Anantnag LS bypoll being delayed further, sources

Various security agencies have sounded an alarm over the prospect of holding the bypoll in the South Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency, reports said Wednesday.

“Situation in J&K continues to be tense, following a fresh spate of protests in the Valley and as a reason central security forces have informed the Union Home Ministry that the current atmosphere is not conducive for the Lok Sabha bypoll in Anantnag next month,” sources revealed.

The Election Commission (EC) had initially scheduled the bypoll on April 12 before moving it to May 25 due to the large-scale protests and low voter turnout during the Srinagar bypoll on April 9.

However, government sources said that security forces, led by CRPF, and some senior officials from the Home Ministry are of the view that the Anantnag bypoll can only be held in three-four phases with heavy security deployment.

“We can only provide security at polling booths but cannot ensure voter turnout. The situation in the Valley is fragile and holding the bypoll next month is not favourable,” said a top CRPF official.

Besides, sources said, intelligence reports have pointed out that the current cycle of violence may continue for a while. Sources said the state government, too, may favour another postponement till the situation normalises.

The Lok Sabha bypoll in Srinagar was won by Opposition NC leader Farooq Abdullah. The EC had postponed the Anantnag bypoll following a request from the ruling PDP’s candidate, Tasaduq Mufti. Sources said the Home Ministry will inform the EC about the apprehensions expressed by the security forces.

“There is massive discontent among the masses, and they may be instigated by separatists,” said an official.

On Tuesday, following protests by hundreds of students, the J&K government ordered the closure of schools and colleges, and suspended Internet services as precautionary measures. The Hurriyat is said to be planning protests by the parents of the injured students against “police high-handedness”.

Officials said that during the Srinagar bypoll, they had advised the EC and state government to reduce the number of polling booths. As many as 1,100 booths were set up for the April 9 bypolls, with nearly 300 companies of CRPF deployed to provide security.

“The number of security personnel was not sufficient and at some places, this led to the burning of EVMs. We have given a detailed report to the Home Ministry,” said a senior CRPF official. Sources said the Home Ministry had earlier alerted the EC about the situation in the Valley and advised against holding bypolls on April 9.

During the Srinagar bypoll, eight people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces, 150 security personnel were injured, 190 incidents of stone-pelting were reported, 120 polling booths could not function and 24 EVMs were damaged. The EC had said that the polls were scheduled after consultations with the state government.

“We consulted the state government on the subject as it is responsible for law and order and security issues. MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) is only responsible to provide central paramilitary forces. ECI is not bound to consult MHA before holding any elections,” it had said.







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