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Militancy and terror shadows Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 8:15am IST | Place: Srinagar | Agency: dna

A cloud of fear looms over Jammu & Kashmir amid militant attacks, call for poll boycott

A deadly cocktail of terror and boycott politics is hanging heavy on the ongoing general election in the militancy-plagued Jammu and Kashmir.

In the last week alone, five security personnel and six top militant commanders have been killed while a senior ruling National Conference leader has escaped a bid on his life. There have been six militancy related incidents across the valley since electioneering started a month ago. The spurt in militancy incidents is affecting candidates' campaigning, with many asking their workers to take extra precaution to ensure safety.

"We are going by the police advice. This (attack) is a cause of worry. The government must take adequate precautions to ensure security of political activists belonging to all parties so that they feel
safe," chief spokesman of People's Democratic Party (PDP) Naeem Akthar told dna.

The three seats in the valley, Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla, will go to polls on April 24, April 30 and May 7 respectively. National Conference, which won all the three seats in 2009 is putting up a brave face, saying the attacks have not changed anything. "These things (attacks) do happen. We are not hassled by it. There is a security grid that takes care (of security)," said NC spokesman Junaid Mattu.

Security forces have drawn up a comprehensive plan to ensure safe and incident-free elections in the Kashmir valley. Designated places have been earmarked for rallies given the precarious security situation.

Roads to rally venues are sanitised by the police and paramilitary forces. CRPF men are deployed en route to the venues to keep ultras at bay. Besides, every person intending to participate is frisked before being allowed to enter the venue. Under the plan, political leaders' road shows are allowed in safer areas only after the forces sanitise the roads. The personal security staff of candidates too are advised to remain on high alert during road shows and rallies.

CRPF, which performs the dual role of managing law and order and fighting ultras, has curtailed the leaves of its force and mobilized training companies to ensure that adequate manpower is available to manage the elections.

"The leaves and other duties of the forces have been curtailed. Men are available in full strength. Ad hoc companies have been formed for election duties. We provide security at rally venues as well as on the roads," CRPF spokesman Kishore Prasad told dna.

What is rattling political parties is the separatists' anti-election campaign. Several separatist groups, including Hurriyat hawks, JKLF and others have given a call for a poll boycott. "The atmosphere of fear is aimed at keeping voters away. Traditionally, the boycott call has helped a particular party. When there are attacks, it definitely sends a wrong signal and people prefer staying home," said a political leader on condition of anonymity.

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