Sarpanches and panches elected in elections last year in Kashmir valley have become soft targets for militants who have asked them to resign from their posts or face the consequences.
Militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit have circulated posters in parts of south Kashmir, including Shopian district, threatening the panchs and sarpanches with "dire consequences" if they did not follow the diktat, police sources said.
The sources said the grass root level representatives have been asked to announce their resignation, not only before the concerned authorities, but publicly as well. "They have been asked to announce the end of their association with mainstream politics in the local mosques," the sources added.
Similar threats have been handed out to the sarpanches and panches in Tral area of Pulwama district and Pattan area of north Kashmir's Baramulla district. Although in some cases the threats have turned out to be a hoax, police is not taking the incident lightly and has seized the posters at some places to start investigations into the matter.
"We are investigating the matter", Superintendent of Police Mumtaz Ahmad told PTI.
Minister for Panchayati Raj Ali Mohammad Sagar said the threats to the panches and sarpanches were acts of cowardice. "They (militants) should understand that panchayats had the people's mandate. Over 90 per cent people took part in the historic elections last year", Sagar said.
He said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has directed the director general of police to get the matter investigated and identify the people behind these threats. The panches and sarpanches in the valley have become soft targets for the militants as many of them been attacked. While one sarpanch was killed in Kulgam district in February this year, several others were injured in the shootings by the militants.
The latest incident involved an elderly man who was shot at in Rajpora area of Pulwama district on Sunday when he was coming out from the house of a Sarpanch. The officials believe that Abdul Gani Digoo was fired at in a case of 'mistaken' identity as a local sarpanch could have been the real target.The government has expressed inability to provide security to over 30,000 panchs and sarpanches, who were elected in the elections held in the state last year after a gap of 33 years.