Buoyed by Union home minister P Chidambaram traveling by road through trouble spots in Kashmir during his recent visit to the state recently, chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday visited militancy hotbed Bandipora, first Jammu and Kashmir CM to visit the area after 15 years.
"Holding of panchayat elections in J&K after a long period of 33 years was a key decision to be taken. We took the decision with strong determination to implement it firmly and sincerely. Thank God we succeeded in our efforts and completed the process smoothly," said Abdullah while addressing Bandipora headmen and Khan Sahib constituencies of the district, 40 km north of Srinagar.
The drive was not smooth as the chief minister wrote on his Twitter page: "Seems no chief minister has driven to Bandipore in 15 years. No wonder the road was bad as it was. Will make sure work starts on it soon."
Bandipora is a hotbed of militancy with huge presence of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants. Most mainstream leaders prefer not to drive around the district fearing a militant attack. Militants still hold sway on the peripheries of the town. According to police figures, Bandipora has 40 active militants with 19 foreigners and 21 locals. The LeT and Jaish-e- Muhammad have 15 active militants in the area.
The chief minister also drove pass the famous tourist spot Manasbal and uploaded pictures on social networking site Twitter.
Referring to the high power committee headed by state chief secretary to finalise a report about transfer of functions, functionaries and funds to the panchayats, the chief minister made his message clear once again: "The government is determined to empower the panchayats to the degree possible. I reiterate it here again with firmness that the transfer of powers to panchayats is on anvil and you will hear about the same soon."
Abdullah said the completion of halqa panchayat elections in the state will follow election of block and district committees. "The powers will gradually percolate to the grassroots making them basic centres of planning and development," said Abdullah.