Srinagar: The state of Jammu and Kashmir is all set to hold the Panchayat elections next month. Though no formal dates have been issued other than the mention of second week in February, the Chief Minister has intimated the Governor NN Vohra that the state is planning the polls for the next month.
Panchayat polls have been delayed more than once owing to the volatile situation in the state, especially Valley during the past almost two years now. The holding of these local bodies polls was stressed by the Union Home ministry and other vital ministries concerned with various developmental projects as various schemes which are funded by the Union Ministries are releasing funds through Panchayats thereby making these local bodies partners in growth and development.
However, several questions need to be answered before the state announces formal dates for these polls. The prime question is related to security. Has the security situation improved to the level in various areas including South Kashmir, where even the Parliamentary polls were not held owing to the fragile situation.
If we go by the opinion and concerns of various political parties than, holding of these local bodies elections have to be withheld for some time. Various political parties have flagged concern about security during Panchayat elections and have termed the atmosphere as worrisome and not conducive for holding the polls at the moment.
This alarm seems to have been sounded by almost all the parties. The state’s two main opposition parties, National Conference (NC) and Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) are wary of the announcement, citing the law and order situation in the state, especially in Kashmir.
Notably, 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 organisations like HizbulMujahideen (HM).
Earlier this month, an audio clip of a purported conversation between two HM militants of the outfit 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.
Local bodies elections are no doubt key to development and growth at the grass root level, but several reservations have cropped up over the security concerns of the participants. The participation of large number of candidates in these elections will be a challenge for security agencies as all the participants won’t be able to get the required security cover.
Therefore, they will not only be vulnerable to attacks but the whole idea of ensuring development at the grass root level will be negated if violence or killings become the order of the day.
Though, a Panchayat body has already said that panchayats have nothing to do with any kind of politics of Jammu and Kashmir and these elections should not be linked to the Kashmir issue, however, guaranteeing the fact needs an approval from those who have already threatened to disrupt these polls.
The situation it seems needs a review by the government as local bodies elections are not worth losing more lives.