Kashmiri Pandit sarpanchs demand security to perform their duties in valley

Two days after a Kashmiri Pandit sarpanch was shot dead by terrorists in south Kashmir, a group of elected panchayat members belonging to the community on Wednesday demanded adequate security to perform their duties in the valley.
In a related development, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Conference (AJKPC) president Anil Sharma said the administration needs to come forward and reassure the elected members who are left panicky by the latest killing and mulling resignation.
Ajay Pandita, 40, was shot dead by terrorists in his native village of Larkipora in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Monday. He was the sarpanch of the Lukbawan panchayat halqa in Larkipora area.
“The 2018 panchayat election was a very good initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and we came forward to lend our support to it despite the terrorist threats and the vulnerable situation in Kashmir,” Manoj Pandita, a sarpanch from halqa Lajoora in Kakapora block of Pulwama district, said.
He was among nearly half a dozen Kashmiri pandits who assembled at the Exhibition Ground here to protest against the killing of their colleague and press for security cover.
“It is very unfortunate that two days have passed but not a single person from the administration or the Centre found it fit to visit the slain sarpanch’s family to express grief with his two daughters and elderly parents,” Manoj Pandita said, adding that they took part in the elections despite boycott by the regional parties.
He said the Kashmiri pandits who jumped into the democratic exercise saw it as an opportunity to connect with the roots after mass migration in 1989-1990 and play “their part to minimise the sufferings of the majority community in the valley which has been at the receiving end over the past three decades”.
“Some of us were provided accommodation without security in Srinagar and left vulnerable to the attacks. The slain sarpanch repeatedly demanded security but his pleas were ignored time and again which ultimately cost his life,” he said.
He said holding elections was not a favour which was done to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We also did not do any favour by taking part in the election but the priority should have been the security of those contesting the elections at the grave risk to their lives,” Manoj Pandita said.
Mahesh Dhar, a sarpanch from Chakoora village of Pulwama, said they do not have any support from the district administration and the government.
“What have they done for our security?” he asked and said they need to be provided security in the valley on their return to perform their duties.
Meanwhile, the AJKPC president said he had received hundreds of calls from panic-stricken elected panchayat members across the valley over the past two days, seeking his advice to resign from their posts due to the alleged failure of the government to provide them security.
“The government needs to come forward and reassure the elected members of the Panchayati Raj Institution and Urban Local Bodies by providing them security. I have received hundreds of calls from the valley members over the past two days but I told them not to act in haste as resigning means fulfilling the nefarious designs of the enemy,” Sharma said.
He urged the government to look into the demand for security cover to the elected grassroots level representatives, especially those facing threats and living in vulnerable areas.
Sharma said Ajay Pandita was the 19th panchayat member killed by terrorists who wanted to create fear among the people and force mass resignations to disrupt democratic institutions in the valley.