Srinagar: The 2016 anti-India uprising and the recent killing of a former sarpanch in Pulwama have created a sense of insecurity among those planning to contest panchayat elections in the Valley.
Members of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) who spoke to Kashmir Reader on the sidelines of a presser, said that they had “no affiliation” with any pro-India party.
“The situation has gone from bad to worse in the Valley. Nobody will vote in the current dreadful atmosphere. We are only here to appeal to everyone to not attack or threaten us as we are not agents of any political party,” said Javed Ahmad, AJKPC member from Pulwama.
65-year-old Wali Mohammad from Kupwara echoed the same apprehensions. He said that the current situation has made him “uncertain” of contesting the elections. “Even as independent candidates, we don’t find it safe. Earlier I fought and won as a PDP candidate but that party has failed us by not initiating any dialogue (for the solution of Kashmir),” he said.
AJKPC chairman Shafiq Mir said that all panchayat leaders have been advised to not take part in any kind of political activity and only focus on development and community-based issues in their areas.
He said that 15 sarpanches have been killed in the past five years by “unidentified gunmen”, for which political parties are to be blamed. “The political parties are responsible for those killings. They (political parties) have misused our members for their political gains and put their lives in danger. We are a community institution working for development of villages. We are not agents and we won’t campaign for anyone in the upcoming parliamentary by-polls,” he said, adding, “Due to their (pro-India parties) fault, our own people are suspicious of us.”
“Panchayats are solely a social body meant for ensuring development. We have no connection, whatsoever, with any sort of politics or any political party. We have nothing to do with pro-India, pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi politics,” claimed Mir, who is himself a member of Congress.
In reply to a question, Mir said that he has “never used his position (as AJKPC chairman) to support or campaign for the Congress.”
In January this year, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Abdul Haq had said that the 2016 uprising in Kashmir hampered the development and democratic process that led to delay in holding the panchayat elections. Early this month, Kashmir Reader reported that panchayat polls would be held in April instead of March.