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State polls delayed as JK sought addt’l 70k troops

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Mar 20: The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections were deferred as the state administration asked for over 70,000 paramilitary troops for conducting simultaneous polls, a demand which could not be acceded to, officials said Wednesday.
A home ministry official said the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s demand of about 717 companies of paramilitary personnel could not be met as a large number of forces would be required across the country for general elections.
A company of paramilitary comprises about 100 personnel.
The state elections may be held any time after the Parliamentary polls, the officials said.
The Home Ministry and the administration of J&K, which is currently under the President’s rule, had apprised the Election Commission of the security situation in the state when a team of the poll panel had visited there on March 4-5.
The EC team had gone there for assessing the situation and checking poll preparedness in the wake of the February 14 militant strike in Pulwama in which over 40 CRPF troopers were killed.
The J&K administration’s demand could not be met as a large number of personnel would be required for deployment across the country during the Parliamentary polls, therefore, the state elections were deferred, the official said.
The demand on behalf of the Jammu and Kashmir administration was placed by the then Addition Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Muneer Khan, who was recently appointed as State Chief Information Commission.
The National Conference, the PDP and the Congress, had sought simultaneous polls and criticised the EC decision. The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP had also pitched for holding the polls together.
Higher deployment of forces may be necessitated during the polls as they have to secure the routes to be taken by the candidates for campaign, the venue of rallies, besides the security of candidates itself.
During the 2014 polls, a little more than 10,000 polling stations were set up, while the EC has announced the number will be 11,316 this time, requiring additional forces to secure them.
While 77 candidates were in the fray for the six Lok Sabha seats in 2014, 831 fought the state elections a few months later to elect 87 MLAs.
In the 2014 state assembly elections, a total of 428 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed and 47 were managed from the existing counterinsurgency grid, another official said.
During the last Parliamentary elections, the security situation had improved considerably and about 300 companies were deployed of which 126 were drawn from the counterinsurgency grid.
Before that, during the Parliamentary elections of 2009, altogether 300 companies were deployed on poll duties and 58 were again mobilised internally.
In the 2008 assembly elections, 218 companies were sought from the Centre and in addition 58 were mobilised internally by the then state government, the official said.
Another official said the large number of security personnel would be required for the Assembly elections too as Pakistan-based militant groups would make all out efforts to disrupt the process not only in the Kashmir Valley but in border districts such as Rajouri, Poonch and Doda.
During the last assembly elections, the government had provided about 100 SUVs to the candidates and requirement of such vehicles would be more this time, the official said.
The final assessment on holding the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be taken by a three-member panel set up by the Election Commission.
The governor’s rule was imposed in in the state on June 19, 2018 when the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government was reduced to minority following withdrawal of support by the 25-member BJP.
Initially, the assembly was kept in suspended animation, but the governor on November 21 dissolved the 87-member house after the PDP, supported by the Congress and arch-rivals National Conference, tried to stake claim to form a new government.
When the governor’s rule expired on December 19, 2018, President’s rule was imposed in the state as under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for extension of governor’s rule.


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Two militants killed in Bijbehara gunfight

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Srinagar, Apr 25: Two militants were killed after a gunfight broke out between militants and security forces in Bagender Mohalla area of Bijbehara in Anantnag district on Thursday morning.

The duo was killed after a gunfight broke out between them and a joint team of the Indian Army’s 3 Rashtriya Rifles unit and a Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

The exchange of fire began while security forces had been carrying out cordon and search operations after receiving inputs about the presence of militants in the area. An official said that the militants opened fire on the troopers when they were closing in on their hiding spot.

 

A search operation is underway as the forces believe there were three militants in hiding in Bagender Mohalla.

The police spokesman identified the slain as Safder Amin Bhat (25), son of Muhammad Amin of Zirpara Bijbehara and Burhan Ahmad Ganaie (25) of Malipora Hablish Kulgam. He said the duo was affiliated with Hizb-ul -Mujahideen militant outfit.

Incriminating material including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of the encounter, he said, adding that the police have registered a case.

“Citizens are requested not to venture inside encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any,” said the spokesman.

Thousands of people participated in funeral prayers of two slain militants in Bijbehara and SK Colony Lazibal areas of Anantnag.

Meanwhile, internet services were also suspended for “precautionary measures” and a complete shutdown is being observed in the district.

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Ladakh Parliamentary Seat: Karbalai in fray to cut Muslim votes and benefit Congress?

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Apr 25: Ahead of the elections for it, the Ladakh Parliamentary Seat is in the spotlight these days as Asgar Ali Karbalai, who is contesting as an Independent candidate, may play spoilsport for Sajjad Hussain who has support of the NC, PDP and powerful religious groups of Kargil.

Four candidates are in the fray for Ladakh parliamentary constituency that will go to polls on May 6.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, while Rigzin Spalbar is Congress’ candidate. Both the candidates are from Leh district. Sajjad Hussain, and Asgar Ali Karbalai are contesting as independents. Both are from Kargil district.

 

Asgar has claimed that he has left the Congress, however a source within the party said his contesting of elections is to “cut the Muslim vote in Ladakh to benefit the Congress candidate.”

“He has no support of any religious group unlike Sajjad. If he will be able to cut the Muslim vote, Congress will be the hugely benefitted,” the source said. 

It said that PDP and NC decided not to field candidates as they would have divided the Muslim votes and would have benefitted the BJP.

The PDP and NC have decided to support journalist turned politician Sajjad in the parliamentary elections. He is the candidate of Anjuman Jamiatul Ulama Islamia School Kargil (AJUISK), the largest religious organisation of the region and also backed by Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust.

“Both National Conference and PDP have unanimously decided to support Sajjad, who has been fielded by Kargil’s powerful religious organization, Islamia School,” National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, said.

Asked why the National Conference did not field its own candidate, Sagar replied, “We have several top leaders in Ladakh. But when powerful religious organizations decided to field the candidate, we decided to support him. All religious groups are on platform on his candidature. We hope that he would win the elections.”

Senior PDP leader Nizam-ud-Din Bhat too confirmed that NC and PDP have unanimously decided to support Independent candidate, Sajjad.

“We decided not to field our own candidate because this candidate has backing of two religious groups, and he represents the sentiments of people,” Bhat said.

In Kashmir, the PDP and NC have been fighting against each other as both parties have fielded their candidates against one another on all three parliamentary seats. The NC and Congress are jointly fighting the Srinagar, Jammu and Udhampur parliament seats while there is a “friendly” contest between their candidates for Baramulla and Anantnag seats.

In 2014 Thupstan Chhewang of Bharatiya Janata Party won with a margin of 36 votes. Chhewang secured 31,111 votes while Independent Ghulam Raza secured 31,075 votes. Chhewang last year resigned, citing ‘discrimination’ against Ladakh, as the reason.

Spread over Leh and Kargil districts and having four assembly segments including Kargil, Zanaskar, Nobra and Leh, Ladakh is geographically one of the largest and population-wise one of the smallest constituencies in the country. There are about 1.72 lakh eligible voters for the Ladakh seat.

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NIA summon to Shabir Shah’s daughter shameful: Mehbooba

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Apr 25: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday termed National Investigation Agency (NIA) summon to Shabir Shah’s daughter as “shameful”.

Addressing a rally at Kulgam district in south Kashmir, the PDP president while condemning the issuance of ED summon to Sama Shabir, the daughter of Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmed Shah said, “She has been summoned in connection with case of money laundering in 2007 when she was just five years old. The harassment has increased over the years.”

She said that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was summoned by the NIA and Yaseen Mailk faced detention and constant harassment.  “This shows the sheer desperation of centre,” she claimed.

 

She maintained, “The abrogation of Article 35-A and 370 will render the basis of accession null and void. Thus, we should strive towards safeguarding the special status.”

Mehbooba took jibes at the BJP president, Amit Shah over his statement that there is Modi wave in India.

“Had this been true, the Balakote airstrikes wouldn’t happen then?  Incidents like mob lynching and oppression on the marginalized sections wouldn’t be so commonplace,” she said.

She said while taking potshots at the NC vice-president Omar Abdullah, “Omar is living in this delusion that the people in her home town Bijebhera in Anantnag district have rejected her and voted for NC. I want to make this thing clear that it’s my hometown and people are supportive of me and are still unknown to Omar.”

Ruling out that government employees participated in her Pulwama election rally, she said, “This is completely false. No government employees participated in that rally. I have nothing to do with these employees as I am not a part of the government.” 

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