Panchayat members: Will they, won’t they resign?

SRINAGAR: A representative body of Kashmir’s Panchayat members on Thursday said they would seek to clarify their stand on Kashmir issue and receive opinions from various sections of the society before announcing a final decision on May 20 on their future in the wake of killing of many of their colleagues by suspected militants.
Besides meeting the pro-freedom camp, the representatives of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), the representative body of Panchs and Sarpanchs from across the state, have been holding meetings with the civil society groups and trade fraternity for past several days.
The purpose of these meetings is to clarify to the broader section of the society the Panchayat members’ stand vis-à-vis Kashmir issue, and to arrive at a consensus about the possible response the latter should have to the killings.
“We held meetings with Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik, and we have been also holding meetings with civil society groups, and trade bodies. Through these meetings, we want to clear the perception that we are acting as informers for the Indian army and police. We want to inform one and all that we too see Kashmir as a UN-accepted dispute,” AJKPC’s general secretary Imtiyaz Afzal Beig told Kashmir Reader on Thursday.
“Besides, we want to receive opinions from all quarters before taking a final decision. We will take the decision keeping in view the suggestions we have received,” he 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 the killing of Panchs and Sarpanchs by suspected militants. In last two years alone, as per the figures with the AJKPC, at least nine panchayat members were gunned down.
The assaults have, however, intensified in the recent weeks—at least three Panchayat members were shot dead during the just-concluded Parliamentary elections. The dead included a 7o-year-old Sarpanch from Tral township in south Kashmir.
A high number, 1200-1300, of fear-struck Panchayat members have surrendered their party affiliations as a humble measure to save themselves.
The AJKPC has also initiated a process of district and tehsil level deliberations to seek consultations from almost all ground workers.
“We are presently holding meetings of Panchs and Sarpanchs of various districts and tehsils, seeking their opinions and gauging their mood. They are all fear struck and full of suggestions, which will be part of the collective decision we will take,” Beig said.
The AJKPC has convened a meeting of all Panchayat members from across the Valley on May 20 in which it is expected to make the final decision and, subsequently, make it public.
“We are in a 50-50 situation now in deciding between en-mass resignations and holding our positions. But our collective decision will come out on May 20, and it will based upon the opinion of the majority,” AJKPC chairman Shafiq Mir told Kashmir Reader.