Two consecutive deadly strikes by militants in south Kashmir’s Anantnag marked the return of pre-poll violence in this restive district. The lethal attacks attempted just weeks ahead of the by-elections in this militant hotbed has left at least five security personnel dead and at least eight others with serious injuries.

Two cops of Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed in the militant attack on late Saturday morning. Reports said the incident happened in the main town of Anantnag district near General Bus Stand located just meters away from the police post. The slain cops were identified as ASI Bashir Ahmad and Constable Reyaz Ahmad.

A photo taken by a bystander shows two young militants with guns and bag near the shootout site walking on the road after the attack.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The Anantnag assembly seat left vacant after the death of former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on 7 January, is going for polls on 22 June. Muftis daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, the current Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has filed nomination papers from his late father’s constituency. The election has been already deferred twice.

A day earlier on Friday, three Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel were killed and seven other were wounded when militants attacked an army convoy on Srinagar-Jammu Highway in Bijbehara town of Anantnag district. Hizbul Mujahideen claimed the responsibility of the attack. The same outfit has carried several other attacks in Bijbehara town.

Militants often resort to pre-poll violence to show their disapproval of the electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir. In run up to the 2014 Assembly polls, at least 10 Sarpanchs (village heads) were killed and three injured by militants. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won majority of the seats in 2014 Assembly elections and formed a coalition government in the state. Dozens of village heads were forced to resign from their posts on facing life threats from various militant outfits.

Often such attacks are carried to cause fear psychosis among voters and they result in the low voter turnout during high-pressure elections with a poll-boycott calls already issued by the separatists.

Hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, Friday appealed people of Anantnag to boycott the polls. Geelani on challenged CM Mehbooba to set him free for anti-election campaign in the district.

“To prove my point, I ask Mehbooba Mufti to release me from house detention and allow me to visit Anantnag constituency just for five days and let me freely meet the people of the area, then everybody will come to know the actual percentage of people’s participation in the military exercise,” Geelani said, in challenge to Mehbooba.

A couple of local residents who spoke to Firstpost expressed concerns about the safety of voters on the election day.

“These attacks will have a bearing on the election process. People fear for their lives after such attacks and are unwilling to come out of their homes on the election day,” Jabbar Malik, a local resident, told Firstpost.

“I will sit at home on the election day. Why put my life in danger for a single vote?” Ali Kamil, another resident of Anantnag, said.

A total number of nine nominations have been received for the Anantnag constituency by-elections. Firebrand legislator of Awami Itehad Party, Engineer Rasheed, who is currently MLA from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency, has also filed nomination papers from the Anantnag constituency against Mehbooba. Besides, opposition National Conference fielded Iftikhar Hussain Misgar while Hilal Ahmad Shah will contest on Congress ticket.

The twin attacks days ahead of the election has left the law and order machinery of the district in tizzy. A police official posted in the district told Firstpost that the security grid is worried but capable to prevent such attacks for a secure and fair election.

“Such attacks are a cause of worry but we have enough man power to assist Election Commission in conducting secure elections,” he said.

The coming days in run up to the election in this district, in which many areas are considered to be the bastions of militants, are crucial as far as the security on the election day is concerned.

Continue reading here: 

Violence returns to south Kashmir days ahead of bypolls