Before anniversary of split, J&K sarpanch shot at, Farooq calls parties for a meetingEVEN AS security has been stepped up on the eve of the first anniversary of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370, a sarpanch was critically injured in a militant attack in Kulgam district on Tuesday. Two policemen were injured in a separate attack in Pulwama. According to police, militants barged into the house of sarpanch Arif Ahmad, in Akhran village of Kulgam district, on Tuesday evening and opened fire from close range. “He has a bullet in the chest… His condition remains critical,” said Dr Mohammad Iqbal, Medical Superintendent of the Government Medical College in Anantnag where Ahmad has been admitted.
BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur confirmed to The Indian Express that Ahmad was associated with his party and condemned the “barbaric attack”. Since the panchayat elections in December 2018, two sarpanchs have been killed in militant attacks in South Kashmir.
In a separate attack, militants lobbed a grenade on Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel in Wanpora village of Pulwama district. Police sources said two policemen were injured in the attack.
“Both the policemen received splinter injuries. They were immediately evacuated and are stable,” said a police officer. The injured policemen have been identified as Head Constable Khurshid Ahmad and Special Police Officer (SPO) Ishfaq Ahmad.
Meanwhile, former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has called a meeting of mainstream political leaders at his residence on Wednesday. The meeting, however, is unlikely to happen as most of the political leaders are still under house detention.
Moreover, while the administration has lifted the curfew that was imposed on Monday, restrictions on “movement of more than three persons” remain in place. Additionally, there is “complete lockdown” in containment zones.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Abdullah confirmed that he had “planned a meeting tomorrow”. “But you see, they have already stationed (security) vehicles outside our houses, they have closed it (entry). Is this the government,” he said.
Sources said Abdullah has called senior leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference, Congress and some smaller parties.
“Yes, we have received an invite from Farooq sahib,” said PDP leader Waheed Parra. “Since Mehboobaji is under detention, we have asked Fayaz (Ahmad Mir) Sahib (Rajya Sabha member) to attend the meeting, but we are not sure if the meeting will be allowed by the government.”
The Peoples Conference spokesperson, Adnan Ashraf, also confirmed that party chief Sajad Lone had received an invite. “Sajad sahib has already been told by the government that he can’t move out of his house till August 6,” Ashraf said. “If allowed, he would definitely attend the meeting.”
The proposed meeting would have been the first assembly of mainstream political leaders since August 5 last year, when the central government abrogated J&K’s special status and split the state into two Union territories.
On August 4 last year, the mainstream leaders had assembled at Abdullah’s residence and vowed to “stand united in their struggle for safeguarding identity, autonomy and special status of the state”.
But some political leaders questioned the timing of the meeting. “Farooq sahib knows that the government would not allow this meeting on August 5. I fail to understand why he chose this date for the meeting,” said a senior mainstream leader said. “He should have called the meeting after a few days so that the leaders could have attended without any issue”.
In another development, the administration lifted the 48-hour curfew imposed on Monday, citing a “review of the incident-free situation on August 4”. The August 3 order, issued by Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Choudhary, had cited police reports and inputs “suggesting that separatists and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe 5th August 2020 as Black Day”.