Representative of panches and sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir, Shafiq Mir, on Tuesday expressed apprehension of fresh militant attacks, holding the former Army chief General (retd.) V.K. Singh responsible for endangering the lives and properties of thousands of panchayat members.
“With his reckless statements, Gen. Singh has caused an extremely serious apprehension of militant attacks on more than 33,000 panches and sarpanches as he has completely discredited and maligned the panchayat elections of 2011.
“I believe not one of us has demanded or accepted a pie of money from the Army or any other agency of the Centre or the State government for contesting or conducting the panchayat elections. It’s strange and surprising that a General, who has functioned as the Chief of Army Staff in 2011, has degraded a legitimate democratic exercise as a military-intelligence operation and thus imperilled the lives of all panchayat members,” Mir, Chairman of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, complained.
Describing Gen. Singh’s interview to The Hindu as “utterly irresponsible,” Mir said that dozens of militant attacks on panches and sarpanches had already taken place.
In the interview published on Tuesday, Gen. Singh had claimed that the successful panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 were the “achievement” of his Technical Support Division (TSD), a crack military intelligence unit created by him. “It was all part of a larger game plan, and two major achievements of the TSD were the panchayat elections of 2011 and the sudden end to the stone-throwing agitation in Kashmir in 2010,” Gen. Singh had said.
“The General’s revelation has put the lives of 33,000 panchayat members in the State in danger as the panchayat members were already being targeted and labelled as agents of India and its agencies ,” Mir said.
“Let alone the State and the Central funding, none of our slain members has been paid anything special other than the ex gratia of Rs. 1 lakh which is paid to anybody killed in a militancy-related incident,” Mir said. “At this stage we can’t rule out that some politicians or officers have grabbed the Army’s money in the name of conducting panchayat elections. But, in that case, it is Gen. Singh’s moral duty to name such individuals. If it is established that we have been used for a political or military operation, we will resign en masse. We have risked our lives only to serve our people.”