September 2002 News

Centre gets militancy warning call as polls draw close

11 September 2002
The Statesman

Jammu: With the killing of National Conference minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, the Centre got a taste of what lies ahead in the run-up to the J&K polls on 16 September. “This is just the beginning. Efforts to disrupt elections will be stepped up in the next few days. Today’s killing follows a trail of violence since elections were announced,” a home ministry official said. Unfortunately, the attack on Lone came at a time when election campaigning was at its peak and voters in rural Kashmir, especially in the twin border districts of Baramulla and Kupwara, were showing much enthusiasm for the polls. Lone’s murder, the second in the area, will dampen the spirits of the people. However, much would depend on the extent of violence in the coming days. With the killing of Lone, elections in this important assembly segment would probably be countermanded. The deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Deeraj Gupta, said though his office had no confirmation of the incident yet, the matter will be referred to the Election Commission. Under the laws, if a candidate belonging to any recognised party is killed, elections are countermanded. Sources said despite all precautions it appeared that the Pakistan-based militant tanzeems will do everything possible to dampen the spirits of the people and ultimately manage a low turn-out. Last week, an Independent candidate Abdul Rehman Sheikh was killed in Handwara, Kupwara district. Today, militants attacked the house of tourism minister Ms Sakina Itoo in Anantnag district and abducted the grandson of a National Conference leader from his house in Mendhar area of Poonch district. NC’s women’s wing district president Mehra Begum was killed in Baramulla last night. Her bodyguard also died in the attack. Militants fired on a PDP campaign party near Nadihal in Bandipora area in Baramulla district last night, injuring five party workers. Militants hurled grenades and fired at Congress candidate Tariq Mohiuddin last night, as he was returning home after campaigning. Seven policemen were injured in the attack. Several candidates and political activists have been targeted by the militants since the announcement of polls schedule on 2 August. Militants have killed over 20 political activists including at least 17 National Conference workers and their leaders. More than 2,000 of the total 7025 polling stations in the state have been declared hypersensitive. Majority of these are in districts of Rajouri, Poonch and Kupwara. After the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad warned people to stay away from the polls, their local units have intensified their activities. The Chenab Division of the Hizbul Mujahideen in a secret meeting has called for boycott of the elections. Governor Mr GC Saxena has condemned the killing of Lone. National Conference president Mr Omar Abdullah lamed Pakistan for the incident. The government has announced state mourning. All government offices and educational institutions will remain closed tomorrow.


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