Jammu and Kashmir bypolls: Congress cancels rallies in Pampore and Pulwama, fears safety of candidates
The political campaigning ahead of the by-election in Srinagar and Anantnag Parliamentary constituencies has taken a hit with the Indian National Congress (INC) cancelling its rallies in South Kashmir on Monday after reports emerged of militants attending the funeral of a Hizbul Mujahideen member in Pulwama. The by-election for the two Parliamentary seats is set to take place on April 9 and 12 respectively.
Srinagar: The political campaigning ahead of the by-election in Srinagar and Anantnag Parliamentary constituencies has taken a hit with the Indian National Congress (INC) cancelling its rallies in South Kashmir on Monday after reports emerged of militants attending the funeral of a Hizbul Mujahideen member in Pulwama. The by-election for the two Parliamentary seats is set to take place on April 9 and 12 respectively.
As per reports, militants fired gunshots in the air late Sunday night during the funeral of one of their slain men at Bellow in Pulwama. Two militants were killed during an encounter with security forces at Awantipora on Sunday, which has also triggered a shutdown in the poll-bound districts of Shopian and Pulwama leading to the cancellation of rallies by Congress. The shutdown was observed even in the hometown of slain HM commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani even though there was no strike call given by the separatists.
Incidents of militancy have increased in the last two days with at least four such incidents reported on Sunday alone. The militants also struck at the ancestral house of the Minster for Haj and Auqaf, Farooq Andrabi late Sunday night, which left two policemen injured. A senior security official said that the militants managed to flee from the spot along with the weapons of the five security personnel who were deployed for duty. “Militants fired at the security personnel during which two policemen were injured. One received bullets in the abdomen and another in the leg," said the police official.
The Congress which had planned two rallies at Pampore and Pulwama cancelled them after security was beefed up in some areas of South Kashmir following clashes between the security forces and the youth on Monday.
At Pulwama, a joint NC-Congress rally was planned at the NC’s party office, while a public rally was also scheduled in Pampore. Though the police said that there was no advisory against public rallies, the campaigning has remained restricted mostly to the closed door meetings of the party workers of National Conference (NC), Congress and the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Pulwama town witnessed a complete shutdown with shops and business establishments remaining closed and only a skeletal movement of private vehicles was observed on the roads.
Congress state president, GA Mir, who is the joint NC-Congress candidate for the Anantnag seat, lashed out at the government for failing to provide adequate security set up for the campaigning. "It is the responsibility of the government and the Election commission of India (ECI) that adequate security must be provided to the candidates. But the government has already scaled down the security of our office bearers. The escalation in the militant incidents has only made things worse for us," he said.
Mir added that the party had no choice but to cancel the rallies. “How could have we conducted the rallies? There are reports that militants are moving freely in the areas and the place where we were to hold the election meeting witnessed a shutdown. It was not possible to carry out the rallies. We have been left to the mercy of God," he said.
Mir is pitted against Tasauq Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on the Anantnag seat which will go to polls on April 12. Earlier, people had pelted stones at the party meeting of PDP in the militancy-infested Kulgam area. Three youth were injured in the incident.
However, top police officials said that adequate security arrangements are being made for campaigning of the candidates and to ensure incident-free polls. Director General of Police, SP Vaid, said that the adequate security arrangements are being made for the rallies of the candidates. "We have also taken up the need for deployment of addition paramilitary forces issue with the Central government in the areas which are witnessing polls, and security has particularly been beefed up across Kashmir," he said.
Mir said that the scaling down of security has also been brought to the notice of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Electoral Officer (JKCEO), Shant Manu, said that an additional deployment of forces will be made for smooth polling. "Yes, there has been an increase in incidents of violence which has affected the campaign of the parties. And we have asked the Central government to deploy additional forces here. At least, we have projected the requirement of 254 companies of paramilitary forces for the polls,” he said.
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