Sarpanchs defy militants, vote for four council seats

The killing of a sarpanch in Palhalan a month ago had instilled so much fear among the panchs and sarpanchs that one of them, Shabir Ahmad Dar, from the same village, had announced his resignation in a newspaper advertisement.

But on Monday, the voting day for four seats of the 36-member legislative council, showed that the fear was absent. In Pattan block, which includes Palhalan, there are 306 electorates, of which 200 had cast their votes by 1.30 pm.

Despite a boycott call from Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, they lined up at the polling booths across the states and by evening 90 per cent of them had cast their votes. The day passed off peacefully without any untoward incident from any part of the state.

"Everyone was resigning then. There was fear all around," Dar said after casting his vote in Pattan. "It was in the heat of the moment that we resigned. Situation has changed."

The government, however, was cautious. A large number of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed to prevent militant attacks.

Of the four seats, two each fall in J&K provinces. The election to these seats was last held in 1974. The number of votes is 33,540 — Jammu has 15,628 and Kashmir 17,912. The contest assumes significance as it is being considered the litmus test for the 2014 Assembly elections.

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