Sarpanch Killing Cast Shadow Of Fear In Poll-bound South Kashmir

1 December 2014
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: The killing of a village head by militants last evening may have cast a shadow of fear in south Kashmir just 24 hours before the polls but voters' enthusiasm in Kulgam remains intact. The impact of the killing of National Conference (NC) sarpanch Muhammad Sultan Bhat in Shopian district, going to polls in the fourth phase, has terrorised many local leaders. Muhammad Anwar, Congress candidate from Pampore in Pulwama district, on Monday accused the security forces of being lax. 'I have been approaching the police for providing extra deployment during road shows and election rallies but was shown cold shoulder,' said Anwar. Feeling insecure after the militant attack, the Congress leader is approaching the Election Commission of India. Several leaders in Shopian expressed the fear after the attack but adjacent district of Kulgam, which will go to polls tomorrow, remain unfazed by the recent violence in the valley. 'Boycott, militant violence and polling have been the hallmark of Kulgam district. There are pockets with separatist but areas like Noorabad witness brisk polling. I don't think dedicated cadre of parties will be cowed down by militant violence this time,' said a school teacher in Kulgam on the condition of anonymity. Meanwhile, the National Conference has also approached the ECI for increasing the security cover. 'The EC code forbids me from any engagement with the security forces so the EC is now responsible for plugging any loopholes. My party will formally request the ECI to review security in this area. We are concerned about gaps in the security grid,' wrote chief minister Omar Abdullah on Twitter. Around 220 additional companies of paramilitary troops will be deployed for the second phase of the polls in twin districts of Kupwara and Kulgam. 'Additional companies of paramilitary CRPF had been deployed in north Kashmir's Kupwara and south Kashmir's Kulgam districts to conduct incident-free polling. Strong action would be taken against all such youth who were habitual of creating trouble,' said inspector general of police Kashmir Abdul Gani Mir. He said the police are working on a multi-pronged strategy. 'Militants would try to disrupt polls and had been trying it for long time but we are here to foil their designs,' he said. But militants recently resurfaced in Kashmir valley when they hurled a grenade in the heart of the city at Lal Chowk on Saturday, leaving eight people injured.