J&K Sarpanch Resigns on Video as ‘Militants’ Quiz Her, FIR Filed

“We have filed an FIR in the case. Investigations are underway,” SSP Sopore, Javid Iqbal, told The Quint.

Updated
India
3 min read
A video of a woman sarpanch of Sopore announcing her decision to step down, while in the captivity of suspected militants, has gone viral on social media in Kashmir.
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A purported video of a sarpanch of Sopore announcing her decision to step down, while in the captivity of suspected militants, has gone viral on social media in Kashmir.

The abduction reportedly took place last week when the woman was at her home in Sempora village and a group of unknown gunmen barged into her single-storey residence, where she lives with her husband and four children.

According to sources, the abductors took her to a nearby orchard where they demanded on gunpoint that she resign from her position in the Panchayat body of Bomai. They also filmed the incident.

FIR Filed

Soon after she was released by her captors, police sources said she was shifted to her accommodation in Srinagar.

“We have filed an FIR in the case. Investigations are underway,” SSP Sopore, Javid Iqbal, told The Quint.

What the Video Shows

“I was a sarpanch,” the woman who is in her forties, says, shaking in fear as a young male voice filming her on the mobile phone goes on quizzing her. “I apologise and I will resign immediately,” she adds.

“I had phone numbers of SHO Bomai (in the Sopore police district of North Kashmir) and SP on my mobile. They stored it. People harassed me. I am a poor woman. If I asked around for money...,” the woman goes on.

At this point, the male voice interjects her again.

“But there is the system of Baitul Mall (a community-mobilised resource pool for the poor as per Islamic tenants),” he tells the woman, who is believed to be a resident of Sempora in Sopore’s Bomai.

“I beg you, for the sake of Allah and Prophet Mohammad, spare my life,” the woman replies anxiously.

“This is the last warning. You are a woman and my mother is of your age, so I am letting you go,” the voice, believed to be of a local militant, warns the woman.

“I seek your forgiveness. I will resign,” the woman continues before the video ends abruptly.

Sources said the woman is the only elected panchayat representative from the Bomai area as the rest of the seats are vacant.

“The family is very poor and landless, and they own a small house in Sempora of Sopore,” a villager of the neighbouring Bomai said.

The woman’s husband, Abdul Latif Sofi, works as a labourer. They have four kids and the oldest is a 17-year-old son who also works as a labourer.

Incident Increases Uncertainty for J&K’s Panchs & Sarpanchs

The incident comes days after Ajay Pandita Bharati, a sarpanch belonging to the minority Kashmiri Pandit community was shot dead by suspected militants in Anantnag. The killing of Pandita had sparked protests by the political parties in Jammu.

It has also increased uncertainty for the thousands of panchs and sarpanchs across Kashmir, many of whom remained confined as their election in 2018 followed a deteriorating political and security environment in J&K, especially in Kashmir.

Fearing attacks by militants, the election had recorded a dismal turnout. According to officials, more than 50 percent seats had remained vacant due to no contestants. The government has since lodged hundreds of panchs and sarpanchs in lodges and hotels in the capital Srinagar. The woman from Sopore is one of them.

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