Suspected militants killed a sarpanch and a government officer in Anantnag district of Kashmir on Tuesday, PTI reported. The incident took place during the “back-to-village” programme, a public outreach initiative by the government, in Badazgam village.

The additional deputy commissioner of Anantnag, who was leading the meeting with residents, was safely escorted out of the area after the firing, unidentified officials said.

The sarpanch, Rafiq Shah, and government employees Manzoor Parray and Zahoor Ahmed Sheikh were injured in the firing. All three were taken to a nearby district hospital, where Shah and Sheikh succumbed to their injuries, Parray is in a critical condition in a hospital in Srinagar. Sheikh worked in the horticulture department.

The Centre initiated the “back-to-village” programme on June 20, and its first phase lasted till June 27. It was held across 4,483 panchayats. This was an effort by the Narendra Modi-led government to reach out to people in Kashmir.

The second phase of the programme began on November 25. Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu said 5,000 officers will reach out to the people in each panchayat. The second phase assumes importance because the Centre had abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, imposed a curfew in the erstwhile state, and divided it into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, three persons were injured in an explosion in a market near Kashmir University in the Hazratbal area of Srinagar on Tuesday. All of them are said to be in a stable condition.