Fear-stricken Panchayat members mull to resign en-mass if killings continue

SRINAGAR: A day after suspected militants shot dead a Panch in south Kashmir, a representative body of the Panchayat members in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday said it was waiting for a probable change of government in New Delhi before they may decide to resign en-mass in protest.
All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), the representative body of the state’s Panchs and Sarpanchs, has called a meeting of its general body on May 16, when results of the recently concluded Lok Sabha election is set to be announced, to decide its “move for security” in response to the killings of Panchayat members.
The meeting’s timing has been consciously chosen by the AJKPC so as to be able to decide its course taking into account the outcome of the elections.
“In last two years, both UPA government and the state government have failed to protect us. We are now waiting for the government in New Delhi to change, hoping that the new dispensation will be able to protect this democratic institution,” AJKPC chairman, Shafiq Mir, told Kashmir Reader.
“We have purposely decided to meet on the day election results will be declared. We want to see who forms the government in New Delhi, and we will approach the new government with an appeal for protection. If it fails to save us, we will resign en-mass,” Mir said.
Of the 33, 000 Panchayat members in the state, those from the Kashmir Valley have been living in a state of fear due to killings of Panchs and Sarpanchs by suspected militants. In last two years alone, according to the AJKPC, at least nine Panchayat members were gunned down.
The attacks by militants have, however, intensified in the recent weeks—at least three Panchayat members were killed during the ongoing Parliamentary elections. The latest attack was carried out on Thursday when a 7o-year-old Panch was shot dead in Tral town.
Nearly 1300 Panchayat members have surrendered their party affiliations to save themselves.
“They have given up their party affiliations, but they function as Panchayat members in their respective villages,” Mir, himself a Sarpanch from Poonch, said. “But if the killings continue and government fails to ensure our security, all of us will resign from our positions.”
“We were elected by the people. But in absence of security, we are bound to ask if the Panchayat elections were held to dilute the Kashmir issue,” he added.
Meanwhile, the AJKPC has demanded a judicial probe into the killing of Panchayat members.
“We demand constitution of a judicial commission to probe the killings of Panchayat members in the state,” it said in a press statement here, condemning the killing of the elderly Panch at south Kashmir.