From Khajuria S Kant in Jammu
THE situation in Kashmir is abnormal. The Omar Abdullah-led coalition Government has utterly failed to restore peace and order in the Valley. In fact, it has raised its hands and allowed gun-totting militants to roam about freely in the Valley and target the abandoned Panchs and Sarpanchs, besides others.
Despite assurance of security, around 200 Panchayat members submitted their resignations through paid advertisements in local dailies in two days after Deputy Sarpanch Mohammad Shafi Teli was shot dead in Baramulla on September 23. Most of the members, who dissociated themselves from the Panchayati Raj, hail from North Kashmir district of Baramulla. All of them said they were resigning for personal reasons.
One of the advertisements published in a local daily reads, “I am resigning from the post of Panch on personal reasons. Henceforth, I shall have no affiliation with any political party or the Panchayati system.”
The authorities are tight lipped over the number of resignations submitted during the past one week. However, a local news agency pegs the total number of resignations submitted during the past one year at 790. The news agency said that around 200 resignations have come since the past two days.
Condemning the killing of the Deputy Sarpanch, Omar Abdullah said “he would take up the issue of providing security to Panchayat members in the next meeting of Unified Headquarters ‘to ensure their safety and smooth functioning’ of Panchayats”. “All efforts would be made to safeguard the Panchs and Sarpanchs and efforts would be made to provide them conducive atmosphere to work for the good of people,” he reportedly said.
What does the Chief Minister’s statement convey? It only conveys that his Government is just incompetent to tackle gun-totting militants, killers and saboteurs of peace and that it has no other option but to turn to the Unified Headquarters (UHQs). In other words, it suggests that there is no other alternative left but to enlist the support of the Army to restore law and order and protect Panchs and Sarpanchs from terrorists and separatists.
But the National Conference Chief Spokesman and senior leader Mustafa Kamaal, who termed the killings of Panchs and Sarpanchs in Jammu & Kashmir as ‘Targetted killings’, allegedly held People of Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Army responsible for the incidents. “Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is the man ‘behind’ Panchs and Sarpanchs killings, who are targeted at the behest of various politicians, armed forces besides separatists,” alleged Kamaal while talking to reporters at the sidelines of Youth National Conference day-long convention in Jammu on September 26.
Panchayat elections were held in the state in April last year after a gap of 34 years and 34,000 village representatives were elected. Militants have killed several Panchs and Sarpanchs since the landmark polls. Posters have surfaced in many areas of Kashmir asking Panchs and Sarpanchs to resign from their posts or face dire consequences.