Sarpanch killed by guerrillas in Kashmir’s Kulgam

Srinagar: A sarpanch (village headman) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district, critically injured after separatist guerrillas shot at him Thursday, died while being taken to hospital, police said.

Sarpanch Ghulam Ahmad Bhat was shot at by gunmen in Wanpoh village of Kulgam, a police officer said.

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“He was sitting at a shop in Wanpoh (Kulgam) village when unidentified gunmen shot at him. He was being shifted to a hospital in Srinagar for treatment, but he succumbed to critical injuries en route,” a senior police officer told IANS.

An operation has been launched to trace the assassins, police said.

Separatist guerrillas killed three people including two elected village representatives and another civilian in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district last month.

Elected village representatives, both sarpanches and panches (village council members) have been targets of separatist guerrillas ever since the panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 after a gap of over two decades.

Despite threats from the separatists, an overwhelming 83 percent voter turnout was recorded in these elections, held in the aftermath of 2010 summer unrest in which 110 people were killed in violent clashes between the security forces and protesters across the Valley.

Ever since their election, sarpanches and panches have been demanding individual security but the state government contends this is not possible due to their large number.