The killing of a sarpanch by suspected militants on Monday sparked a series of resignations from the grassroot-level people's representatives in north Kashmir, taking the number of those who have quit since the panchayat elections in 2011 to more than 350.
"The killing of the sarpanch has triggered panic among sarpanches and panches in the area. Three sarpanches and 12 panches have resigned so far. We fear more might follow the suit," said Shahnawaz Sultan, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Movement, which is demanding more powers for panchayats.
Despite repeated attempts by HT, rural development minister Ali Muhammad Sagar was not available for comment on the recent resignations.
Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo, a sarpanch in north Kashmir's Raipora village, was shot dead outside a mosque on Monday evening.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a panch, who resigned in Palhalan on Tuesday, said, "The state government is making us scapegoats for its political interests."
His pessimism is shared by Sultan, a sarpanch from central Kashmir's Chadoora area. "The entire exercise of panchayat polls has been turned into a mockery. No elections have been held for positions in the second and third tiers, even though a year has passed since the elections were held. Panchayats continue to be powerless," he said. He was referring to the tussle between local MLAs and sarpanches over power-sharing in development works.
"The killings of panches and sarpanches are also mysterious as no militant outfit has taken any responsibility," said Sultan.