Rather than achieving the objective of promoting grassroots democracy, the Panchayats in Kashmir have become a religious and political whipping post for the ISI, the jihadis, the separatists and the politicians in the Valley.
Mr Geelani, the inveterate separatist pro-Pakistani leader views the Panchayats as 'planned conspiracy to mutilate Muslim identity of Kashmir'.
In a television debate (in which this author also participated), an eminent Pakistani politician described the Panchayats as a 'Hindu concept'. Some other mainstream politicians and separatists in Kashmir have rejected the extension of 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, which vests Panchayats with significant powers, on the plea that it would militate against Article 370 and erode the state's autonomy.
Intelligence reports suggest that a large number of separatists and pro-Pakistan elements managed to get elected to these village bodies only to wreck the state from within. This has some parallel with the Maoist corridor, wherein a large number of Maoists have got elected to the Panchayats in Jharkhand and Orissa by sheer intimidation and terror.
The large funds made available to them by the State are being used for furtherance of the Maoist writ and expansion. Such activities need to be taken note of and checked to preserve the unity and security of the country.
Image: Kashmir's All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani (C) leaves the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on July 3, 2012.