With state government preparing to hold panchayat and local body elections in J&K, militant outfit Hizbul Mujahedeen issued a strong warning to those mulling to participate in the polls, asking them to get shrouds along with elections forms. “Those people who are thinking of participating in the elections, they should also bring shroud along with the election forms for themselves. They should also remember that we have also brought the sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid and be prepared for it,” Hizb’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo, who is based in south Kashmir, warned in an audio message which was released on August 29.

He said the militants have already got acid and those taking part in elections should remain prepare for that. Naikoo had earlier also warned political workers and others about participating in the elections, saying those who will take part will be blinded by pouring acid in their eyes so they will become burden on their families. “We are not afraid of forces, what we have to do, we will do that,’’ he said adding that army used to lay an ambush outside the house of Shameema Bano of Koil, Pulwama who was involved in leaking information about militant Sameer Tiger to protect her . “But how long did the forces manage to protect her,’’ he asked, referring to her being shot dead earlier in August. Naikoo said that militants can kill anybody at any place. “We don’t have personal animosity with anybody, but the people who will work against our struggle or sacrifice will be punished.’’ He said that the continuous harassment of militant families by government forces was a sign of “frustration but it is not going to deter us from carrying on our mission. Forces will try assuring you that they are with you but how can these forces help you when they themselves need security. The Indian forces have the highest percentage of suicides across the world and how can the forces personnel who commit suicide safeguard you? We kill those who we have to kill and we do it anytime, anyplace.”

The latest threat came at a time when government preparation for holding elections is in the final stages. The police have already deputed more than 16,000 central paramilitary force personnel, who were here for the Amarnath Yatra and asked to stay back, in various districts of the Kashmir Valley for the panchyat elections. While the government has been repeatedly saying that panchayat institutions are a means to decentralise power and decision-making, the elections to it have never been a regular feature in J&K. In 1978, rural body elections were held in the state when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was the chief minister. The next such exercise was conducted after 23 years, in 2001, and the last panchayat election was held a decade after that in 2011. The polls have now been pending for the past one-and-a-half years, since the previous panchayats completed their term in July 2016. While the government has on occasion tried to hold polls, in September 2017, Union home minister Rajnath Singh while on a three-day visit to the state asked the government to begin preparations for the reconstitution of panchayat institutions. Soon after that, governor N.N. Vohra promulgated an ordinance setting the ball rolling for the same. According to a senior official, there has been a “constant push” from the BJP for conducting polls. In one of its meetings in Jammu on December 22, the RSS-BJP coordination committee had instructed ministers of the right-wing party to mount pressure on the PDP for holding panchayat elections.

The last time an election was held in the Valley, nine civilians were killed in clashes during bypolls to the Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha seat in April 2017, eventually forcing the government to postpone bypolls to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat indefinitely. In fact, many in the Valley are questioning the government’s decision. “The prevailing scenario in the Valley is hardly conducive for the polls,” said a senior journalist. Another worry for the government is the security of the contesting candidates in Kashmir. There are a total of 35,096 panch constituencies across J&K which would elect equal number of panchs. Of the total constituencies, 18,785 are in Kashmir, which would be contested by candidates whose number could go up two or three times the number of constituencies. The J&K police will face a huge challenge in ensuring the security of each candidate. “We are fully aware about the militant threat. But we can’t provide security cover to each contesting candidate,” said a senior police official of the rank of deputy inspector general of police. He said the J&K police has conveyed its viewpoint to the government.

In the 11-minute audio, released on social media, Naikoo also asked media persons to do justice with their profession “lest we know how to teach and how justice is done.” He accused media of giving less space or completely eschewing the news related to the “sufferings of the people and ones related to freedom struggle”.  “The news involving killing of traitor or informer by militants or those favouring government of India is given prominent space on the front pages and ones relating to sufferings of people, ransacking of our houses, thrashing of our families without any justification, is either shunned or given space inside the inner pages where nobody sees them,” Naikoo says.  “We want to tell all the News agencies that your role is to bring the truth before the World and do justice to your profession. We know most of you are corrupt and we also know what every agency is doing,” he said, adding, “All News agencies should do justice with their profession otherwise we know how to teach and how justice is done”. The Hizb commander also appealed the shoppers to remove the CCTVs focused towards streets.  “The CCTVs focused towards streets create a lot of problems for us especially our OGWs (over ground workers). We request with politeness all our shopkeeper brothers not to fix the CCTV cameras in a manner they record outside activities so that police doesn’t get any evidence after we carry out any activity,” he said. The Hizbul Mujahedin commander also urged people not to give any money to any person who are asking for it in the name of the outfit. “If any of our members requires money, he will collect it himself,’ he added. He said that India on onside uses pellets, PSA and other actions to ruin the careers of “our youth on the other side, some of our brothers and sisters are lured into sports activities.”  “This is a conspiracy to keep them away from freedom struggle and push our sisters to waywardness. We request parents to keep their child away from all the activities which are unconnected with their studies and careers.”

Tag: Elections