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Fearing for their lives, panchs, councillors lie low in Srinagar motels

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Mar 15: Ever since Ahmad (name changed) emerged as winner in Panchayat elections from a village in Tral area of south Kashmir last year, he has been able to visit his home only thrice to meet the family.
The election, which was held in November, last year, provided no relief to him and he, like many of his counterparts, had to seek refuge in Srinagar, following the “lack of adequate security by the government.”
Following threats given by militants against participation in the elections and continuing violence in Pulwama, Ahmad has to put up in a guest house guarded by multiple CRPF personnel in Rajbagh here.
“Many elected Panchs and Sarpanchs from south Kashmir are putting up in hotels and guest houses in Srinagar. We don’t have enough accommodation and security in our respective districts due to which our stay was temporarily arranged in Srinagar areas,” he said.
Ahmad said the Panchayat elections have not proven productive so far as Panchayat related works in the state were yet to begin.
“May be we will think of returning home and people will support us once government empowers us. So far no major announcement has come from the government for Panchs,” he said.
Post Panchayat election, the Panchs and Sarpanchs have, because of looming danger, hardly walked in open and interacted with people in their respective villages.
Akin to Panchs, majority of the corporators in Srinagar’s volatile areas too are forced to lay low in hotels in Dalgate, Rajbagh and Munawarbad.
While nearly 30 have been accommodated in MLA hostels, which are highly guarded, rest of the corporators are unhappy for being accommodated in low budget hotels with least security.
“Many of the elected counsellors have not been allotted accommodation by the government. No individual security has been provided to us so far and as such we are unable to begin our political activities,” said Asif Ahmad Beigh, a councillor from ward 62 of Jogilankar area.
Beigh said that many have stopped visiting to their respective wards due to the persisting security threat.
“Every ward has at least 20,000 to 30,000 people. We can’t move freely in absence of a proper security cover by the government,” he said.
A police officer, who wished not to be named, said the cluster accommodations were made to ensure collective security for ‘vulnerable’ candidates.
“It wasn’t possible to provide individual security to each and every contestant as they are huge in numbers as compared to the candidates fighting assembly and parliamentary polls,” he said.


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Lead Stories

Faesal to give LS polls a miss

On JKLF ban: Won’t be surprised if mainstream parties are banned too

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Mar 23: Bureaucrat turned politician, Shah Faesal Saturday said that his newly launched party ‘Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM’ won’t contest the upcoming Parliamentary polls.
Addressing a press conference at the Srinagar’s Press Club, Faesal said that his party was at an “advanced stage”.
“We decided not to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. People across the state are joining us. We don’t want to participate hurriedly in polls and instead will strengthen our party for assembly polls,” Faesal said.
Reacting over Government of India’s banning Yasin Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Faesal said that he won’t be surprised even if mainstream parties are banned too.
He added that banning of JKLF would “further shrink” democratic space. “I will not be surprised even if mainstream parties are too banned here. There are people who brought these forces here who wanted to change the secular fabric,” he said.
Lawyer Iqbar Tahir and journalist Chasfeeda Shah also joined the party on the occasion.
“Our decision not to contest Lok Sabha polls is a response to those who accused that our party was planted by the Centre for electoral manipulation. We are fighting for a longer run but not for government and power,” he said.
Asked which party JKPM would support in upcoming Lok Sabha polls, he replied, “We will tell you that later. Democracy is important institution and people shall participate in polls. Assembly elections are very critical for our state.”
Faesal last Sunday launched the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, with a promise to “bridge the distance between New Delhi and Islamabad in order to resolve the Kashmir dispute”.
Condemning the custodial killing of Awantipora youth, Faesal demanded that those responsible for his “killing” shall be arrested. “Judicial enquiry shall also be conducted to unveil the facts,” he said.
The death of Rizwan Pandit in police custody has spawned huge shock and anger in Kashmir.
Preliminary post-mortem findings have suggested that “profuse bleeding resulting from multiple injuries” could have caused the death that triggered massive protests in Kashmir.
Faesal, who quit the services in January this year to protests against “unabated killings” in Kashmir condemned the killing of 12-year-old boy of Hajin before being held hostage. “Human rights violations have to be stopped,” he said.
He asked the politicians of South Asia to take a cue from New Zealand Prime Minister for safeguarding the rights of minorities in her country. “She has received appreciations from across the world and set up an example,” Faesal said.
New Zealand Prime Minister has expressed solidarity with Muslims after a terror attack in mosque.

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LS Polls: Mehbooba to contest from South, Aga Mohsin Srinagar

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Srinagar, Mar 23: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday announced its candidates for some Lok Sabha constituencies while as the party has decided not to field any candidate from two Jammu constituencies to ensure the votes are not divided.
Addressing a press conference, party president Mehbooba Mufti said that she will contest the upcoming parliamentary elections from South Kashmir constituency.
She added that the party has decided to field its leader Aga Mohsin from Srinagar constituency.
Notably, the party has already announced its candidate for the Baramulla constituency, Abdul Qayoom Wani who has also filed nomination papers for the polls.
Mehbooba further informed that party has decided not to announce its candidate for Jammu-Udhampur and Doda-Rajouri constituencies in the interests of people. “We don’t want the votes to get divided that would ensure the win of people other than secular forces,” she said.
She also added that the decision for Ladakh parliamentary seats will be taken soon.
About ban on JKLF, Mehbooba said that Kashmiris are once again being used as ‘scapegoats’ on the pretext of elections. “In democracy, there is battle of ideas and such kind of things should not happen. Every voice should be fought politically rather than suppression and oppression,” she added.
PDP chief further stated that people here are being pushed to the walls and violence that must come to an end at an earliest.

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Warpora encounter: Slain militant duo affiliated with JeM

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Srinagar, Mar 23: Two militants killed in over 30 hour encounter with Government forces at Warpora area of Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district have been identified as members of Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit and one of them has been identified as a local resident.
SSP Sopore Javid Iqbal was quoted saying by news agency GNS that the bodies of both the militants were recovered from the encounter site Saturday afternoon and one of them has been identified as Tahir Ahmad War alias Tahir Molvi of Warpora.
“We called his family and they identified him as their kin,” the SSP said, adding that body has been handed over to the family.
Tahir, he said, was active from June last year. The identity of other militant, believed to be a foreigner, was yet to be established.
Reports reaching here said that the residential house of Mohd Maqbool Najar, where the militants were hiding, was initially razed to rubble. During the course of the gunfight, three more residential houses of Akbar War, Ramzan War and Showkat Ahmad Najar were completely damaged.
Following the gunfight, clashes between youth and forces also reported near the encounter site and main town Sopore.
The encounter broke out at Mir Mohalla area of Warpora Sopore after a joint team of Army’s 22 RR, special operation group of police and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in the area on Thursday morning.
Station House Officer (SHO) and his two security guards were injured near the encounter site on Friday.
Police has registered a case and initiated investigation in the gunfight.
“Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials,” a spokesman of police said

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