J&K set for elections amid tight security

J&K set for elections amid tight security

Srinagar/Jammu (IANS): Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls Monday to elect a new assembly amid boycott calls by separatists, with the 10 constituencies in the first of seven-phase elections spread over the Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.

With a world keenly watching the outcome of the electoral battle, the authorities have deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to ensure peaceful polling following boycott calls by separatists.

But defiance of the militant groups is already in some evidence. In the fray are a record 102 candidates, including 22 in Sonawari and 19 in Bandipora constituencies in the Kashmir Valley, the hub of the separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.

But officials and political pundits have warned that the boycott call could hit turnout in the valley although polling is expected to be high in Ladakh and Jammu’s Poonch district.

Vying for power are the Congress, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also in the fray are the Panthers Party as well as a slew of independents.

The Congress and PDP had together ruled the state since 2002 but the government of Congress chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad collapsed after the PDP withdrew its legislative support this year.

The 10 of 87 constituencies going to the polls Monday are Gurez, Bandipora and Sonawari (Kashmir Valley), Leh, Nobra, Zanskar and Kargil (Ladakh) and Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli (Jammu region).

There are six candidates in Gurez, Poonch-Haveli has 13, Mendhar 12, Surankote 11, and there are five each in Kargil, Leh and Zanskar and four in Nobra.

“We are expecting a fairly good voter turnout in the four assembly constituencies of Ladakh region and the three in Jammu region,” said one official.

The authorities have warned separatists and their supporters not to disrupt the electoral process.

But political leaders admitted that the boycott call would affect voter turnout in Bandipora and Sonawari but not Gurez, located in northern Kashmir close to the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Campaigning by political parties and others has been low key in Bandipora and Sonawari, which have strong separatist pockets of influence.

The separatist leaders have called for a march to Bandipora and Sonawari Monday.

But Inspector General of Police B. Srinivas said: “We have a strategy to isolate the separatist leaders so that they do not succeed in preventing voters from exercising their democratic right to vote. But we shall also not force an unwilling voter to vote.”

The main battle in the Muslim-majority valley is expected to be between the National Conference, PDP and influential independents. The Congress seems to have lost ground in the valley following violent protests there against the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board.

In Ladakh’a Kargil and Zanskar areas, which have sizeable Muslim voters, could be a safe bet for the National Conference. Nobra and Leh could throw up Buddhist candidates as likely winners. Leh, Nobra and Kargil were won by independents in 2002 while the National Conference won in Zanskar.

In Bandipora, National Conference’s Ghulam Rasool Mir is pitted against Nizamuddin Bhat of PDP and Usman Majid of Awami League. Going by the undercurrent in Bandipora, Majid, who won in 2002, has the upper hand.

In Sonawari, National Conference’s sitting legislator Muhammad Akbar Lone faces a serious challenge from Yasir Reshi of PDP and an independent Shia candidate, Abid Ansari, younger brother of Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, a Shia leader of the valley.

In Gurez, Nazir Ahmed Gurezi of the National Conference is seeking re-election. He is pitted against Fakir Muhammad of the Congress.

In Mendhar, Surankote and Poonch-Haveli, the Congress, National Conference and BJP take on one another. Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli were won by the National Conference in the last elections.

B.R. Sharma, the state chief electoral officer, said all preparations were in place for the polls.

The 10 constituencies will have 1,064 polling stations. There are 58,073 voters in Kargil, 62,533 in Leh, 20,044 in Zanskar, 11,863 in Nobra, 84,726 in Sonawari, 86,306 in Bandipora, 15,330 in Gurez, 84,969 in Surankote, 77,853 in Mendhar and 96,758 voters in Poonch-Haveli.

In Nobra, a polling station has been set up for just 14 voters (seven men and women each). Twentyfour polling staff and security men will be deployed in this centre.

Polling in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in seven phases: Nov 17, Nov 23, Nov 30 and Dec 7, Dec 13, Dec 17 and Dec 24. The counting of votes will take place Dec 28.


Zaffar Akbar arrestedGK NEWS NETWORK

Zaffar Akbar arrestedGK NEWS NETWORK

Updated at 1800 hours IST
Srinagar, Nov 16: Police on Sunday arrested the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement and senior Hurriyat (M) leader Zaffar Akbar Bhat from Chanapora in city outskirts here, sources said.
They said the police raided the JKSM office this evening and arrested Bhat from there.
“He had called the meeting of the JKSM activists to chalk out the strategy for tomorrow’s Bandipore march,” sources said.
They said the JKSM activists tried to resist Bhat’s arrest but police resorted to baton charge to disperse them. In the police action at least six persons sustained injuries.

Hurriyat (M) condemns restrictions

Hurriyat (M) condemns restrictions

Srinagar: Hurriyat Conference (M) senior leader and Anjuman-e-Shaarie Shiyaan Aga Syed Hassan Al-Sufvi Al-Moosvi on Sunday strongly condemned the imposition of undeclared curfew on Thursday and Friday to prevent people from assembling at Historic Jamia Masjid here on the call given by the Coordination Committee.
Terming it as worst ‘contempt and disrespect’ to democracy,
Aga Syed appealed to the people to make successful the Coordination Committee’s seven phase Chaloo call

Moulana Showkat shifted to Kathua Jail

Moulana Showkat shifted to Kathua Jail


Srinagar, Nov 6: President Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah was Thursday shifted to Kathua Jail.
Shah was undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit of the SKIMS, Soura where he was shifted on last Thursday.
Moulana was arrested on the night of October 23 after he addressed an anti-election rally at Hajin in North Kashmir. He was then lodged in Sumbal police station where his condition had deteriorated.
Shah was shifted to the Kathua jail, despite doctors advising his hospitalization.

Undeclared curfew halts life

Undeclared curfew halts life


Srinagar, Nov 6: Life in the Kashmir valley came to a grinding halt on Thursday as authorities imposed an undeclared curfew in the Srinagar city to prevent people from assembling at Jamia Masjid in old city here. The Coordination Committee, spearheading the present movement in Kashmir, had asked the people to assemble there today for paying tributes to the Jammu martyrs who were killed by rioters on this day in 1947.
Witnesses told Greater Kashmir that thousands of policemen and paramilitary CRPF troopers were deployed in different parts of the city and people were asked to stay indoors. “All the roads leading to Jamia Masjid were sealed and huge barricades were erected at different places,” the witnesses said, adding that the troopers carrying batons and automatic rifles were guarding the streets in Srinagar, strictly enforcing the restrictions though police claimed that no curfew has been imposed in any part of the Valley.
Reports said police and CRPF resorted to lathi charge to disperse a procession at Rainawari in old city, who were trying to march towards Jamia Masjid. The protesters offered stiff resistance and retaliated by pelting stones, triggering clashes. However, reinforcements were rushed to the area and they were dispersed.
Reports said that no vehicles from district headquarters were allowed to move towards the Srinagar city. Authorities had imposed section 144 in all the major districts of the Valley, including Varmul, Kupwara, Islamabad, Budgam, Shopain, Kulgam, Bandipore, Ganderbal and Pulwama. In view of the restrictions imposed by the authorities, all shops, business establishments, schools and other educational institutions remained closed in the city and elsewhere in the Valley.
According to Greater Kashmir reporter Ghulam Muhammad, announcement about imposition of curfew in north Kashmir’s Sopur township was made through loud speakers early in the morning. Residents of Siddiq colony and Arampora tried to defy the curfew and stage pro-freedom demonstration. However, troopers resorted to baton charge and fired numerous tear smoke canisters to disperse them injuring at least six protesters including two women.
Two attempts to organize rally at Lal Chowk by the Coordination Committee, an alliance of both the factions of the Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Dukhtaran-e-Milat, Kashmir Bar Association, traders and employees, had been foiled by the authorities after they imposed curfew in August and on October 6.
Lakhs of people had joined the Muzafarabad, Eidgah, Pampore and TRC chalo marches during the past three months. Almost all top leadership of the CC has been arrested and majority of them have been booked under the Public Safety Act.

Section 144 imposed in Kup, Bud, Varmul

Section 144 imposed in Kup, Bud, Varmul


Kupwara, Nov 5: The district magistrates of Kupwara, Budgam and Varmul have imposed restrictions section 144 in their district for two days.
The order shall remain in force on November 6 and 7 and as such five or more persons shall not assemble at any place in the district.
In respect of any election campaign fixed for that day by any political or candidate, the prior permission of district Magistrates shall be mandatory, a government statement said.

CRPF to deploy 388 companies

CRPF to deploy 388 companies

NEW DELHI, Nov 4: The CRPF, chief para-military force assisting the military in Jammu and Kashmir, was rushing over 200 additional companies to the State in view of apprehensions of escalated violence during the forthcoming Assembly elections.

“In all, 388 companies would be present in the State during the 7-phase Assembly elections, as we expect a rise in violence going by the poll boycott call given by Hurriyat in Jammu and Kashmir,” CRPF Director General V K Joshi told the media.

“Throwing grenades at security forces is the most likely thing to happen during this period, because it is the most economic way to cause maximum casualty and damage,” Mr Joshi noted.

“Though we have no specific input as of now about any poll disruption plot, grenade attacks are what we feel is the most likely,” he said, adding all through the State’s history, it has been seen that as elections approach, violence increases.

“We already have 72 companies stationed in the State and for the November-December polls, we are beefing up security measures with additional 216 companies,” Mr Joshi said.

On the CRPF’s elite ‘Cobra Battalion’, the DG said of the ten battalions sanctioned, two would be raised during this financial year.

“By March-April, the two battalions would be ready for deployment. The other eight would be raised in three years time,” he added.

Mr Joshi also informed that there was no response from the Government yet on its request for a separate intelligence unit despite more than two years having passed by. “That would a big force multiplier and we have not received any information from the Government on it as yet.”(UNI)