mushtaq Ahmed Gojri.
The representatives of Amlar, whose head Mohammad Anwar Sheikh was the third target of Monday shootings, put forward their resignations. The ten of them included Hameeda Begum, Nasima Begum, Ghulam Qadir Khanday, Muhammad Maqbool Khanday, Muhammad Afzal Mir, Jalal-ud-Din Rather, Muhammad Jabbar Ganaie, Manzoor Ahmed Dar and Muhammad Ismail.
The slain Sheikh was also tehsil president of prominent religious orgnaisation Jamiat Ahlihadees. His funeral was led by Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri, a prominent Jamiat cleric from south Kashmir.
Many newspaper hawkers from the area said they were approached by scores of Panchayat members since early Tuesday for getting their resignations published in local dailies.
“One Sarpanch and five Panchs from Malangpora village handed over their resignations to me to publish them in local dailies,” said Mushtaq-ul-Islam, who runs a news agency from Pulwama.
Another newspaper hawker, Manzoor Ahmad, said that he received resignations and apology letters from at least seven Panchayat members. “We are not affiliated with any political party, nor have we anything to do with Panchayats from today. We had contested elections for development of our localities. We inform everyone not to contact us in connection with any Panchayat-related issue. If something has gone wrong on our part so far, we apologize for that,” read the resignations from the Panchayat members.
Meanwhile, Sarpanch Bashir Ahmad Malik from Kakpora, Pulwama, who survived a bid on his life by suspected militants outside his home on Monday evening, has taken refuge inside a police station.
“Immediately after the failed attack on me by unidentified gunmen I managed to rush to Kakpora police station, and since then I am here. I am afraid to go back to my home. Until and unless I am provided security I will not leave the police station,” he said.
General Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Panch-Sarpanch United Forum, Khursheed Malik said that dozens of Panchayat mebers from Tral and Awantipora areas have fled from their homes. “I contacted at least eleven Sarpanches representing different villages of Tral and Pulwama, but all of them are away from their homes. Fear has gripped them all,” Malik told Kashmir Reader. He blamed pro-India parties for putting the lives of Panchayat members in danger.
Reports of Panchs and Sarpanchs relinquishing their posts came from Midoora, Malagpora, and various other villages with ruling National Conference block president of Charsoo, Abdul Khaliq Wani, sidelining from his political association.
From Malangpora block, six village representatives declared their resignations. They are: Ghulam Qadir Bhat, Ali Muhammad Bhat, Muhammad Sabzar Bhat, Shameema Bano, Dilshada Bano and Abdul Aziz Bhat.
Given the situation, local residents said they expected more resignations would be tendered in coming days.
Meanwhile, though no militant outfit has so far claimed responsibility for the killings, police, on their part, arrested relatives of many local militants and effected search operations in the area, with some youth of area accusing police of snatching their memory chips that housed election boycott posters.
According to the sources, police hauled in Muhammad Hamid Mir of Dadsara, Mohammad Khalid of Shariefabad, Tawseef Bhat of Hayen, Sayar Ahmad Shah of Ruthsuna—all brothers of active members of the Hizbul Mujahideen. It also arrested Jalal-ud-Din Khan of Hundora, father of prominent Hizb commander Adil. The arrests, reminiscent of the ‘90s to pressurise the active militants, were reacted with angst with locals, youth in specific.
“The situation is quite uneasy. These arrests have just made matters worse. Why arrest relatives of militants? What is their fault?” asked a schoolteacher.—With additional reporting by Shabir Ahmad in Pulwama