A former sarpanch was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday. Police said Fayaz Ahmad Bhat (30) was shot outside his home in Kandzal area of Pulwama. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but did not survive.

“He was a sarpanch affiliated with the National Conference,” station house officer Sarjan Ahmad said.

Militants, who had warned people against local elections, have targeted sarpanchs in the past as well.

The state, grappling with street protests, has also seen a series of militant strikes during the period. On September 18, suspected Pakistani militants attacked a base in northern Kashmir’s Uri, killing 19 soldiers, the worst assault against the army in the border state in a decade.

In its first military response to the Uri attack, the Indian Army on early Thursday crossed the line of control and hit militants preparing to infiltrate into India, a claim disputed by Pakistan.

India blames Pakistan for the unrest in Kashmir, rise in infiltration and militant strikes.

With tension rising, villages close to line of control and border with Pakistan are being evacuated even as protests continue in the state for the third month.

Eighty-eight people, most of them civilians, have died in the violence that broke after the July 8 killing of a Hizbul Mujahideen militant.