Srinagar: Unidentified gunmen shot dead sarpanch Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, in the Sopore area of Baramulla district on Saturday. Bhat, 73, is the third sarpanch killed in the past three weeks in the Kashmir Valley.
While there have been no militant attacks on political rallies or candidates during the elections, sarpanches have been the primary target of violence.
“The sarpanch belonged to the Congress and was shot by militants,” J&K police spokesperson Manoj Pandita told The Hindu. The police said Bhat was killed outside his home around 11.30 a.m. His neighbours said he had survived a militant attack last year.
The sarpanch was killed even as the Jammu region went to the polls in the last round of elections. All 46 constituencies in the Kashmir Valley have already gone to the polls.
Sarpanches have been the primary and easiest targets of violence in the Valley recently. On December 13, two days after Sopore voted, a sarpanch, Ghulam Mohammed Bedar, 65, was kidnapped and killed by suspected militants in Hygam village of Sopore. His bullet-riddled body was found in an orchard.
On November 30, militants shot dead National Conference sarpanch Mohammad Sultan Bhat in Shopian district. The next day militants struck again in Shopian when they shot another sarpanch but he survived the attack.
The killing of sarpanches has been condemned by leaders across the political spectrum. While mainstream politicians called these attacks an act of cowardice and desperation, senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani termed the killings unIslamic.