August 2002 News

Spurt in militancy worries J&K parties

3 August 2002
The Times of India

New Delhi: A spurt in militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, following the announcement of assembly polls, is keeping the mainstream political parties on tenterhooks. Mehbooba Mufti, vice-chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and one of the few women candidates participating in the polls, complains that she and her party members are not being provided adequate security by the state police. Although dates for the four- phase polls were announced only on Friday, Mufti had been campaigning since early July. ''I have been trying to address at least two major rallies in a week. Often, I set off for interior villages without a single personal security officer. Despite repeated requests, my father Mufti Mohammed, PDP chairman, is facing the same problem.'' Accusing the police of concentrating its entire security force in taking care of the ruling National Conference (NC) cadre, Mufti said, ''We want widows and women who have suffered at the hands of militants to become our candidates. These women require special protection but the police plead they are shortstaffed.'' State Congress vice-president Pirzada Syed, too, makes similar accusations. ''Efforts to revive the party at the grassroot level are getting stymied as party workers are receiving death threats from militant groups.'' But K Rajendra, IG, J&K police, counters these accusations. ''Statistics show that 99 per cent of those being targetted belong to the NC. Their party members have been the worst victims of militancy. These leaders who are complaining against us would not be alive today were it not for our protection.'' Rajendra says, ''All district presidents, block presidents and important leaders of political parties are being provided protection. But we cannot be expected to provide protection to every member of a political party.'' Police records show that during the last decade, NC lost 330 functionaries, Congress 55, BJP 13, Janata Dal 10, PDP 8, CPI (M) 6 and Awami League 5. NC president Omar Abdullah disputes these figures and claims his party has lost 3,500 workers ever since militancy reared its ugly head in the Valley. Rajendra says the next few weeks will witness a stepping up of militant activity. ''Terrorist groups will leave no stone unturned to terrorise the local public, thereby ensuring that their secessionist agenda does not come a cropper.'' The Centre has agreed to send 350 additional companies of paramilitary forces to J&K. Twenty companies of Central Reserve Police Force have already arrived in Kashmir.


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