Election campaigning, voting challenging in restive Kashmir

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By Fast Kashmir on 16/03/2017. No Comments

Election campaigning, voting challenging in restive Kashmir

We will see that everything goes well: DGP Vaid

Srinagar, March 16: The Kashmir valley’s two parliament seats of Srinagar and Anantnag will go for voting on April 9 and 12this year. Fresh from the 2016 uprising and with encounters, accompanied with protests by civilians, now having become a weekly affair, the security situation is still volatile and poses a huge challenge to the political parties to hold election campaigns and security forces to ensure security during the process.
As per Chief Electoral Officer of the state, Shantmanu, 31 assembly segments comprising 26, 74000 voters are going to cast their votes during the by-polls.
16 Assembly segments, comprising more than 13 lakh voters will cast their votes in Anantnag-Kulgam-Pulwama Lok Sabha seat, while 15 assembly constituencies having nearly 13 lakh voters will cast their votes in Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary seat.
Shantmanu said 3,194 polling stations will be set up for voting in the two parliamentary constituencies and almost all the polling stations have been declared as “sensitive or hypersensitive”. He said that 1,559 polling booths will be set up in Srinagar and 1,600 in Anantnag.
Of these assembly segments, south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and some areas in Anantnag present a challenge to the security forces as well as politicians.
These assembly segments witnessed huge and unrelenting protests during the 2016 uprising. Pulwama, Tral, Wachi in Shopian and Kulgam’s Homshalibugh assembly segments have been witnessing protests during gunfights between militants and government forces.
Three civilians have been killed during clashes that erupted between protesters and forces while the gunfights were going on. 11 militants have been killed by forces on four encounters in these districts. These clashes between civilian protesters and forces erupted following attempts by people to help escape militants during gun-battles.
Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts slated to go for by-polls on have been quite after the 8-month-long 2016 uprising.
Director General of Police S P Vaid told KNS that police will make arrangements for smooth conducting of by-polls.
“Elections in such situations have been held in past too. We will see that everything goes well. Police don’t have any obstacles for providing security during elections,” Vaid told KNS.
Of the 16 assembly seats PDP has 11 MLAs, while NC and Congress two each. One constituency is held by communist legislator M Y Targami.
PDP has fielded Tasaduq Mufti, brother of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, from Anantnag seat, while NC is going for seat sharing arrangement will Congress. GA Mir, JKPCC president, will contest from Anantnag against Tasaduq, while NC president Farooq Abdullah will contest from Srinagar Lok Sabha seat against PDP’s new entrant Nazir Ahmad Khan.
Post-uprising, no political party has held any major event in the Valley, except for few smaller functions held within the offices of political parties under a thick security blanket. Though the political parties are well aware of the challenges, yet they say that they say they will go for poll campaigning, banking on the security to be provided by the government forces.
Ruling PDP, which considered southern Kashmir as it ‘support bastion’ says that it will “find a way” for poll campaigning.
“There are difficulties due to the militancy and the situation prevailing in south Kashmir. But we will find a way and go to people for votes,” PDP General Secretary Rafi Mir told KNS.
“PDP will gear up with the campaigning as will the other political parties,” he said.
In Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal parliament seat, PDP and National Conference have seven assembly seats each 7, while one assembly segment is represented by Independent MLA Hakim Muhammad Yaseen.
Wary of the risks during election campaigning, however, the Opposition political parties say that is the responsibility of the state government to provide smooth and incident-free by-polls.
“Political campaigning is very difficult. But the question should be asked to the Government how they announced holding elections when the region is still in turmoil,” National Conference General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar told KNS.
“The government should have first addressed the problem there rather than announcing dates for by-polls,” he added.
President Pradesh Congress Committee G A Mir said that Elections Commission of India and state government must have first ensured peaceful atmosphere and law and order for fair and free elections.
“The elections will be free and fair only when there is peace. Credibility of elections and percentage of voting is calculated by peaceful atmosphere only. It is the responsibility of the state government to ensure peaceful atmosphere and free and fair elections,” Mir told KNS.
“We as a political party will be in the fray and will go before the people for votes,” he added. (KNS)

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