SOURCE: INDIA TODAY
The government has decided to establish cluster zones for the security of panches and sarpanches, who are vulnerable to threats from terrorists, in Jammu and Kashmir.
The announcement was made by the new Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha, on Wednesday. He spoke about the security concerns in the Valley, while addressing the panches and sarpanches of 22 districts.
In the wake of recent targeted killings of elected representatives and political workers in Jammu and Kashmir, according to sources, the government has instructed all the district commissioners to ensure safety of the local leaders.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), has taken a lead role in ensuring safety and security of all the panches, sarpanches, politicians and elected representatives. The access control and security for the movement of the representatives have been assigned to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, an official was quoted as saying.
On the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, terrorists had targeted political leaders, especially affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Fearing more such targeted killings between August 5 and August 15 (Independence Day), most of the local leaders and elected representatives have been moved to secure locations.
With over half a dozen political leaders resigning, the decision to keep them in clusters was taken after a review meeting chaired by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam, and the Director-General of Police (DGP), Dilbag Singh.
However, the Sarpanch Association president, Nazir Ahmad Raina, was not happy with the arrangement. Nazir Ahmad Raina said, “The panches and sarpanches were picked up from their houses and moved to what seems to be a prison cell. Everyone has been sharing accommodation with 4-5 persons. There is hardly any facility, and the food is also bad.” He, however, admitted that security is a key concern.
“We have conveyed to the DG that our families are also facing similar threats. During the coronavirus pandemic, most of us have been kept away from our families. As elected panches and sarpanches, we cannot even speak to the people,” Nazir Ahmad Raina added. He said that the arrangement will be effective till August 15.
Nazir Ahmad Raina also said that it is not possible for anyone to stay away for his or her family for a long time. He also criticised L-G Manoj Sinha and others present at the meeting for not paying tributes to the murdered panches and sarpanches. “There was no word of sympathy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Peer Altaf of Khanabal, who did not attend the Wednesday meeting, said, “I was asked to move to a secure location. I told them I have a politician friend, with whom I have been staying, has proper security arrangements in place. But in the long run, staying away from home is not an idea which seems feasible.”
On August 6, 2020, a 48-year-old village council head was shot dead near his house at Vessu in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Sajad Ahmad Khanday, who was the sarpanch of Vessu, was killed 20 metres away from his home.
He was a resident of a high-security residential complex, earlier marked for the families of Kashmiri Pandits. Police said, Sajad Ahmad Khanday was killed by two bike-borne assailants on August 6 morning, when had gone out to have tea with his family members.
Earlier this week, the BJP’s Other Backward Class (OBC) Morcha president, Abdul Hamid Najar, was shot by some unidentified men in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, when he had stepped out of his house for a walk. Abdul Hamid Najar later succumbed to his injuries.