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Kashmir’s new block chairpersons get offices but will continue living in hotels for security

The chairpersons have been staying at various hotels in Srinagar for over a year now due to security threat they face in their villages from militant groups.

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Srinagar: The newly elected chairpersons of block development councils (BDCs) in Kashmir, who have been staying in Srinagar hotels for over a year now, have been allocated new offices, but returning home still remains a distant dream.

The chairpersons have been staying at hotels due to security threat they face from militant groups in their respective villages.

Besides the chairpersons, candidates from the BJP and Congress who lost in the BDC elections held last month, and panchs and sarpanchs have been staying at 26 hotels in Srinagar for over a year now. These accommodations were arranged by the Jammu and Kashmir administration before last years’s panchayat elections.

The block chairpersons, along with panchs and sarpanchs, have the potential to create a new political power structure as the strife-torn region has been without elected legislators since the dissolution of the state legislative assembly last year. It is this shifting of power that poses increased security threat.

The new chairpersons have, therefore, sought security cover to visit their new offices in their respective villages.

The BDC elections are held to elect chairpersons of each block, with only panchs and sarpanchs voting in it.

With office space allocated in their respective blocks, the elected chairpersons now make trips to their offices a few times a week and return to Srinagar the same day.


Also read: Independents, BJP are big winners in J&K block polls boycotted by NC, PDP


‘With revocation of Article 370, situation is more unsafe’

A newly elected BDC chairperson, who didn’t wish to be named, told ThePrint militant groups have recently issued death threats against panchs, sarpanchs and BDC chairpersons.

“Going home has always been unsafe for us. And with the revocation of Article 370, the situation is even more unsafe. How can we go home when going to the new office is such a big task?” asked the chairperson.

BJP’s Altaf Mir, who was elected a chairperson from Konibal ward in south Kashmir’s Pampore area, said it’s been six months since he has gone home. “I have taken four meetings in my new office, but going home is a dangerous proposition,” said Mir, who stays in a hotel in Rajbagh area of Srinagar with his wife.

Talking about the shifting of power to the hands of the chairpersons, Mir said: “We are now de facto CMs of our constituencies because we too can distribute work that is to be done by 22 government departments. The panchs and sarpanchs will oversee the work.”

“We have been projected as the new grassroots leaders of Kashmir. Our party firmly believes that we are the emerging leaders of the Valley. It is natural that we will become targets but that hasn’t stopped me from visiting my office,” said Mir, who was earlier with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He said he was one of the few chairpersons who was given security to visit his office.

Afroza Akhtar from the BJP, who was elected chairperson from a block in the militancy-hit Kulgam district in south Kashmir, is not as lucky as Mir.

She has been staying at a Srinagar hotel for over a year while her husband and other family members stay in Kulgam.

A few chairpersons have not yet been allocated office, and Akhtar is one them.

“I haven’t received an office yet and I can’t visit my home regularly because of the security threat. We should have offices and proper security to accompany us. I also want to stay home and work for my constituency. Travelling from Srinagar to the BDO office in Kulgam two to three times a week is a major task,”  said Akhtar. 

She alleged that officials at the block development office have been dodging her repeated requests for an office space.

‘Delay in allocating offices due to extreme weather’

BJP’s Mohammad Yosuf, chairperson from Shopian’s Kellar area, is one of the very few chairpersons staying in his house. Shopian is called the ‘hub of militancy’, and Yosuf said he lives on his toes.

“We practically live on our toes 24×7. Permanent security cover and a safe office are our primary needs,” he told ThePrint.

Yosuf has not been allocated an office yet. Seven other chairpersons from Shopian are also awaiting allocation of new office.

When contacted, a senior government official told ThePrint that due to extreme weather conditions in the Valley, there was a slight delay in allotting offices to some BDC chairpersons, but the issue would be resolved in the coming days.

The official added that allocating offices to BDC chairpersons is a top priority of the administration. There is, however, no official word about providing security cover to the chairpersons even though the administration had promised it.

“We have been promised security cover since we decided to fight the local body polls last year but we have been staying in hotels and those living in their homes live under a shadow of fear. Let’s see if becoming a chairperson will change anything,” said a chairperson, who fought the elections as an Independent.


Also read: Congress to boycott J&K block polls over party leaders’ detention


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately this shows the failure of the 370 abrogation plan of BJP. BJP should have been prepared to clamp down and take extreme security steps at the border and in the valley both. They should have planned to double the number of security personnel, ramp up on intelligence, give big rewards for information and provide anonymity and security to informants, besides confiscating property of militant sympathizers and OGW under the confiscation of enemy property laws. No such clampdown has happened.
    Children below 13 years should have been herded into re-education camps and parents made responsible for any issue relating to militant support. Unless extreme steps are taken, the 370 abrogation is bound to end in a slow failure.

  2. Gaon nahin ja sakte, Toh kaam kya karenge. We should be more willing to look reality in the eye. Vast sums of money, ultimately from the national exchequer, are being spent on Kashmir.

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