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Civic Polls: After 4 attacks, scared candidates ask Govt to rethink

Srinagar, Sep 18: Attack on Panchayat Ghars in south Kashmir in the last two day has unnerved the incumbent Panchs and Sarpanchs, who now demand an improvement in situation even if that needs delaying the polls.

Four Panchayat Ghars were set on fire by unknown persons following the announcement for the Panchayat polls scheduled to begin November 17.
Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Association (JKPA), Shafeeq Mir, said the incidents created “an atmosphere of fear” in the area.

 

He said many potential candidates repeatedly called him since the incidents took place.“It is obvious that fear dominates the area where such incidents happen. We already saw that political parties here have been against Panchayat polls, politicising the entire process. Nobody knows who has committed these attacks,” Mir said.

“The government should first ensure an atmosphere conducive for the polls, even if that becomes possible by delaying the elections.”
Overdue civic polls in the state have been surrounded by controversies. The last winter, security concerns forced a further delay in the polls that were going to be held since the last elections conducted in 2011.

The state has been losing the developmental funds it becomes entitled to by having elected Panchayats and other civic bodies in place.
Now, when the governor administration has decided to go ahead with the polls, major political parties in the state have decided to stay away from the processciting legal threat to Article 35 A.

The militants have already warned the candidates over participation in the polls, while the separatists have called for election boycott.
Chairman JKPA said the government should consider the candidates as well as the voters.“Amid the conspiracy being hatched to sabotage the polls, it becomes the responsibility of the government to consider all the aspects related to the polls before going for such exercises,” he said.

A former Panch from Shopian, who wished not to be named, said many previously-elected Panchs were indecisive about their participation in the backdrop of such incidents.“Many Panchayat members have been killed in the last five years and nobody came forward to take care of their families. Further, an atmosphere is prevailing throughout south Kashmir in which nobody is willing to actually take a risk,” he said.

He said Panchs across the valley were fear stricken after the announcement of polls by the Election Commission.

In north Kashmir too, many of panchyat members have decided not to contest the elections under the given circumstances.“Many former Panchs and Sarpanchs in Baramulla district won’t contest this time. A situation was created after the last Panchayat polls in which he became soft targets. So, I personally have decided not to contest the polls,” said Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, a former Panch from Nihalpora village of Baramulla district.