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Ahead of Lok Sabha polls in Shopian and Pulwama, appearance of Hizbul Mujahideen posters threatening voters leads to heightened security

Shopian: On the dirt road in this sleepy village of Sugan in southern Kashmir district of Shopian which will go to polls on 6 May, gun-wielding security force personnel were patrolling on the roads. The army has asked the local elders to ensure that there was no stone pelting in the area on the polling day where at least six people including some activists of Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) have been arrested in the past few months.

 Ahead of Lok Sabha polls in Shopian and Pulwama, appearance of Hizbul Mujahideen posters threatening voters leads to heightened security

One of the Hizbul Mujahideen posters warning voters to refrain from voting. Image procured by Ishfaq Naseem

Elsewhere in Shopian as well as in the neighbouring district of Pulwama, which will also witness polls on the same day, the security force personnel were deployed in large numbers at the government buildings which have been identified as polling stations.

The security was stepped up also in the wake of posters issued by the militants of Hizbul Mujahideen asking people to boycott the polls. The posters were circulated on the social networking sites here and were reportedly plastered outside the mosque walls and lamp posts.

The posters warned the people from casting the ballot. In one of the warnings, Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Riyaz Naikoo, said that the people who participated in the elections to “support the pro-Indian parties” will face dire consequences.

Admonishing those who are supporting the mainstream political parties, Hizbul Mujahideen said that “You have been warned many a time, but there are some who are not showing respect to the blood of our martyrs. The time of advice has passed, now they will have to face death.”

The militant outfit has also said that they have got the videos of those who have taken part in the election rallies “and their fate will be known by the general public in a few days.”

The Hizbul Mujahideen also said that they have received information that the army and police will force the “people to cast the vote” and warned the police personnel of dire consequences.

“We have received information that at the time of elections, police and the army will force you to vote. Those people should be ready for death. You will have to decide whether you will vote to taste the death,” read one of the posters. It also asked the informants of the police and army that they will be taken to task and advised people them to withdraw their children from the Army Goodwill schools.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel, said that they are “verifying the authenticity of the posters”. He said that “ we have made an adequate deployment of forces and the security has been beefed up.”

Across Pulwama and Shopian the security personnel were seen patrolling the roads while at many places they also carried out checking of vehicles. Both the districts are part of the Anantnag parliamentary constituency, but in view of the volatile situation in southern Kashmir the polls were staggered in three phases and the last round of elections will be held in the two districts in Kashmir.

A senior police official said that they have identified some areas where the deployment of forces will be higher on the polling day in the wake of previous incidents of clashes between the youth and the forces. “There are some areas which will remain our focus,” he said.

In Sugan, the people showed general indifference towards the polls. Shabir Ahmad Lone said that his father, Mohammad Ramzan Lone, 70, was arrested nearly 45 days back as he was a member of JeI. “I will not vote as the police and army are committing severe excesses on people,” he said.

None of the residents that this reporter talked to said that they will cast the ballot while many spoke about the excesses. Most wished anonymity for fear of reprisals. Local residents said that ahead of the elections the patrolling by the forces has increased and they are not able to tend to the fields and are forced to close down the shops early in the evening.

“The army has asked the local elders to assure that the youth won't pelt stones on the day of polling and should cast the ballot,” said a local resident. Residents said that at least six people including a cleric have been arrested in the last over three months in the village.

“The excesses on the people have increased particularly in the past few months. Not only have the activists of JeI been arrested in large numbers, but even the Srinagar-Jammu highway was also closed due to which the vehicles carrying goods to Kashmir have remained stranded for many days on the roads. The youth are being arrested and framed in false cases,” added another resident.

A local youth, Muneer Ahmad Seh, said that “both countries of India and Pakistan should sit on the table and resolve the Kashmir through dialogue. The Kashmir problem can only be resolved through dialogue and the BJP government is shying away from that.”

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Updated Date: May 03, 2019 14:33:21 IST