Killings continue in the new year, sarpanch shot dead in Sopore

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a sarpanch outside Sopore town in north Kashmir on Friday, the first killing of a panchayat member this year. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been trying to instill confidence among panchayat members by promising them stipends and insurance.

Police said militants shot sarpanch Habibullah Mir point blank in his native village of Bomai on the outskirts of Sopore. "He was immediately rushed to hospital where he succumbed to injuries," a police spokesman said.

Mir was affiliated to the Congress party. This was the second killing of a panchayat member in recent months in Sopore. A sarpanch was killed in Nowpora village on the outskirts of the town earlier.

Since the panchayat elections of 2011, militants have killed several panchs and sarpanchs across the Valley. A large number of fearful panchayat members have announced their resignations in newspaper advertisements. Last year, posters appeared in some villages in both south and north Kashmir warning panchayat members to resign or face consequences.

The chief minister told a rally of panchs and sarpanchs last week that his government intended to make provisions for stipends and insurance cover for them in the budget. He had already asked the Centre for funds, he said, adding that the state would go ahead even if Delhi did not help.

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