￼Srinagar, May 5: Security forces on Sunday started their deployment to meet the toughest challenge in the three-stage Anantnag Lok Sabha polls – securing polling stations and voters from militant attacks during Monday’s final phase in Shopian and Pulwama districts.
The twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama have been the breeding grounds of what is called the “home-grown wave of militancy in Kashmir”.
Just a few months back, security forces had put the number of active local militants in south Kashmir at over 250. While some icons of this new-wave militancy like Burhan Wani, Saddam Paddar, Lateef Tiger and others have been killed by security forces, the ripple effect left behind by these local youth is still far from over.
The biggest challenge is that some highly-educated local youth have also joined militant ranks during the last four years, say intelligence agencies.
Huge crowds attending the funeral processions of slain militants are also believed to attract more local youth towards militancy by triggering romance with violence among them.
It is against these heavy odds that the security forces have to ensure safety of polling stations and also of those who come out to exercise their democratic rights on Monday.
During deployment of central armed police force and state police on Sunday, incidents of stone pelting and clashes were reported.
Poll staff for 24 polling stations in Zainapora area of Shopian district were air-lifted from the police lines to ensure their safety as youths continued stone pelting at poll staff parties.
In Pulwama district also, incidents of stone pelting by youth on poll officials have been reported.
Tension heightened in the two districts because of the killing of Hizbul top commander Lateef Tiger and two of his associates in Shopian district on Friday.
Lateef was the last surviving militant commander of the 11-member group called the ‘Burhan Brigade’.
The twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian contain six Assembly segments — Tral, Pampore, Pulwama, Rajpora, Wachi and Shopian.
A total of 695 polling stations have been established across the districts for smooth conduct of elections, with the voting timing fixed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Election Commission has set up 450 polling stations across Pulwama for its 351,314 electors including 181,259 males, 169,508 females, 541 service voters (533 male and eight female) and six transgenders.
Similarly, 245 polling stations have come up across Shopian for the 171,216 electors including 89,868 males, 81,227 females, 116 service electors (113 male and three female) and five transgenders.
The candidates in the fray are Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference, Sofi Yousuf of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the Congress, Mehbooba Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, Nisar Ahmad Wani of Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party, Choudhary Zaffar Ali of Jammu Kashmir People’s Conference, Sanjay Kumar Dhar of Manav Adhikar Party, Surinder Singh of Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) and Independents Imtiyaz Ahmad Rather, Ridwana Sanam, Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, Zubair Masoodi, Shams Khwaja, Ali Mohammad Wani, Ghulam Mohammad Wani, Kyasir Ahmed Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Khan and Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh.
The Anantnag and Kulgam districts of Anantnag went to polls on April 23 and April 29 respectively