Unfazed by killing of two sarpanches, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said that resignations by the grassroots representatives will not be accepted by the government and dared militants "to attack him to see the response".
"We have only received 50 resignations from panchs and sarpanches since last year. None have been accepted so far. The impression being given outside the state that Kashmir is going through massive upheaval and is simmering is wrong," said Omar, who hurriedly held a press conference in Srinagar in the wake of reports of mass resignations from public representatives.
Ruling out political rivalry behind these killings, Omar said, "Even last year, attempts were made to derail elections by militants. It was only after a huge number contested and participated in the polls that Salahuddin (Hizbul Mujahideen) distanced himself from the process. But separatists and militants are again out to derail the process meant for development."
But the chief minister was quick to add: "We never said that successful elections mean the Kashmir problem is over. These elections fought on a non-party basis are meant for development only."
Describing militants attacking public representatives as "cowards", Omar said, "Let them attack me instead of these unarmed people who are not doing any politics. They will not do that because they are aware of the response," he said.
The chief minister said a chargesheet has been filed against some people who attacked representatives in the past.
"These are (militant) over-ground workers. But we have not arrested any militant or separatist in these cases so far."
In the wake of any mass resignations, Omar said "bi-elections will be held immediately".
"We are going to empower the panchayats. But we will face hurdle... We may not be able to provide security to all of them but a mechanism will be worked out soon to secure areas," said Omar.
"We will seek help of security forces to instill sense of security among public representatives".
Omar said besides militants, many other people who were defeated or could not contest polls, intend to derail the process.
Expressing unhappiness over coalition partner Congress' Jammu and Kashmir chief Saifuudin Soz's move to leak a letter to the media, Omar said: "I think such communications should have remained within us. But I want to share that all MLAs, including two Congress minister, asked me not to share all powers with panches at block level".
He set November as deadline for second and third tier polls.
Omar refused to consider 73rd amendment for J-K Panchayat Act as demanded by the Congress.
"We have our own constitution and if required will make amendments in the state assembly," he said.
Omar warned those who relate the latest killings with retaining Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
"It sounds opportunist. I want to make clear that level of militancy is not increasing. If there is any increase then those securing the hinterland (the army) need to explain why it is happening," he said.
Two sarpanches have been killed by suspected militants in the past two weeks, sparking mass resignations from the representatives through newspapers.
Around 34,000 such representatives were elected in the 2011 polls, held after three decades.