Srinagar: The fresh spate of killings of Panchayat representatives by suspected militants prompted the government agencies on Wednesday to sound a high alert across the Valley, as polling will be held in Anantnag Lok Sabha seat on Thursday to decide the fate of 12 candidates including ruling National Conference’s Mehboob Beg and opposition People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti.
The Anantnag constituency, which has over 1.2 million voters, half of them women, has been put under multitier security with additional deployments of district police, CRPF troopers and personnel of armed police, reports and officials said.
As part of the security arrangement, 200 companies of CRPF, 35 companies of armed police and 70 companies of district police have been deployed. Besides, the army units in and around the base camps have also been asked to remain on standby mode.
Reports said that police and troops further intensified the security apparatus on Wednesday across south Kashmir to prevent any possible militant attacks and to ensure trouble-free elections. Surprise frisking and checking was conducted along the Srinagar-Jammu highway and link roads connecting various districts of south Kashmir.
Scores of mobile bunkers have also popped up in many areas in Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama.
“Tral and Pulwama remain our focus. We doubt militants will strike. However, if they do, they will have to face the music. Our men are not unarmed Sarpanchs. They have weapons and they will answer every bullet with bullet,” Inspector General of CRPF, Nalin Prabhat told Kashmir Reader.
He said adequate measures have been put across all the districts of south Kashmir to conduct smooth elections. He said he was hopeful that the Anantnag constituency will “witness a good voter turnout.”
“Additional deployments have been made wherever needed. Day and domination is being carried out by our men. We’re hopeful that people will vote for democracy,” he added.
Although 12 candidates are in the fray for this seat spread over 16 assembly segments in four districts, the contest is expected to be a direct fight between Beg and Mufti.
Of the 16 assembly segments in Anantnag seat, the PDP MLAs represent 12, the Congress two and the NC and the CPI-M one each.
Voting will be held in the shadow of fear as a Congress Sarpanch, his son and a village official were shot dead in Tral area of Pulwama district on Monday night while a PDP sarpanch was shot dead by suspected militants last Thursday in nearby Awantipora area of the district.
Asked about reports of some Panchayat members tendering their resignation in the wake of the killings, Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said, “If they (Panchayat members) feel it right to tell the media that they have resigned, so let it be. It is not the time to talk about if anyone has put in papers officially.”
Panchayat members have become a soft target for militants as seven of them were killed in 2012 and 2013.
All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, a representative body of over 33,000 panchayat members in the state, is angry with the state government over the spate of killings.
The Panchayat Conference in a statement accused the coalition government of turning a blind eye towards the security of panchayat members.
Security agencies have classified 83 per cent of the 1615 polling stations in the constituency as sensitive or hypersensitive. (with inputs from PTI)