Sopore: Helmet-Wearing Councillors Feared A Different Attack, Not Militant Raid

SRINAGAR: With yet another coffin being lowered in the grave, the toll in March 29, attack on the Municipal Council Sopore has reached three. Apart from the cop who was killed, two councillors lost their lives. Incidentally, they belonged to the same family – Reyaz Ahmad Peer was the son in law of Shamsuddin Peer.

Some members of the MC Sopore in a meeting that was attacked by militants in which two members and a PSO were killed on March 29, 2021.

Reyaz died almost instantly in the attack and Shamsuddin was driven to Srinagar where he succumbed to his injuries, a Tuesday morning.

Shamsuddin, Reyaz and his wife Abida, were elected from three Sopore wards without a contest when the NC and PDP boycotted the local body polls in 2018. They were from BJP. Abida, who represents ward No 4, however, had not attended the MC meeting in which her husband and father were killed.

Reyaz basically hailed from Qaziabad locality in Langate and had migrated to Sopore after his marriage with Abida, his second wife. His first wife with two kids lives in his ancestral village.

The widow of the slain BJP councillor along with her kids mourning Riyaz Ahmad Peer’s death. She is also a councillor. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“They were poor people,” Masarat Kar, an NC councillor, who worked with them, said. “Riyaz was actually a ghar damadh, living with his in-laws and had recently shifted to a new place in Khushaal Colony.” She said his two families are now rendered destitute.

The attack, however, has created security concerns. These were amplified after the Kashmir Police Chief; Vijay Kumar ordered the suspension of the four cops who, according to him, failed to retaliate. At the same time, however, he has stated that the councillors did not inform the police about the meeting. This has angered the councillors.

Ms Kar, who aspires to lead the council, given the numbers NC has in the MC, said the fact is that they were apprehended an attack – “but obviously not the kind that happened.”

Masarat Kar, one of the NC councillors talking to the media before the start of the meeting on May 29, 2021. When they were in the meeting, two of the members and a cop were killed in a militant attack.

Not known, so far, the NC members of the MC had gone to the meeting with their heads covered by blue helmets. “We thought, we will be the target of the stone-pelting today but tragically it was a militant raid,” she said on phone. “The meeting was planned for 12 noon and the Executive Officer got delayed and we started at around 12:40 pm and the attack was carried out at 12:50 pm.”

The MC Sopore has been in crisis for a long time. On March 8, the MC Sopore met and it coincided with the International Day of the women. “When we entered the premises, we saw turmoil as people were calling us names and we did not know why they were – employees’ of MC Sopore or outsiders,” Ms Kar said. “The crisis was that we had petitioned the Director Urban Local Bodies that certain wards were least sanitized in comparison to few and the Director said the human resource should be fairly distributed within 21-wards and the councillors must counter-sign the sanitisation certificate. It was not acceptable to the workers and that is why they were angry at us.”

Sopore MC has 79 regular workers and 59 others on the basis of a consolidated wage and the town has chronic sanitation issue.

Shamsuddin, an MC Sopore Councillor, succumbed to his injuries. In This photograph, his funeral is being offered on March 30, 2021, in Sopore. The councillor was grievously injured in a militant attack a day earlier.

In the immediate follow-up, Ms Kar said the councillors wrote to police, the Lt Governor and the Director ULB, seeking an enquiry into the disorder and specifically, who the protesters were and why they were protesting.  On March 17, Director upheld his earlier order but there was no clue about the enquiry the councillors had sought.

Ms Kar said when the meeting was planned for March 29, a letter had actually been sent to the police and the additional Deputy Commissioner mentioning the security arrangements. “I personally shared these entire details with IGP sahib,” she said. “Even if, the MC had not informed the police, they should have known it otherwise.”

It was in this backdrop that the NC members of the MC had gone with the helmets on their heads to attend the meeting. Before the meeting started, they were actually asked by the media about this and they told the same story. And then the militant attack took place and the entire narrative got misplaced. Ms Kar lost her driver, a PSO, in the attack. “He was with me for three and a half years and we were readying to see him married in June,” she said.

Sopore Attack: The Complete Story

What is interesting in Sopore MC is that the councillors allege that after they moved a no-confidence motion against the BJP chairperson, they have been continuously denied their right to choose a new chairperson. NC has 11 berths in the 21-member Council and seven are independents and the remaining are with BJP.

(Ghulam Hassan contributed to this report from Sopore)

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