Kashmir village chiefs turn to rights panel over killings

Jammu, April 9 (IANS) All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), an umbrella organisation of panchayat members (village heads) has asked World Human Rights Organisation to take “serious note” of killings of panchayat members “by unknown forces”.

After a meeting to condole the killing of Gulam Muhammad Lone, sarpanch of Kolpora Nyayna village of Pulwama in south Kashmir Monday evening, AJKPC chairman Shafiq Mir said the Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to protect the lives of elected panchayat leaders in the state.

This was the sixth murder of a sarpanch in the past eight months and the third this year.

Mir questioned the role of international human rights organisations about the killings of panchayat members by “anti-democracy forces” and demanded that the human rights groups should take note of the murders of the elected representatives.

Mir also criticized the state government for not providing security to the panchayat leaders, and said “it is not competent to protect its citizens”.

Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo said Monday: “Panchayat members have been told to adhere to security norms, which they defy at times.” Lone went out of his house without security, he added.

Nearly a dozen panchayat members have been killed by militants in Jammu and Kashmir since elections to the village level elective bodies concluded in June 2011.

The continuing threat of militants has forced over 600 panches and sarpanches to resign. There are over 33,000 panches and sarpanches in the state.

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