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Anantnag: PDP’s litmus test

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, Apr 13: Nearly a year after her bitter split with the BJP, PDP leader and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s popularity in her traditional family stronghold Anantnag will be on test when the Lok Sabha constituency goes to polls in three phases on April 23, 29 and May 6.

Mufti, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from this constituency in 2014, is being challenged by state Congress chief G.A. Mir and former judge of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference.

Analysts feel that the 59-year-old PDP President has taken a huge political risk by entering the electoral fray herself despite the substantial anger against her in her constituency for aligning with the BJP.

 

Interestingly, Shams Khwaja of Uttar Pradesh, a non-state subject of Jammu and Kashmir (one who does not have permanent residency certificate of Jammu and Kashmir as per Article 370 of the Constitution), is also contesting the polls from this constituency, possibly marking a first in the state.

Sofi Yusuf of the BJP is also among the 18 candidates in the fray here.

Another first this time is that polling will be held in three phases for the single Lok Sabha constituency of Anantnag in view of heightened militancy in south Kashmir.

The recent major attack in south Kashmir took place on February 14 when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district, killing over 40 security personnel.

It was because of the heightened militancy in this area that the by-election could not be held till now for the Lok Sabha constituency ever since Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the seat after becoming the Chief Minister of the state following death of her father Mufti Sayeed.

All four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama have seen increased militancy since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burban Wani was killed in a gunfight with the security forces in Kokernag area of Anantnag district in July 2016.

Burhani’s killing unleashed the 2016 unrest in the Kashmir valley in which 98 civilian protesters were killed and over 4,000 others lost their vision partially or permanently due to pellet gunshots fired by the security forces to control unruly mobs.

After Burhan’s killing, scores of local youths reportedly joined the militant ranks. Mehbooba Mufti was the Chief Minister then, heading a coalition government of PDP and BJP. The coalition government collapsed in June last year when the BJP withdrew its support.

The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency has traditionally been a political stronghold of the PDP and Mehbooba Mufti’s victory or defeat is likely to weigh heavily on the prospects of her party’s performance when Assembly elections are held in the state which is under the President’s Rule currently.

The constituency has 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag, Bijbehara, Kokernag, Shangus, Devsar, Homeshalibugh, Noorabad, Kulgam, Dooru, Shopian, Wachi, Rajpora, Pulwama, Tral, Pahalgam and Pampore.

Of these, the PDP had won in 11, the National Conference and Congress in 2 each and the CPI-M in 1 in the 2014.

Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the Congress has a strong support base in Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus and Devsar voting segments.

The election campaign of all three main contestants — PDP, NC and Congress — is largely focused on the preservation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution which guarantee special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The BJP has declared its commitment to abrogate these articles if voted to power again.

Security forces face a huge challenge to ensure incident-free elections in this constituency.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been planned for the three days the constituency goes to vote.

A total of 13,93,370 voters are eligible to exercise vote in 1,842 polling stations on April 23, April 29 and May 6. (IANS)


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Jaish almost wiped out, no one willing to head it: Army

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 24: Army on Wednesday claimed the government forces have “severely targeted” the militants for the last few months and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant outfit was “almost wiped out with no one willing to take over it”.

Addressing a press conference here, GOC 15 Corps, KJS Dhillon, who was accompanied by Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh, IGP Kashmir SP Pani, and IG CRPF Zulfikar Hassan, said that 69 militants have been killed and 12 of them arrested so far this year.

“Post Pulwama incident, 41 militants have been killed and out of them 25 belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, 13 of them were Pakistanis while 13 were A+ category,” Dhillon said.

 

The GOC 15 Corps claimed that they have targeted JeM leadership.

“The situation now is so that no one is coming forward to take over the leadership of JeM in the valley,” he said.

“Even after Pakistan’s best efforts, we will continue to suppress JeM. The operations against the militants will continue with full vigour and we will not let militancy rise up,” he said, while appealing the local militants to surrender.

“Recruitment of local militants has gone down. In addition, those who surrender, we will take care of their security,” he said.

Dhillon also advised civilians not to rush to the encounter sites.

Asked about the bi-weekly restrictions on civilian traffic on the Highway, he replied, “This is just a temporary measure. There are now relaxations on the civilian traffic.”

On the occasion, the DGP said 272 militants were killed in the state during 2018 and a “large number was apprehended.”

He too claimed that the local recruitment in militant outfits had declined.

“2018 was generally a successful year. There has been less ‘law and order’ problem. We brought many youth (who had joined militancy) back to their homes,” the DGP claimed.

“Elections have been conducted peacefully in the state because of a well-planned security grid. Voter turnover at 13 percent in Anantnag district is not less. People voted despite threats, no one can be forced to vote,” he said.

Asked there were reports that 11 youth had gone missing in south Kashmir during the last one month, the IGP Kashmir said, “Few had gone missing but returned. They had gone missing for other reasons, not to join militancy.”

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Held Pak militant paraded before media

‘Chota Dujana was active in Srinagar for over a year’

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 24: Police on Wednesday presented a Pakistani militant Mohammad Waqar, alias Chota Dujana before the media, who, they claimed, was arrested from Pattan area in Baramulla on Monday.

During a press conference here, the militant was briefly allowed to respond to media.

“My name is Mohammad Waqar, resident of Miana Mohalla Punjab in Pakistan. I underwent a four-month militant training there,” he said.

 

 “I was told that Kashmiris are harassed, women are assaulted and Muslims are not allowed to offer prayers in Masjids. But I did not find any such thing here,” he replied when asked why had he picked up arms.

The militant was soon moved away.

SSP Baramulla, Abdul Wahid, said Waqar was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba and had arrived in Kashmir in July 2017.

“He was operating in Srinagar for over a year now,” the officer said.

He added that the militant was travelling in a vehicle along with a Kashmiri when they were intercepted by the police near Mirgund, Pattan.

“They were chased and arrested near Chainabal Pattan,” he said.

The SSP said that as per their preliminary investigations, the militant was given shelter in old city as well as uptown areas of Srinagar.

“His plan was to resurrect militancy in Baramulla,” Wahid said.

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Malik sent to judicial custody till May 24

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New Delhi, Apr 24: A Delhi court Wednesday sent the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, arrested in connection with the alleged funding case, to judicial custody till May 24.

The Tihar jail authorities have also moved an application seeking direction to produce Malik through video conferencing due to security concerns.

The family of Yasin Malik, said on Saturday, that the JKLF chief had fallen ill and was shifted to a Delhi hospital after he went on a hunger strike to protest against his “illegal” detention.

 

Earlier this month, Malik was brought to Delhi from Jammu and was later arrested by NIA in connection with an alleged case related to the funding of militant and separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. He was produced in a special court which remanded him in NIA’s custody till April 22.

Malik was shifted to Delhi’s Tihar Jail after NIA secured his production remand.  The JKLF chief was taken into preventive custody in February by the J&K police and lodged in Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail.

Malik organisation JKLF was banned last month by the Centre.

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