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Pol parties raise security concerns ahead of local polls

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Srinagar, Jan 14: Flagging concern about security during panchayat elections next month in Jammu and Kashmir, political parties have said the atmosphere is “worrisome” and “not conducive” for holding the polls at the moment.
The state government had recently announced that the panchayat polls would be conducted from February 15 and preparations for elections have been set in motion.
However, aspiring contestants and political parties including National Conference (NC), Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) are wary of the announcement, citing the law and order situation in the state, especially in Kashmir valley.
The apprehensions about a smooth conduct of the elections have been accentuated by the separatists’ call for boycott of the polls and the threats issued by militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen (HM).
Earlier this month, an audio clip of a purported conversation between two HM militants went viral on social media, in which a commander of the outfit asked the cadres to pour acid into the eyes of those who stand for the upcoming panchayat elections.
Hizbul commander Riyaz Naikoo in the audio clip told another militant of the outfit, Sameer Tiger, that they should not threaten or kill anyone standing for elections but instead pour “strong acid — Sulphuric acid or Hydrochloric acid” into the eyes of these candidates.
Shafiq Mir, a former panchayat member and chairman of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), told PTI that though he wants the elections to be conducted, “the reports of security situation are worrisome”.
“Our role is to contest elections and we are ready for that, but the government has to see the security situation. The government has to see how it will create a secure atmosphere for people,” Shafiq said.
Asked about the Hizbul threats and poll boycott call by the separatists, the AJKPC chairman said panchayats have nothing to do with any kind of politics of Jammu and Kashmir and should not be linked to the Kashmir issue.
“Our institution is not a political one but a community institution. We want to tell those who are issuing threats that we have nothing to do with any kind of politics of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
“We are not associated with any politics. We are just going to be elected as a local governing body – an executive body for local issues, local development,” Shafiq said.
He said 16 panchayat members were killed and 20 others injured in recent years since elections were held last in 2011.
The state’s main opposition party NC said the law and order situation in the state was “very worrisome” and “disconcerting”, and conducting the polls “should not be one more blunder” which in turn could affect tourism, industry and the state’s economy this year.
“Our point is simple, that the obtaining law and order situation in the state is very worrisome, it is disconcerting and unless they (the government) address that first, unless they address the threats issued to the probable panchayat candidates first, till then no other statement or rhetoric will make sense,” NC state spokesperson, Junaid Azim Mattu, told PTI.
President of JKPCC, G A Mir, said the announcement of the panchayat polls was only an image-building exercise and the ground situation was not conducive for conducting an election in Jammu and Kashmir this time.
A senior police official said the security agencies were fully aware of the threat issued by the militants and a strategy will be formulated to counter that.
“We will discuss it and formulate a strategy to counter the threat,” the official said.
He said that a high-level meeting, to be chaired by the chief minister, would discuss the issue after January 26 in the state’s winter capital Jammu.


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Kashmir

No Friday prayers at Jamia, Mirwaiz put under house arrest

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Srinagar, Mar 22: The authorities put under house arrest the Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Friday and barred the congregational prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid in here.
Reports said that the authorities placed restrictions at several parts of Old City including Nowhatta where authorities did not allow people to offer the Friday prayers.
An official said restrictions were imposed in view of call for protests issued by the Joint Hurriyat Leadership comprising of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.
Joint Hurriyat had called for peaceful protests after the prayers against the “custodial death” of Awantipora school teacher Rizwan Assad Pandith.
Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who addresses the faithful at the mosque every Friday was put under house arrest. He termed the disallowing of Friday prayers as “religious assault”.
“While repression, killings and arbitrary arrests continue unabated, for the 3rd time this month #JamaMasjid put under lockdown and Friday prayers disallowed. Condemn the authorities for this religious assault,” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter. This was on the third time in this month that authorities barred the Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid.

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IUST, KU faculty groups condemn teacher’s custodial killing

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Srinagar, Mar 22: Islamic University Faculty Association (IUFA) Friday condemned the alleged custodial killing of a teacher Rizwan Assad Pandith and has termed it outrageous and a tremendous loss to education while demanding immediate justice for him.
In a statement, the IUFA said Pandith worked as a guest faculty in the Polytechnic College, Islamic University of Science and Technology in 2018.
“He was not just a competent academician, but a thorough gentleman as well. His untimely death is a huge loss to education in South Kashmir where he was heading a school and a coaching center as well,” the statement of the Association said.
The association has demanded that the perpetrators of such crimes be brought to justice at an earliest as there is no place for such horrific crimes in civilized and responsible societies.
The Association has once again expressed dismay and concern over the delay in the dispensation of justice in the custodial killing of another teacher Shabir Ahmad Mango, a college lecturer by Army personnel on August 17, 2016. “Such gory cases of the custodial killings of teachers have caused an immense damage to the intellectual capital of the education sector in the state and we again call for justice to Mango also,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Kashmir University Teachers Association (KUTA) too has strongly condemned the killing and demanded immediate dispensation of justice. “Such treatment to the ‘nation builders’ on sustained basis does not augur well for the peace and stability in the state,” reiterated the KUTA spokesperson.
The two associations have also called for an immediate end to the continued human rights violations in Kashmir.

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MPs of 2014 have been mute spectators in Parl: Altaf Bukhari

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Srinagar, Mar 22: Terming the upcoming parliament and assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir as one of the crucial elections, former Finance Minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Friday said these elections would likely pose a serious challenge for the special status of the State and to its inclusive political culture.
Addressing a workers’ convention at his private office here, Bukhari emphasized on the state’s electorate to compare and elect their candidates on promises made versus performance basis.
The former minister observed that people of the state particularly that of the Kashmir valley, have not forgotten that they were asked for votes in lieu of a ‘mandate for a mission’.
“People have not even forgotten being promised to ‘make the parliament a forum for representing the Kashmir issue at the national level’. But what they did in the Parliament later?” Bukhari asked, adding, “Analyze their attendance and performance on internet and you will witness their dismal track record of attending and intervening in the House. They have simply been mute spectators in the Parliament and wasted the mandate of people.”
The former finance minister remarked that people need to elect their representatives after proper application of mind and wisdom. “While we need to show a united face and defeat the nefarious designs of some divisive political forces, at the same time we need to strengthen the hands of the leadership that has the courage to call a spade a spade.”
Bukhari opined that the electorate of Jammu and Kashmir especially in the valley must decide whether they want to go with the forces who berated and bartered their mandate for their petty political gains or the forces who can safeguard their interests and the special identity of the State.
He said a drastic electoral division or fragmented vote will not be in the interests of people as the same can give a hegemonic control over all state institutions, as well as the public discourse in the hands of forces who are inimical to the identity of this state.
The former minister also stressed on a need for creating a conducive and peaceful atmosphere for holding elections saying that political activities cannot fetch a desired change in an atmosphere of mass arrests, raids, civilian harassment and custodial killings.
“Although almost all the mainstream political parties have condemned the recent custodial killing of the school teacher but mere words cannot heal the wounds of that family. The probe in this incident needs to be conducted in a transparent and time bound manner so that the culprits are booked as per law,” Bukhari reiterated his demand.

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