Days after Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti announced panchayat polls and hoped that the people would choose "ballots over bullets", Hizbul Mujahideen threatened to pour acid and gouge out eyes of those who participate in the electoral process.
According to various media reports, the indigenous militant organisation issued the threat through a purported audio tape, wherein the group's operational commander Riyaz Naikoo can be heard talking to another militant Sameer Tiger, asking him to blind those who fight or vote in these elections, Greater Kashmir reported.
“You saw in 2016 how many youth lost their eye sights (to pellets). That is why we have planned… whosoever fights elections, he will be dragged out of his home and concentrated acid — sulphuric or hydrochloric acid — will be poured into his eyes so that he loses his eyesight and becomes a burden for his family for life,” Hindustan Times quotes a militant believed to be Naikoo as saying.
Earlier, Kashmiri separatists leaders exhorted the citizens of the Valley to boycott the panchayat polls, alleging that the central and state governments have been using such elections to hoodwink international community.
"India and its stooges repeatedly stage this election drama to hoodwink international community, and pro-India parties and their leaders try to lure people in the name of roads, unemployment and other sugar-coated things," the separatists said in a joint statement under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL).
"Soon (after) this election drama is over, these hypocrites, their masters in Delhi and media, declare this vote as a vote for India and use this farce to camouflage atrocities and human rights abuses in Kashmir," they said.
The separatists said any sort of election under this system — be it for "so-called Assembly, Parliament, municipal committee or panchayat" – is meant only to "harm the interests of Kashmiris". "We appeal people of Kashmir to boycott panchayat election drama announced by the so-called rulers," they said.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the threats and aggressive posturing, the previous Panchayat representatives have decided to contest the elections, DNA reported.
"We are not going to be bogged down by such threats. We will participate in the polls because we have made umpteen sacrifices for democracy. We do not fear bullets but Hizbul Mujhadeen is frightened by the ballot", the DNA report quoted Anil Sharma, president of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, (AJKPC), an apex body of former Panchayat representatives as saying. He, however, urged the government to provide proper security for the candidates.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh also hoped that the panchayat polls next month would be held in an environment free from violence. "I am confident elections will be held and the government will ensure they are held without violence," Singh told reporters.
Singh described the threat by Hizbul Mujahideen as a "desperation" by militants, and also by Pakistan, "which is forcing the terrorists to spread fear psychosis and disrupt this process of elections."
The panchayat polls could not be held in 2016 because of violence and unrest in the Valley after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in July that year. The last panchayat polls were last held in 2011 under the rule of Omar Abdullah government, which was lauded for completing the polling exercise peacefully.
According to a report by The Hindu, between 1978 and 2011, panchayat elections were held only once under Farooq Abdullah’s government in 2001-02. However, a poor voter turnout and less than 30 percent of members getting elected in the Valley, in contrast to Jammu and Ladakh regions, led to the succeeding Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government scrapping it.
The polls are scheduled to be held from 15 February.
Deputy chief minister Singh asserted that the youths, who have been misled under Pakistan's influence, have returned. "In Kashmir parents and friends are appealing militants to come back and we hope that in future more people will shun militancy and return to their homes," he said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2018 20:16 PM