May 2019 News

In South Kashmir A Sigh Of Relief That Elections Are Over

7 May 2019
Kashmir Reader
Raashid Hassan

Shopian: After a day of violence caused by holding of elections for the lower house of Indian Parliament, the south Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama are hoping that the worst is behind them and the coming days will be of relative peace. The parliamentary elections held on Monday were boycotted by the overwhelming majority of voters, with only 2.5 percent of polling percentage recorded in the twin districts. Amid grenades and petrol bombs hurled at polling stations, street clashes with government forces left more than a dozen civilians with pellet injuries. In the days leading to the elections, police and paramilitary forces arrested a large number of youths, a number close to 200, from their homes in night raids. The government called in 300 additional companies of central armed forces, comprising 35,000 troops, to stand guard on election day. After all this, Shahid Ahmad, a student in Shopian, feels that the arrest spree should be over and restoration of peace would be on everyone's mind. 'It was good to see that there was no fatality during the election violence while at the same time people boycotted the poll. Now what I want is restoration of peace,' he said. A day after the elections has also begun the holy month of Ramadan. Last year, the Government of India announced a ceasefire in its counter-insurgency operations during this month. However, violence and killing of militants still continued. According to the union ministry of home affairs, as many as 23 militants, eight government forces' personnel, and four civilians were killed during the Ramadan 'ceasefire' last year. Besides, there were injuries to 37 government forces' personnel and to 33 civilians. Five militants were arrested during the month. People's Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti this Saturday appealed to the Government of India as well as to militants to observe a truce during this year's Ramadan, so that people can get some 'relief'. Shopian and Pulwama districts have been the worst hit by violence this year, especially after local militant Adil Dar rammed into a CRPF convoy with an explosives-laden car at Lethpora on the national highway on February 14. The suicide bombing killed 49 paramilitary troops. 'We have seen enough of violence now. The government must look at options of peace and ways to move forward,' said Showkat Ahmad, a Pulwama resident. He said that he hoped peace would come because the parliamentary elections were over. 'Not a permanent peace but there should be some relaxation now,' said a government employee from Pulwama. 'The government used all its force to hold the elections, which have ended now,' he said. Shopian district this year has witnessed killing of 23 militants, destruction of at least eight residential houses, and killing of a police woman by militants. Similarly, Pulwama district has witnessed six civilian killings, besides killing of more than a dozen militants.