This Article is From Sep 09, 2018

Jammu And Kashmir Panchayat Polls Under The Shadow Of Violence And Fear

Municipal polls are being conducted after a gap of 13 years with the last elections in 2005 and the last panchayat polls in 2011.

Distraught families point out that the elections are meaningless until security is restored.


For the last four years, Sheeraz has been bringing up her two daughters all by herself after her husband Mohammad Sultan, a village head in south Kashmir's Shopian district, was killed by terrorists in 2014. She says the situation is just not conducive for the upcoming local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
"It is a wrong thing to conduct elections right now, situation is bad, I lost my husband but haven't got any relief, he was the sole bread earner of the family, we got nothing, situation is bad right now," said Sheeraz.

The National Conference has said it is boycotting the local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir, till the centre clears its position on Article 35A - a constitutional provision that defines "permanent residents" of the state - and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is likely to follow suit.

The local body elections are being held after a long time and security of the candidates is a big concern. With the announcement of elections amid rising graph of violence in Kashmir, intelligence inputs suggest more violence during the polls.

The intelligence inputs suggest violence during the urban body elections in October and the Panchayat elections in November and December. According to reports, sixteen village level leaders have been killed in the last four years.

Distraught families of political workers, like Gowhar Ahmad who was killed in November 2017, months after he joined as district president of the BJP's youth wing in Shopian, have also pointed out that the elections are meaningless until security is restored and the killings stop. 

"We have lost everything, we lost our son, those people who are happy will take part in elections, not us, we have lost all happiness," said Shameema Akhtar, mother of Gowhar Ahmad.

But, the security forces are confident that elections will be conducted peacefully.  "For the people of this state and for the grassroots level election is a means for empowerment and I am sure that people will take part in the elections. Our efforts is to maintain peace so that elections are held in a good way", said AK Bhatt of GOC 15 corps.

The parties in the state have also questioned the timing of the elections in a sharply deteriorating security scenario.

Shabir Ahmad Kullay, who was a National Conference candidate in Shopian in 2014 assembly elections, says local bodies and Panchayat elections are just not possible right now. "Situation is such that nobody is ready to contest the polls," he said.

Mr Kullay said, "We will not find any candidates, this is the factual position, when people are getting killed in all places, how we will go and talk to people about elections."

"There should be a two sided war, and there should be no bloodshed, there is a boycott call and people have lot of apprehensions in their mind, I don't think situation is very conducive for elections until the government comes up with some solutions to improve the situation," said Rafi Mir, a PDP leader.

Municipal polls are being conducted after a gap of 13 years with the last elections in 2005 and the last panchayat polls in 2011. Two hundred additional central police companies are being deployed to maintain security during the polls.