SRINAGAR: Despite Election Commission of India’s ban on the participation of children below 18 in poll campaigns, several children were seen canvassing for the Peoples Democratic Party at its road show in Devsar on Saturday.
Witnesses told Kashmir Reader that about 40 children, mostly students, dressed in green dresses and sporting PDP election caps participated in the road show. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was holding hand of one of the children who were waving party’s flags and placards.
They said children also shouted slogans in support of the party on call of PDP leaders.
The PDP has fielded deputy speaker of the Assembly and maternal uncle of Mehbooba, Mohammad Sartaj Madani from the constituency, where elections will be held on December 2 in the second phase of the five-phase polls.
In a similar incident in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally on Friday, several children were seen carrying party flags and raising slogans.
A PDP rally was reportedly attacked with a grenade in Noorabad constituency on Friday.
However, the grenade caused no casualties because it landed in a drain, but according to PDP leader Abdul Majid Paddar the “damage could have been huge” had it exploded. In such a situation, the presence of children in rallies amounts to playing with their lives.
Mehbooba told Kashmir Reader, “It (children in the rally) shouldn’t have happened. If that is so I personally disagree with it.”
District election officer, Kulgam, Nissar Hussain Wani, said, “None of my staff has brought it to my notice yet. If it comes into my notice I will take action against violating ECI’s direction. Strict action will follow against the responsible people if it has happened.”
In January this year, before the Lok Sabha polls, the ECI had ordered that schoolchildren under 18 years shall not be engaged in electoral activities such as rallies, human chains.
“The EC has taken strong exception to engagement of children in various election-related activities and held the same as highly objectionable,” the circular had said.
The ECI guidelines say district election officer or returning officers will be held responsible for violations.