No need to provide security to each and every sarpanch: Omar

Playing down threats to village heads by Hizbul chief Syed Sallah-ud-Din, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday ruled out providing security to each and every sarpanch.

Jammu: Playing down threats to village heads by Hizbul chief Syed Sallah-ud-Din, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday ruled out providing security to each and every sarpanch in the state but said the government was geared up to meet any eventuality.

"We never said that we will provide security to each and every panch and sarpanch-- we had said that whenever there is a threat assessment and we feel that there is need to do more -- we will do that", Omar told reporters here today.

The chief minister, who kick-started the reopening of the bi-annual Darbar Move offices, including Civil Secretariat, Raj Bhavan and state Legislature, in the state winter capital Jammu, was replying to a volley of questions about the threat given by the Hizb Chief to Panchayat members and whether the government intended to provide security to panches and sarpanches in the state.

"...Each of us know that today`s situation in Jammu and Kashmir (very conducive and peaceful)-- there is no militancy in most areas of Jammu-- so there is no threat to panches and sarpanches", Omar said.

"In Jammu region, there are three districts where there will be presence of around 30-40 militants-- not more than that-- in this situation there is no question of providing security to each and every panch and sarpanch", he said.

"As far as Kashmir is concerned, there are some areas which are militancy affected-- where central and state intelligence agencies will do on-ground threat perception assessments-- after that if we have to take further steps-- we will take them but it will not be made public", the Chief Minister said.

Omar said, "nothing has changed since the previous attacks. In terms of what Syed Sallah-ud-Din has said regarding Panchayati Raj Institutes-- unfortunately his own tune has changed (on issuing threats to panches and sarpanches)".

"If I remember correctly after the first few phases of (panchayat) elections, he (Sallah-ud-Din) was the one who said that there will be no threats made to the panches and sarpanches and elections will go ahead without any sort of threat", the Chief Minister said.

Omar further said, "now why has he suddenly jumped into this bandwagon of issuing threats". As far as security is concerned, we are geared up to deal with any eventuality, he said, adding, from time to time "we are doing necessary threat assessment and whenever any steps need to be taken up they will be taken".

Omar said the 73rd amendment of Panchayat Raj Act would not be brought in Jammu and Kashmir.

"As far as the 73rd amendment (of Central Panchayat Raj Act) is concerned --the coalition government has been very clear that 73rd amendment will not be brought to J&K", he told reporters soon after kick-starting the work of government in Jammu.
The Chief Minister was replying to his stand on the implementation of the 73rd amendment in Jammu and Kashmir and pressure from his coalition partner Congress to take necessary measures in this direction with postponement of Block Development Council (BDC) elections.

"What we have been clear about is that we have a unique distinction of having our own constitution within the State --why should we incorporate central constitutional changes when we can make our own changes here-- and amend our own Panchayat Raj Act", he said.

"But at no point has there been any pressure to bring in the 73rd amendment nor has there been any discord", he said, adding, "what we had done is something coalition is entitled to do--any state government is entitled to do within its own rules and laws of the constitution --that is what we intend to do".

Replying to another question on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), he said, "we have never used forces to protect anyone till today-- Army has not been used for protection-- Army has been used for anti-insurgency operations-- that work is going on".

"There is nothing to do with AFSPA as far as the personal protection is concern-- as far as the protection and AFSPA is concern-- they have nothing to do with each other", Omar said.

Referring to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Omar said the security situation is peaceful and conducive in the state whether in Kashmir or Jammu and it should continue to be like that.