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Panchayat Polls: Candidates may not be ready to risk lives for Rs 1,000-2,500 a month

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 7: No enhancement in the meagre monthly honorarium paid to the Panchs and Sarpachs seems to have discouraged many a potential candidates from risking their lives in the upcoming Panchayat elections.

The state government led by the Governor Satya Pal Malik last week announced honorarium for Sarpanchs and Panchs, which saw an enhancement of just Rs 500 for Sarpanchs only.

The Sarpanchs as per the new order would be given Rs 2500 per month who earlier would receive Rs 2,000.

Panchs, as per the order, would receive an amount Rs1,000 every month.

The aggrieved candidates blame the government for “valuing their lives too low”.

“We were promised with the honorarium Rs 7,000 for Sarpanchs and Rs 3,000 for Panchs, but the government backed out. We are risking our lives and it doesn’t mean anything to the government,” said Ghulam Hassan Panzoo, President Awami Raj Movement, a body of valley-based formerly-elected Panchs and Sarpanchs.

Panzoo, who claims his association has a support of nearly 2,000 candidates, said many candidates were backing out from contesting the elections.

“Under continuous life threats, it was the hopeful that an enhancement in honorarium will be made, but the government’s announcement has pushed away candidates from submitting their nomination forms. I am constantly receiving phone calls from my members, who are deciding to consider their decision,” he said.

The formerly-elected Sarpanch from Kupwara said the government not enhancing the honorarium has been the main reason behind least submission of nomination paper in fourth phase.

“From block Budgam and Saibug, only 12 nomination papers were submitted even when we had some 300 candidates ready to contest from these two places. It is a humiliation for us,” he said.

Bashir Ahmad, a formerly elected Panch from Harkipora Pulwama said the honorarium of 21 months was already pending with the government.

“It is a setback for Panchayat election as participation of members will decrease. Formerly elected Panchs had already grievances with the government and the honorarium announcement will further create a feeling of dejection among them,” he said.

Ahmad said the candidates from his side in south Kashmir too are considering about their decision of contesting elections.

“You already know the situation and add to it the government’s attitude towards us,” he said.

The Municipal elections, held last month, saw less voter turnout amid shutdown calls given by the separatists.

Militants and Separatists have appealed the people to boycott participation in Panchayat polls as well.


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Lead Stories

Two Al-Badr militants killed in Shopian gunfight

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Srinagar, Nov 18: Two Al Badr militants were killed in a gunfight with the government forces in a village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Sunday morning, police said.
“Based on a credible input about the presence of militants, a cordon and search operation was launched by the state police and forces at the strike of dawn today in Rebban area of Zainapora,” said a police spokesman.
As the search operation was going on, the search party was fired upon by the hiding militants, he said.
“The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter.
In the ensuing encounter, two militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter,” said the spokesman, adding that “incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter.”
He appealed to the people not to go to the encounter site as “it can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials.”
Local sources said that the Internet service was suspended in the area during the night. However, the service was restored Sunday morning.
They identified the slain militants as Yawar Wani of Batnoor Pulwama and Nawaz Ahmad of Rebban Shopian — both affiliated with Al Badr militant outfit.
Later, multiple rounds of funeral prayers were held for the slain militants in their respective native places.
Reports said that thousands of people from various areas of the south Kashmir attended the funeral prayers of two militants.
Reports said that thousand people poured onto streets as the bodies of the duo were lifted, the scenes were poignant amid the chanting of pro-freedom slogans, hailing the “martyrs.”
An eyewitness said that scores of men and women wept bitterly as the bodies were being carried towards its final resting place.
A complete shutdown is being observed in Shopian and its adjoining district Pulwama to mourn the killings.
Reports said that all the shops and other business establishments in both the districts are closed and public traffic is off the roads.

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CRPF man killed in Pulwama attack

Global News Service

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Srinagar, Nov 18: A paramilitary trooper was killed after militants attacked CRPF camp near Railway station Kakpora in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday evening.
Reports said that the militants fired on CRPF camp resulting in injuries to one personal. The injured identified as Head constable Chandrika Prasad
of 183 of D coy was rushed to nearby hospital where he succumbed.
A senior Police officer said the militants fired upon CRPF at Railway station Kakpora, which had arrived yesterday there for election duty.
He also confirmed the death of the trooper.
Meanwhile whole area has been cordoned off to nab the attackers.

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3 dead, 15 injured in grenade attack at Amritsar

Agencies

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Chandigarh, Nov 18: Three people were killed while at least 15 others injured in an explosion at Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar’s Rajasansi village in Punjab on Sunday morning.
Nirankari Bhawan is a prayer hall of a religious sect.
“3 dead and 10 injured in the blast at Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar’s Rajasansi village,” IG (Border) Surinder Pal Singh Parmar said.
“Out of 250 people who were present in the religious congregation, 3 dead and 15 to 20 injured. As per initial reports, 2 people had come over here who knocked a grenade here,” IG Parmar added.
According to eyewitnesses, two to three bike-borne men carried out the grenade attack who later fled. They were masked.
Following the blast, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called for an emergency meeting.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh condemned the incident and said he has asked the state home secretary and senior police officials, including the director general of police, to visit the spot for investigations.
“My heart goes out to victims of the Amritsar bomb blast and their families,” Singh said.
“My government will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each of the dead and free treatment to the injured. Have asked district administration to extend all help.”
Singh did not rule out the possibility of the involvement of Khalistani or Kashmiri militant groups behind the grenade attack.
In a statement issued hours after the incident, the CM, who held a review meeting, said police teams were rushed to raid suspected hideouts of the assailants and multiple teams have begun investigating the various angles to crack the case.
Amarinder said while the state had been hit by a series of cases of targeted attacks since 2015-16, this was the first attempt, in a long time, to disrupt peace through indiscriminate killings.
He added that such incidents only strengthened the belief that Pakistan was continuing with its “nefarious activities to disturb the law and order in the state”.
The CM also said that the preliminary probe had so far revealed that two men, one of them with a flowing beard and both with covered faces, had allegedly forced their way into the hall by brandishing a pistol.
The duo detained the sewadar, lobbed the grenade into the prayer room and fled on a motorcycle.
A crater, which is three inches in diameter, was formed due to the impact of the explosion and is currently being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade was also found and is being examined.
Earlier, soon after the blast, Amarinder had ordered the Home Secretary, DG Police, DG Law and Order and DG Intelligence to immediately rush to village Adliwal to supervise the probe.
State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar offered his condolences to the families of those killed. He called the attack “an attempt to disturb peace in Punjab”. “I believe all the security agencies should stay alert and coordinate with each other to maintain peace,” Jakhar added.
Punjab has been on alert following an input that a group of six to seven militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad are in the state. Zakir Moosa, the commander of a militant group affiliated with the al-Qaeda, is also reportedly hiding in the state.
Last week, four people hijacked a car at gunpoint near Madhopur in Pathankot district. Police in Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Batala were put on high alert following the incident.

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