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Amid beefed-up security, all eyes on polls today

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Srinagar, Oct 7: Amid a barrage of forces manning almost every second street in the Valley, three Municipal Corporation Wards in Srinagar and over 20 municipal committees in several districts across Jammu and Kashmir will go to polls in phase I of Urban Local Bodies Elections today (Monday).

The polls, unique in many ways, are seeing 2990 candidates, of which only 207 are from Kashmir, in the fray for the four phased ULB polls.

The day arrives amidst a massive security bandobast across the valley in addition to scores of detentions of youth and separatist leaders and activists especially in the south of Kashmir.

 

Sources say that around 400 people, many of whom include alleged stone pelters, have been detained to ensure “peaceful” polling.

Government forces, for the last one week, also intensified checking and area domination as part of an elaborate plan for the smooth conduct of local body polls.

“An elaborate security plan has been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls,” a senior police official said.

He said forces have intensified vehicle checking, frisking and area domination in the city as well as in the other areas of the valley in the run up to the polls.

Many check-points have been placed in the city where vehicles are being checked. Sniffer dogs are also being used to check vehicles.

“We are making sure that no untoward incident happens,” he said.

Director General Police, Dilbagh Singh Sunday said that all arrangements are in place to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful conduct of the first phase of municipal elections. He also made it clear that restrictions will not be imposed anywhere in Kashmir valley.

DGP Dilbagh Singh, as per Kashmir News Service, said: “Government forces comprising police and paramilitaries have been deployed in strength across Jammu and Kashmir particularly the parts of valley scheduled to go for polls tomorrow (Monday). Restrictions will not be imposed in any part of Kashmir valley.”

Calling upon people to come out to vote without any fear, DGP said “people fight for rights but in Kashmir people are granted opportunities to exercise their right to franchise without fighting for it.”

He urged people to come out without any fear to cast their votes.

Meanwhile, reports emanating from different parts of Srinagar and towns of Kashmir valley said that frisking of commuters and checking of vehicles has been intensified across Kashmir particularly the areas scheduled to go to polls on Monday.

Monday’s elections will be followed by the second phase on October 10, third phase on October 13 and last phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.

As many as 244 candidates have been elected unopposed, majority of them from Kashmir valley where candidates braved militant threats to take part in the democratic exercise.

Two mainstream state parties – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party – have boycotted the polls over the challenge to the validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution.

CPI (M) and BSP are the other two parties which have also stayed away from the municipal polls, leaving the BJP and the Congress in a direct contest.

“A total of 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections. Majority are trying their luck from Jammu province with 2,137 candidates, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh region,” an official of the state election commission told PTI.

As many as 3,372 candidates have filed their nominations for the four-phased elections. The last election to the municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through secret ballot and the term of five years expired in February 2010.

There are 16,97,291 eligible voters in the 1,145 wards across the state. Kashmir valley has the highest number of wards with 598 and an electorate of 10,32,498, while Jammu province has 521 wards with 6,44,568 voters. Ladakh region has 26 wards with electorate of 20,225.

The official said 231 candidates were elected unopposed in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu region. Two wards, one each in Kulgam and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir, did not attract any nomination apparently due to the militant threat, even as the police have arrested about 500 OGWs over the past one week across Kashmir as part of the security plan to ensure free and fair elections, officials said.

“About 450 to 500 OGWs of militants who were issuing threats and hatching conspiracies to sabotage the election process were arrested over the past one week, Director General of state Police Dilbag Singh said.

He said the Police and other security agencies were fully prepared to face any kind of situation for smooth conduct of the polls.

In first phase, 1,283 candidates are in the fray with 1,010 from Jammu, 207 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh for 422 wards (247 in Jammu, 149 in Kashmir, 26 in Ladakh), the official said.

The second phase will seal the fate of 1,094 contestants in 218 wards in Jammu region and 166 wards in Kashmir valley, the official said, adding that 61 candidates got elected unopposed in this phase.

In the third phase, a total of 411 candidates are trying their luck – 242 in 56 wards of Jammu province and 169 in 151 wards of Kashmir valley, the official said. Forty nine candidates got elected unopposed in this phase, the official said.

Similarly, 202 candidates are in the fray for the fourth and final phase under which are 132 wards. Fifty two candidates were elected unopposed in this phase.

Out of the total 1,145 wards of municipality and Local bodies, 90 wards have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 38 for Scheduled Tribes (ST), which include 31 and 13 wards reserved for SC and ST women respectively, he said.

In addition to this, 322 wards have been reserved for Women belonging to the open category, the officer said.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has the highest number of electors with 6,63,775 persons in 74 wards, followed by Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) with 75 wards and 4,00,301 electors, he said.

The official said Jammu Municipal Corporation has the highest number of contestants with 447, whose fate would be sealed in the first phase on October 8, while 274 candidates are in the fray for Srinagar Municipal Corporation which is going to polls in all the four phases.

Inspector General of CRPF, Kashmir, Ravideep Singh Sahi said the “environment” in the entire Kashmir Valley is under control and the endeavour is to create a sense of security so that the people come out to vote.

“We have made elaborate arrangements for the security. Whatever force was required for the elections, has come and they are being deployed. They have been here for some time and they are adequately familiarised with the area. We have started area domination, check-points have been installed in various areas and we are working in close coordination with the police and army,” Singh said.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik Saturday took a detailed review of the security situation in the state ahead of the first phase of the municipal elections.

The meeting was attended by Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh, GOC 15 Corps, Lt Gen A K Bhat, and top officials from police, CRPF and civil administration.

The meeting discussed security arrangements made for the smooth conduct of the forthcoming elections to urban local bodies and panchayats and the need of a safe environment for the elections


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Three gunfights in north Kashmir

: 2 militants killed; JKP officer among 4 cops, 3 paratroopers, 2 civilians injured in B’la

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Srinagar, Mar 21: North Kashmir Thursday witnessed three major encounters, first at Kalantra, Kreeri area of Baramulla, second in Sopore and the third one in Hajin area of Bandipora district.

While the gunfight in Baramulla ended Thursday evening, the other two were still going on at the time of filing this report.
Quoting official sources, news agency GNS said that two militants were killed and three para commandos wounded in the gunfight that started on Wednesday late evening between government forces and militants in Baramulla.

They said the gunfight began after army’s 52 RR, 29 RR, Special Operation Group of Police (SOG) and CRPF on Wednesday evening launched a search operation in Kandi area of Kalantra belt based on inputs about the presence of militants.

 

Additional reinforcements of 3 Para commandos were rushed to the area Thursday morning. During the course of the gunfight, two para commandos including an officer of Major rank and a soldier of 29 RR were injured. The injured were evacuated to army’s 92 base hospital Badamibagh Srinagar for treatment, where two are said to be critical.

The forces had also busted a militant hideout in the area Wednesday evening.

A senior police officer said that two militants were killed in the gunfight which ended late Thursday. “The bodies of both the militants were retrieved along with as many weapons”.
DSP Headquarter along with three policemen and an ambulance driver was among two civilians injured in day-long clashes that erupted in the area soon after the forces resumed search operation. All the injured were taken to nearby hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, in wake of the gunfight, authorities had suspended internet service in the northern district.

Sopore encounter: A police officer was among two cops injured on Thursday in an ongoing gunfight between government forces and militants in north Kashmir’s Sopore village.
Reports said a joint team of Army’s 22 RR, special operation group of police and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in Mir Mohalla Warpora village of Sopore on Thursday morning.

A police official said that militants fired upon outer cordon party in which a Station House Officer (SHO) and his two security guards were injured. All the injured policemen have been shifted to Srinagar for specialized treatment.

The officer further said that earlier they had brought the family of a trapped militant to the encounter site to persuade him to surrender, however it proved futile.

As per the sources one or two militants are believed to be trapped including a top commander.
Meanwhile, SSP Sopore Javid Iqbal, as per GNS, said that searches for the hiding militants are on and no contact with militants has been established as of now.
Earlier, in the day suspected militants fired UBGL towards CRPF camp located in main Chowk near SBI Bank in Sopore town.

A CRPF official said that the UBGL exploded with a bang and in the incident, no loss of life or injury were reported from the forces side.
However, reports said a passerby identified as Irshad Ahmed Mir son of Bashir Ahmed Mir resident of Checkrodey Khan area of Sopore received splinter injuries in the attack and were rushed to Sub District hospital Sopore for treatment.

BMO Sopore Dr Sami said that the youth was received by the hospital and is being operated upon. The BMO said that the condition of the youth is stated to be stable.
Meanwhile, the internet has been also suspended in the parts of Sopore for precautionary measures.

Hajin gunfight: A gunfight broke out in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Thursday.
Reports said a joint team of Army’s 13RR, CRPF and SOG launched a cordon at Mir Mohalla of Hajin.

A police officer said the operation was launched following credible inputs about the presence of some militants in the area.

As the joint team of forces approached the suspected house, the hiding militants fired upon government forces, triggering an encounter.

SSP Bandipora Rahu Malik told GNS that forces had cordoned the suspected house earlier but the operation was delayed due to evacuation of civilians near the encounter site.

A police officer said members of local Auqaf committee and a magistrate were brought to the encounter site to persuade the hiding militants to release the civilian “taken hostage by them”.

According to police sources, a girl who was taken hostage was evacuated by the joint team of forces while a minor boy is still in the house. His fate is not known so far, the official said.

As per sources, two militants are believed to be trapped in the house. (With inputs from GNS)

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Lok Sabha polls: BJP eyeing OBCs, Shia-dominated areas of Kashmir

Announces candidates for Kashmir constituencies

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Mar 21: Right-wing BJP has decided to contest on all seats in upcoming polls while eyeing far-flung and Shia-dominated areas to make inroads in Kashmir.

The Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in five phases beginning April 11. The assembly polls are also expected to be held after the Parliamentary polls.

Buoyed by forming the alliance government with PDP for the first time in the state, and then winning some seats in Panchayat elections, BJP has decided to contest on all seats in the upcoming parliamentary and assembly elections in Kashmir.

 

On Thursday, BJP announced its candidates for Lok Sabha elections for the three Constituencies in Kashmir province.

As announced by the party on its official Twitter account, Khalid Jahangir will contest from Srinagar, Sofi Yousuf from Anantnag, and Maqbool War from Baramulla Parliamentary constituencies.

BJP leaders have held several meetings in past 10 days where they discussed the party’s strategy.

“Our main focus will be on other backward class (OBC) Muslims, Gujjars and some segments of Shia dominated areas in Kashmir,” a BJP leader told The Kashmir Monitor.

He said that Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Abbas would hold rallies in Shia dominated areas.

“By focusing on marginalised groups, BJP wants to strengthen its base in the valley. The OBCs, Gujjars are upset with valley-based political parties for ignoring their demands,” the BJP leader said.

He said that party’s main focus was not only Jammu but Kashmir as well.

“This is reason that we won’t announce the chief ministerial candidate from Jammu unlike in the past but will tell voters he could be from any region of the state,” he said.

Earlier, BJP held an OBC conference in Srinagar during which, the BJP leaders promised the participants that they would “address” their issues if they “strengthen” the party in the valley.

Sources said the BJP leaders have also been seeking list from the village heads about the problems in their respective years. They are assuring them that government would provide “all possible help” if they cast their vote in favour of its candidates.

The BJP won 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections in Jammu region and the highest vote share of 23 percent for the first time in the electoral history of the state and formed coalition government with the PDP.

BJP State General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Koul said the party has started the process for the Lok Sabha polls.

He said that BJP was ready for holding both parliamentary and assembly polls in the state.
Asked if the party ran out of seats, what will be next option, he replied, “The options come out on their own at that time. Nobody had thought in 2014 that the PDP will forge an alliance with BJP.
The PDP would otherwise leave no stone unturned to put down BJP. Mayawati and Akhilseh Yadav were poles part but now they came together during election time. This is what happens. So we don’t need to worry about the options. We will have several options if there require any such need.”

He said that party will decide on the chief minister candidate. “He can either be from Jammu, Kashmir, or Ladakh but he will surely be from BJP. People from all parts will vote for us,” he added.

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PDP wants Mehbooba to contest from Anantnag

Kashmir News Service

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Srinagar, Mar 21: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) core group, headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (Baji or elder sister as she’s called), will meet on Friday to discuss and finalise the names of its candidates for upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said Mehbooba Mufti has met senior party leaders in Jammu as well as Kashmir before she finalises the names of the candidates.

“The core group meeting is likely to take place tomorrow (Friday),” PDP Chief Spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir was quoted saying by news agency Kashmir News Service.

 

While the party has announced former employees’ union leader Abdul Qayoom Wani as its candidate for the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, the candidates for the remaining seats will be finalised in the meeting.

Sources said Mehbooba on Monday interacted with leaders of all 37 Assembly seats in Jammu province to seek their opinion on the candidature for the two Jammu seats.

According to a party leader, though three leaders including A R Veeri and Mehboob Beg are among the probables for the Anantnag seat, the party leaders want Mehbooba Mufti to contest the election from southern Kashmir.

The restive southern Kashmir seat was last held by Mehbooba before she returned to state in 2016 and later went on to become the Chief Minister.

However, the Election Commission of India couldn’t hold the by-polls to the seat owing to “unfavorable security scenario” in the constituency which is spread over four districts.

In 2014 parliamentary polls, Mehbooba bagged the seat but after facing a tough fight from the Congress candidate Hilal Ahmed Shah, who lost with a very thin margin. Shah may get mandate for Assembly polls from Anantnag seat. In South Kashmir, considered as the bastion of PDP as most of the former legislators of the party belonged to south Kashmir districts out of its total strengthen of legislators that was 28.

However, party recently suffered a dent as majority of its prominent faces quit. Those who left include Imran Raza Ansari, Abid Ansari, Javaid Mustafa Mir, Syed Basharat Bukhari, Peer Hussain and last but not the least, Haseeb Drabu.

A senior PDP leader confirmed that the party would pitch for Mehbooba to be its candidate for south Kashmir seat. “We are sure about her win,” he said, wishing not to be named. Mehbooba has already started her public out-reach to garner peoples’ support once again.

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