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Omar meets injured panch, reviews security
Ashiq Hussain, Hindustan Times
Jammu, January 13, 2013
First Published: 14:15 IST(13/1/2013)
Last Updated: 20:56 IST(13/1/2013)

While unconfirmed reports said unidentified gunmen again fired upon a sarpanch in Sopore who escaped unhurt, chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday cancelled a dinner with his cabinet ministers and flew to Srinagar for a meeting with the top brass of police and other security agencies.

On Sunday evening, Omar visited Soura hospital and met the family of woman panch Zoona Begum, who was shot at by unidentified gunman on Saturday in the neck. On Friday, a sarpanch was killed in the town after some gunmen fired upon him in his house.

Ever since a record turnout of 80% voters elected some 33000 panches and sarpanches in 2011, they have been continuously targetedby unknown gunmen killing at-least four of them. The cries of security to the panchayat representatives have been getting shriller after the attacks.

But the family of Zoona Begum doesn't want to "attract more attacks" by asking for security. "We don't want personal security. That will cause more problems for me. I have three young children at home," husband of injured panch, Mohammad Ramzan told HT.  

However, Sopore residents said there was a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces on the road and inside the villages. "Now they are checking every stranger and suspicious person. Many areas which have greater number of panches and sarpanches have been covered by high security," a resident said over phone.

Although the attacks on these representatives have been continuous since 2011, police has failed to come out with a concrete investigation into the pattern. The police have not entirely blamed the militants nor have they identified the attackers.

Separatist hawk Syed Ali Geelani on Sunday lashed out at the police for "sluggish investigations". "Though the government hastily laid responsibility on the Mujahideens but neither the authorities were convinced about neither their investigation nor any Mujahedeen outfit accepted responsibility for the killings," Geelani said.

"While police is active against those innocent Islamist who are pro freedom activists and detain them without  any delay, they are yet to arrest  those elements involved in such killings," he said.
The ruling National Conference and opposition Peoples' Democratic Party have also blamed each other for attacking the panchs for "vested interests".

In November last year  militant conglomerate united Jehad council chairman, Syed Salahuddin accused mainstream politicians of "portraying the Panchayat elections as referendum by Kashmiris for Union of India" warning that "they will continue to be targeted".

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been ruling out  security to "each and every" Panch saying that "most parts of the state face no threat from militants".

The official spokesman revealed no  decisions taken in today's review meeting by CM


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