Srinagar: Panchayat representatives have sent an SOS to the government seeking fool-proof security before holding the elections to 13000 vacant Panch and Sarpanch seats.

 “We are keen to contest polls. However, before conducting elections, the government should ensure foolproof security. Already, several Panches and Sarpanches have been lodged in hotels in the name of security. They are unable to do their work as a result. I want to tell the government that they should not make any haste and improve the security situation first,” All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) chairman Shafiq Mir told The Kashmir Monitor.

The government had recently announced that it would soon issue a formal notification and schedule for the by-election to 12,168 vacancies of Panches and 1,089 vacancies of Sarpanches across Jammu and Kashmir.

Mir said 20 Sarpanches had been killed since 2012 and therefore the government should also consult them before going ahead with the elections.

“This (elections) is a huge exercise and will take a few months. In the Valley, South Kashmir is a sensitive area and there have been many (militancy-related) incidents. Even in Khag (in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district), a block development council (BDC) chairman was killed last month. In fact, 20 Sarpanchs were killed from 2012….mostly in Kashmir valley. So far, nobody from the government has approached us. The government should first review the security,” he said.

Other Panchayat bodies too expressed concern over the security situation.

“We have directed all district in-charges of our association to gear up the forthcoming vacant urban local bodies and Panchayat elections in the Valley. However, we would like to urge the authorities to take all necessary security measures before the elections,” said JK Local Bodies Panch Sarpanch Association president Molvi Tariq.

Incidentally, Panchayat elections were held to 39,521 Sarpanch/ Panch constituencies in 2018. National Conference and PDP boycotted the polls. 

Over 13000 positions are lying vacant due to various reasons ranging from resignations to the elevation of Sarpanches to BDC chairpersons.

If held, the Panchayat polls will be the first major electoral process after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year and the bifurcation of the erstwhile J&K state into two union territories. 

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