The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday said 'vested interests' were responsible for the recent killings of Sarpanches and Panches even as it said it is duty-bound to empower Panchayats in the state and has taken steps in this regard.
Speaking during the discussion on 'Killing of Sarpanch and Panch' in the Legislative Council, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Ali Mohammad Sagar said some people cannot accept that a successful election was held by the NC-led coalition government and are trying to derail the process of empowering people at the grassroots level.
Sagar said those Panchayat members who were killed were the supporters of National Conference and their killing would benefit a certain party.
"All the three who were killed were supporters of NC and their killing would benefit only those who represent such constituencies," he claimed.
This led to a heated exchange with Murtaza Khan of PDP. The minster also informed the House that one Nisar Ahmad Ganai of Palhallan Pattan in Baramulla district has been arrested in connection with the killing of Sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo.
The minister refuted the allegations of not empowering the Panchayati institutions in the state. The government is doing its best to take governance to the grassroots level, he told the House.
"We are for absolute empowerment of Panchayati institutions. Steps have been taken for their empowerment. We want to give them more powers and we have not left them after conducting a very successful election," Sagar said while responding to the issue raised by Khan.
The minister said the elections held last year were hailed at the national and international level and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was serious about the issue of empowering these institutions ever since the process began.
The chief minister, Sagar said, constituted a committee to examine the Panchayat models in various states like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala for better empowerment of these institutions in Jammu and Kashmir and the report of the committee was adopted by the Cabinet in toto.
He said the government wants to empower the people at the grassroots level and the powers should not just remain with ministers or members of Legislative Assembly or secretaries but with the Sarpanches and Panches as well.
The minister said the government has never linked Panchyat elections with militancy or the larger political issues, but held opposition responsible for playing politics over the issue.
"Those who are shouting that Panchayats have not been empowered themselves dis-empowered them," Sagar said, adding "let them play politics, but we will not let them derail the exercise of empowering the Panchayats."