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Sarpanch gunned down in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
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People attending the funeral of Sarpanch Habibullah Mir who was shot dead by suspected militants in Baramulla district of Kashmir on Friday.– PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD
People attending the funeral of Sarpanch Habibullah Mir who was shot dead by suspected militants in Baramulla district of Kashmir on Friday.– PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD

Yet another sarpanch has been shot dead in Baramulla district of Kashmir. Local Sarpanch Habibullah Mir (52) died on the spot after he was fired upon on Friday while he was conducting an inspection of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) works under execution in Bumai village.

According to authoritative sources, Mr. Mir was outside a mosque when he was beckoned, at 12.15 p.m., by three persons clad in pheran s (traditional Kashmiri gowns), who opened pistol fire, hitting the sarpanch in his throat.

Mr. Mir, who had joined the Congress party after being elected as sarpanch from Bumai Halqa in April 2011, was evacuated to the Sub District Hospital of Sopore. Doctors declared him “brought dead”. Deputy Inspector General of Police Rajesh Kumar told The Hindu that the police had registered a case of murder and launched an investigation, though no clues were immediately available with regard to identification or the whereabouts of the assailants.

Asked whether the assassins were militants or civilians carrying firearms, Mr. Kumar said he would answer such questions only after a visit to the bereaved family later at night.

The DIG said this was the third assassination of a panch or sarpanch in North Kashmir since the panchayat elections were held in 2011. One of them was gunned down at Palhalan and another at Nowpora village of Sopore, in 2012. He said the investigation was underway into the mysterious killing of a deputy sarpanch at Nowpora. The probe into the killing at Palhalan village of Pattan had been completed and the charge sheet filed in a court of law, the DIG said. He asserted that the assassination at Palhalan was not the handiwork of any militant outfit.

Even as Mr. Kumar insisted that the assassins could not be identified immediately, authoritative sources revealed to The Hindu that three local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen were “strongly suspected” to have carried out the killing on Friday.

In an interview to Tehelka magazine last year, Hizbul Mujahideen supremo and head of Pakistan-based guerrilla conglomerate United Jihad Council Syed Salah-ud-din had purportedly issued a threat that militants would continue to target panches and sarpanches in Kashmir. However, the UJC chief had promptly issued a contradiction and asserted that the Valley’s panches and sarpanches were not on the militants’ hit list.

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