Playing down threats to panchs and sarpanchs by militants, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday ruled out providing security to each of the 33,000 panchs and sarpanchs, but said that his government was geared up to deal with any threat perception.
“We have never said that we will provide security to each and every panch and sarpanch,” Omar said, pointing out that except for 30-40 militants operating in the three districts of Jammu, the region was mostly free of militancy. However, in the Valley where some areas still faced militants’ threat, the government was initiating action, depending on the assessment of the intelligence agencies, he added.
On being asked whether after Hizbul chief Syed Salah-ud-Din’s threat to panchs and sarpanchs he still believed that the recent attacks had nothing to do with militancy, Omar said there was no change in his stand. “After the panchayat polls, he (Hizbul chief) said that there will be no threat to panchs and sarpanchs and that these elections can go ahead without any threat from militants. I do not know why he has issued threats now. We are geared up to deal with any eventuality, making necessary assessment of the threat perception. We are seized of the matter and doing whatever possible to ensure that panchs and sarpanchs get the best possible environment to perform their duties,” he added.
His response came a day after the expiry of the deadline given by the All J&K Panchayat Conference to the government to come up with a clear stand on the issue.
Conference chairman Shafiq Mir said the CM had no right to stay in office if he couldn’t protect the life and property of each and every citizen.
Reiterating that they will not resign in the wake of militant threats, Ghulam Hassan Panzoo, head of the Valley chapter of the Conference, said they were not demanding security cover for every member. “Our main demand is security to members facing threats or living in areas where militants are present. In case the government fails to solve the problem, we will protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar,” he said.