Srinagar: Since the 90s, many political workers have been killed before, after and during the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The state has a history of attacks on members of legislative assembly (MLAs), sarpanch, panchs, political workers and many others who were directly or indirectly related to the politicians. These attacks have since long been used as a pressure tactic.
On April 16, 2019, just 36 hours before phase II of Lok Sabha elections, unknown persons reportedly hurled a grenade at the house of National Conference (NC) leader Muhammad Ashraf Bhat when he was addressing the party workers. This incident took place in Tral. Since 2014, Tral has become capital of militancy in the Valley – owing to the presence of the Hizbul Mujahedeen.
The grenade missed the target and exploded outside Bhat’s residence. Apart from Bhat and the party workers, Hasnain Masoodi, NC’s parliamentary polls candidate, was also present at Bhat’s house. No one was injured in the attack.
Just 24 hours before this incident, a grenade and stones were pelted at the cavalcade of former chief minister and president of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti at Dargah in Srinagar. Mufti was heading to Bijbehara in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district to attend a party workers’ convention.
Earlier, a PDP political worker was killed in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Tamjeed Ahmad Balla, a 58-year-old hailing from Tral, has been associated with NC and PDP intermittently since the 90s. But now his hopes from both the parties have withered.
“My house has been attacked many times. There were many reasons behind the attack, but mainly, the reason has been my affiliation with the political parties,” he said.
But did Balla’s affiliation fetch him anything? In 2002, when PDP secured a victory in the Assembly elections, PDP took into account his efforts and his role in their success, but was just in words. “I worked day and night to gather and motivate people to vote for PDP. But I got nothing in return. The lanes of my locality still lack street lights and macadamised roads,” said Balla.
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During the next elections, Balla worked for the NC, but there was not much difference, which turned the people of his locality against him. “Their anger was against me, as they would vote for the political party I would recommend to them,” he added.
Balla recalls one of the incidents when a few masked men barged into his residence. He said, “I was sitting in the lobby when the armed men entered my house. They locked my family in a room, and asked me to talk to them in a separate room.”
While talking to Balla, the armed men allegedly asked him to back off, as his work with any of the political parties had yielded nothing.
“I listened to them, as one of them was pointing his gun to my chest. One among them said to me, ‘You know that politicians are fooling people, so, stop asking people to cast their votes.’ Doesn’t matter who was speaking, but he was speaking the truth,” said Balla.
After this incident, and owing to his experiences with both the parties, Balla decided to break his affiliation with all the political parties, and announced his resignation publicly during congregational prayers on Friday.
While speaking about the attacks on the politicians, Balla said that it has more to do with the pain of the people. During the chief ministership of Omar Abdullah in 2010, many civilians were killed and thousands were injured. “Kashmiri people were extremely angry. Politicians have to address their pain. Everyone is using Kashmiris and the Kashmir issue as a trump card,” said Balla.
In 2016, when the PDP was in power and Mehbooba Mufti was a CM, more than 100 people were killed, and thousands were blinded due to the pellets. Balla opined: “That anger is evident in the people. So, attacks on politicians are not unexpected. But it is very hard to understand how militants are able to carry out the attack despite the heavy presence of forces in valley.”
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