Sarpanchs, panchs fume at NC’s boycott threat

Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (JKPC), a body of sarpanchs and panchs, on Wednesday blamed the pro-India political parties for what it termed as “politicising the panchayat polls” which they feel endangers their lives.
Sarpanchs, panchs fume at NC’s boycott threat
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Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (JKPC), a body of sarpanchs and panchs, on Wednesday blamed the pro-India political parties for what it termed as "politicising the panchayat polls" which they feel endangers their lives. Reacting angrily to the National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah's announcement that his party would boycott the poll, JKPC said that if leaders like National Conference president Farooq Abdullah are so sincere about Article 35 A, he must first resign from the post of Member Parliament (MP).

"We have been on the edge of the sword ever since the panchayat polls were announced," said JKPC president Shafiq Mir. "I am not able to understand why political parties like National Conference, PDP, BJP, and Congress are politicising the panchayat polls by calling for boycott. This indicates we are affiliated to these parties, which is far from the truth."

He said the decision was taken that the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls will be held on party basis and panchayat polls on non-party basis. "We had submitted a detailed memorandum to the former Governor N N Vohra urging him to ensure panchayat polls is held on non-party basis. Whenever political parties tried to link us with them, we became the targets of unidentified gunmen," Mir said.

He said political if political parties call for panchayat poll boycott that indicates "the contesting sarpanchs and panchs are actually affiliated with the mainstream parties of the State."

"If NC president Farooq Abdullah is so serious about Article 35 A, why isn't he stepping down as MP in protest," said Mir.

The JK government has announced that the panchayat polls will be held in eight phases from November 8. Ever since the last elections were held in the state in 2011, at least 16 sarpanchs and panchs were killed by unidentified gunmen while as over two dozen were injured. At least 4400 sarpanchs and 29000 panchs will be elected in the State.

The Hizbul Mujahideen commander Reyaz Naikoo has already warned that Hizb militants will attack contesting candidates and voters with sulphuric and hydrochloric acid. The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik have also called for a complete boycott of ULB and Panchayat polls.

General Secretary JKPC Imtiyaz Afzal Beigh said that all sarpanchs and panchs willing to join the poll fray, started feeling confused from day one when the JK government sought the deferment of hearing on Article 35 A before the Supreme Court on the pretext of holding panchayat polls peacefully. 

"We are fighting community based elections for the resolution of village level issue. We don't have even an iota of role in making laws in the Assembly let alone speaking about Kashmir resolution," he said. "By announcing poll boycott at their own, we have been made scapegoats."

Mirza Ataab, vice chairman of the JKPC, while echoing Beig, said that sarpanchs and panchs have been made more vulnerable. "Now leaders of political parties are speaking on our behalf. This gives a message that we are part of these political parties," he said.

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