Srinagar: Scores of panches and sarpanches have fled their homes after suspected militants killed a sarpanch affiliated to BJP and critically injured another one in South Kashmir in the last few days.
On Thursday, suspected militants shot dead BJP Sarpanch Sajad Ahmad Khanday in Qazigund area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. A day before, militants had fired at BJP Sarpanch Arif Ahmed, leaving him seriously injured. Arif, who has a gunshot wound in his neck, is being treated at SK Institute of Medical Sciences Soura.
Fear has gripped panchayat representatives with many of them going into hiding. “My family is worried about my safety. Not just I, many panchayat members have gone into hiding,” Aftab Ahmad Beigh, a Block Development Council (BDC) member told The Kashmir Monitor.
Beigh said he would have not run for his safety had the government created a secure environment for them.
“Without caring for our safety, government projects Panchayat members as the vanguard of democracy. Many of our members have been killed. Safety of panchayat members is the least priority of the government,” he said.
Several political workers, many of them panchayat members, have also resigned from BJP fearing reprisal from militants for being affiliated to the party.
Muhammad Rafiq Bhat, BJP General Secretary for Dooru constituency in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, announced his resignation from the party on Thursday.
“I resign from the party. I request people to forgive me, if my actions have hurt them in the past,” Bhat said as per a local news agency.
Similarly, Independent Sarpanch Muhammad Iqbal from Chandan Pajan area of Devsar, Kulgam uploaded a video on social media announcing his resignation.
“I am resigning from the post of Sarpanch. I have not earned a penny after being elected as Sarpanch. I have small kids and my wife has died. If I die, there is no one to take care of my kids,” he told a local news agency.
At least seven BJP workers from Kulgam and Anantnag resigned from the party on Thursday seeking forgiveness from people.
They included: BJP’s District Secretary for Kulgam Nisar Ahmed Mir, a resident of Kellem; District General Secretary Shahzad Ahmad Bhat of Chowgam; party workers Mohammad Ayoub Ganai, a resident of Banghal Kulgam and Gull Mohammad Ganai, a native of Chandien Kulgam, Party worker Shabir Rasool Khan, Party worker Reyaz Aziz Rather and Party worker Khaliq Subhan Sheikh , all residents of Narupora Watnard Tehsil Kokernag.
On Wednesday, three BJP workers from Qazigund had announced their resignations. They included vice president Devsar Constituency Subzar Paddar, Nisar Ghani Wani Warpora-Kund Constituency President, and Ashiq Abdullah Palla of Warpora Kund.
Sensing trouble, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) has asked its members to disassociate from political parties.
“When panchayat election was fought on a non-party basis then how come the parties started owning their members. Political parties are equally responsible for endangering the lives of Panchayat representatives. I appeal Panches and Sarpanches not to associate themselves with any political party,” said Shafeeq Mir, chairman AKJPC.
Mir said that 20 panchayat members have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since 2012.
“We are the ones who work day and night for the development of the union territory. Now our lives do not matter for the government. We have been left to fend for ourselves,” Mir said.
Earlier in June, the killing of a Pandit sarpanch sparked outrage. The government later granted a relief of Rs 20 lakh to his family.
“Every attack on BJP leaders will be avenged. The sacrifices of peace-loving people will never go in vain. Every drop of blood will further strengthen the party in Kashmir,” said Vibodh Gupta, BJP State General Secretary.
BJP J&K vice-president Sofi Yousuf said that several forces don’t want to see BJP as a growing party in Kashmir.
“They want to create fear psychosis on the ground. That’s why militants are killing our workers,” he said.
“We urge the government to provide immediate security to BJP Sarpanchs, Panchs, corporators and grass root level workers,” Sofi said.