Srinagar: The intelligence agencies have warned of high-level violence during the urban body elections and panchayat polls scheduled to be held in October, November and December in Jammu and Kashmir. The warning comes two days after J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik released the schedule for the municipal and panchayat elections in the state.
The municipal polls will be conducted in four phases and polling will be held between October 1 and 5. Panchayat elections will be conducted in eight phases between November 8 and December 4.
Speaking to India Today TV, Shabir Ahmed Kullay, a National Conference (NC) leader from militancy-hit Shopian said, “No one will stand for municipal or panchayat polls in this area. No one wants to be shot dead.” With fear in his voice, Kullay said, “There will be zero per cent polling in Shopian. You can’t kill yourself for election. Standing for election means suicide.” Kullay was a candidate for NC in Shopian in the 2014 assembly election and lost to PDP candidate by 2,000 votes.
Echoing the same concerns, another NC leader Tanvir Sadiq said, “There should have been a greater deliberation before the announcement of polls.” He said the contesting candidates be “sitting ducks” ready to be targeted if not provided proper security.
National Conference and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may have different political ideologies but seemed to agree when it comes to the security of their candidates. PDP leader Rafi Mir said, “We are yet to finalise candidates but we feel the timing is not right for the polls. One of our key demands is adequate security for the nominated candidates.” The killing of nearly 16 sarpanches and panchs in the past four years is going to deter people from contesting elections. Fewer contestants are being expected even for the panchayat elections in the wake of terror threats.
Polling in the state has always been one of the biggest security challenges for forces in a three-decade-long militancy. Terror organisations have dissuaded people from voting in the area. This year also, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo sent a strong warning to those planning to participate in the polls asking them to carry shrouds along with the elections forms. In an 11-minute clip, Naikoo was heard saying, “We have already stored hydrochloride acid and sulphuric acid. They [candidates] should be ready for consequences.”
Chief electoral officer (CEO) of Jammu and Kashmir, Shaleen Kabra, confirmed that political parties have shown apprehension but were keen to participate in the elections. “We are contemplating security to contesting candidates. The police are making threat assessment and on the basis of that, security would be provided.”
The municipal polls are being conducted after a gap of 13 years with the last elections being held in 2005 and the last panchayat polls in 2011. There would be approximately 2,500 polling stations and 1,145 wards.
Keeping this in mind, 237 companies of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) deployed for the two-month long Amarnath Yatra have been asked to stay back in the Valley. K Vijay Kumar, adviser to the Governor said, “Security is definitely a challenge in Jammu and Kashmir. We have a security programme in different districts. We are trying to make all arrangements and are ensured of cooperation by NGOs and the public.”
Zulfikar Hassan, IG (Operations), told India Today TV, “We have deployed 200 companies across the state, so we have sufficient boots on the ground.”
According to sources, however, providing security to each and every candidate might not be possible because of the sheer number.
Courtesy: India Today