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Kashmir: Scared village panchayats quit posts

September 25, 2012 13:36 IST
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Two days after a village head was gunned down in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, scare and panic has struck the elected village heads and representatives in the region, forcing many of them to resign.

A local vernacular on Tuesday carried a front-page news item that 54 village heads and representatives had approached the daily to announce their resignations.

"I, Mohammad Ashraf Shah, was elected as sarpanch (village head) from Pattan area. Now I have resigned from the post and I have nothing to do with it henceforth. I appeal that nobody should contact me in my capacity as a sarpanch," said an advertisement in a local daily.

Panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir after 30 years last year.

The massive participation by voters in these elections was projected as a great success for devolution of democracy to the grass root level in Kashmir after three decades.

After their elections, panches and sarpanches came under tremendous pressure following appearance of hand-written posters asking them to resign or face consequences in many south and north Kashmir villages of the Valley.

Since their elections last year, so far, five panches and sarpanches have been gunned down by terrorists.

Alarmed by the widespread fear among the village representatives, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday said that the issue of providing security to these village representatives would be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the Unified Command in summer capital Srinagar.

Despite the assertions by the chief minister, the problem of providing security to 34,000 elected village representatives -- whether they are given individual or area security -- has become a baffling security problem for the state government.

A senior state government officer said that so far 120 village representatives have resigned in north Kashmir Baramulla district.

"It is difficult to provide security to each and every panch and sarpanch as their number is huge and are scattered all over the Valley," said a senior police officer.
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