Srinagar: Ahead of the District Development Council polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the authorities are continuously reviewing the security situation in the region in view of a possible militant threat aimed to disrupt the elections scheduled this week.
The threat on the electoral exercise, which begins from November 28, looms even as insurgency in the Valley has “weakened” considerably, according to security officials, since its resurgence in the past five years.
The authorities have provided security as well as secure accommodation to over 200 public representatives and those in the poll fray. An official said that during the campaigning many candidates will also be provided with security arrangements after assessment.
J&K’s election commissioner KK Sharma during a presser in Srinagar on Monday (November 23) said that the authorities have brought additional central paramilitary forces for conducting the elections.
The state election commissioner also refuted that some of the candidates were held against their will in the secured locations and kept from campaigning, a charge levelled by political leaders including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
The conducting of elections is nevertheless a major concern for the authorities especially in the wake of increased attacks on political workers. As many as 352 candidates are in fray for the first phase of DDC polls to be held in eight phases across the Jammu and Kashmir UT from November 28 till December 19. The results of the elections will be declared on December 22.
Notably, 17 political workers and activists have been killed in Kashmir, a majority of them them belonging to the BJP, in the recent past.
According to police, there is a significant possibility of militants attempting to disrupt the upcoming polls, which is the first major polling exercise since the BJP led government unilaterally abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated J&K into two union territories, a step that was widely censured by regional political players including its former allies.
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Since then, nearly 250 militants have been killed in the region, most of them within the Valley, especially in South Kashmir areas like Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian. This year alone, over 200 militants have been killed during counter-insurgency operations, with a little over dozen in Jammu region.
Earlier this week, four militants, claimed by police to have been affiliated with the terror outfit Jaish e Mohammad (JeM), were killed near Ban toll plaza in Nagrota area of Jammu, on a highway that leads to Srinagar. The militants were intercepted in an early morning operation following which as many as 11 AK-47 assault rifles, three pistols and 29 grenades were recovered, according to the police’s statement.
The police said, the militants had likely infiltrated from the Indo-Pak border to disrupt the upcoming DDC polls. The government forces have since uncovered a 150 m long underground tunnel which they suspect was used by the four slain militants. This is the second such tunnel unearthed by the forces along the border in past three months.
An army official told NewsClick that the encounter with four militants, who he says were acting as ‘couriers,’ exposes the state of insurgency in Kashmir. “Firstly, there is a huge dearth of arms and ammunition and secondly, the lack of success in smuggling weapons from across the border,” the official said.
The dearth of weapons and intercepting transport, the officials said, has worked in the benefit of forces to stop the insurgents from carrying out any “spectacular” attack in the region in the wake of DDC polls. “There has to be caution nonetheless,” the official added.
After the DDC polls were announced, posters from a nondescript militant outfit, calling themselves as Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Army (JKLA) surfaced in several parts of the Valley including in Kulgam, Bandipora and city outskirts of Srinagar like Chanapora and Rawalpora areas which security officials say were solely aimed to create fear among the people especially the DDC candidates. The posters cautioned against the sale and purchase of land to non-locals in the region under new “land laws.”
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