Why Panchayat Representatives in Kashmir are Not Returning Home Despite Winning Elections
Many rued that they couldn't share their real problem with the PM. Aziz, for example, could not tell the Prime Minister that the security situation in Pulwama has forced him to stay away from his home. Aziz told CNN-News18 that he is housed in a Srinagar hotel.
48 panch and sarpanches from Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh met the Prime Minister on Wednesday. (Image: Twitter)
New Delhi: "Humko bahut dar hai (We are very afraid)," says Afzal Aziz, the newly elected Panch from a Pulwama village when asked if he has gone back home after getting elected.
Aziz and 47 others were in Delhi as part of All Jammu & Kashmir Panchayat Conference. The 48 panch and sarpanches from Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh met the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
Speaking to the press, many rued that they couldn't share their real problem with the PM. Aziz, for example, could not tell the Prime Minister that the security situation in Pulwama has forced him to stay away from his home. Aziz told CNN-News18 that he is housed in a Srinagar hotel.
President of All Jammu & Kashmir Panchayat Conference, Shafiq Mir, acknowledged that many of the elected panchs and sarpanches haven't managed to return home but called it, 'isolated incidents.'
"The majority of the people have gone back home to Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian. But some are housed in Srinagar hotels. These are isolated incidents," said Mir.
The government in Kashmir has reportedly hired hotels on the banks of Dal to house both councillors and sarpanches.
Ghulam Mohammed of Soinim, Baramullah, said most of these hotels are ill-equipped to handle the harsh winters of Kashmir. "It’s a single room with barely any heater or hot water," he said. But security weighs more for these elected representatives compared to lack of facilities.
Mohammed Altaf from Avantipora is one of those who has returned home. He won by 159 votes in a village where total 450 votes were cast. "I don't feel threatened. Our Local MLA has not visited for years. The villagers are now looking at me for solving their problem," Altaf told CNN-News18. His colleague from Ganderbal wanted to remain anonymous but underlined how the safety net can be pierced by mere suspicion of being an informer. "There is threat if terrorists feel you are an informant of the army or the police," said the sarpanch from Ganderbal.
Thirty five thousand panchayats in the state held elections last month which went off without any bloodshed.
Yar Mohammed has also gone back home to his village in Pulwama, but remains apprehensive. "We took great risk in fighting these elections. For that kind of risk is Rs 1000 stipend enough? How are we to save ourselves, our families, and also solve the problems of our villages with that kind of salary?" he asked.
Tashi Norbu Jays from Stok Ladakh has no safety issues but he wants a university in his area. When asked if he told the PM about it, Norbu said, "Like Ladakh is always pushed in the background in the fight between Jammu and Kashmir, in the meeting with PM too I was pushed back. But this is our demand. We want to work towards it."
A statement released by the Press Information Bureau said that the Prime Minister congratulated the local representatives for the “courage displayed by them in the face of heavy odds; and for successfully participating in the democratic process, despite threats and intimidation”.
The PM assured them of the government of India’s full support for making the Panchayati Raj model a success, and responsive to the people’s basic necessities and grievances.
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