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Threats aplenty, security scarce for J&K councillors

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar | May 07, 2005 22:15 IST

Taking part in the municipal elections may have been their political ambition.

However, with militants' threats to their lives and their families' appears to have shifted the focus from ambition to survival for hundreds of councillors who won the municipal elections in Kashmir early this year.

The threats are not what the elected councillors conjure up, they are for real.

The daylight murder of Mohammad Ramzan Mian, the municipal chairman of north Kashmir's Pattan town, which also left his three bodyguards dead, has jolted the elected civic representatives.

The immediate fallout of Mian's killing had been the en block resignation of five councillors from the Pattan Municipal Committee.

So far, more than half-a-dozen councillors have been killed and reprisal attacks against many continue to take place with impunity.

The government has provided one personal security guard for every elected municipal councillor, but such security arrangements are being described as 'highly inadequate' by the elected representatives.

"We cannot stick our necks out. Threats are aplenty, but security is scarce. What am I supposed to do when my family continues to live under lurking danger from the militants," said a woman councillor who requested not to be named.

The official decision to hold the panchayat elections in the state during the next two months has added to the problems of the elected councillors as the official security focus is now shifting from the municipal councillors to prospective panchayat representatives.

"It is not possible to provide foolproof security to each and every elected municipal councillor, keeping in view their large numbers. It is for this reason that we mooted the idea of providing pooled accommodation to them," said a senior police official.

Bur some councillors argue that once they move into the pooled accommodation, they would not be able to attend to the civic problems of their respective areas in Srinagar and other towns.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who lost his nephew to ultras' bullets last week, had said that, keeping in view the large numbers of elected civic representatives, it was not possible to provide large contingents of security for every elected councillor and had instead said that 'they should bank on the security provided by their voters'.

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