JEHANGIR ALI | 4 FEBRUARY, 2018
Restore Peace First, Panchayat Polls Later:Opposition To CM Mufti
Meeting of political parties remains inconclusive
SRINAGAR: An all-party meeting called by the Jammu and Kashmir government in Jammu today ended inconclusively with the majority of political players seeking deferment of the Panchayat elections scheduled on February 15 due to prevailing tensions in the Valley.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti chaired the all-party meet which was also attended by senior leaders of the opposition National Conference and Congress as well as members from the ruling PDP-BJP coalition, Rural Development Minister Haq Khan told reporters.
“The majority of the leaders said in the meeting that the situation was not feasible for holding the polls. They suggested that the polls should be deferred. The government will consider their suggestions and decide accordingly,” Khan said.
After meeting the Governor NN Vohra, Mehbooba Mufti had last year announced that the panchayat polls, which were scheduled to be held in 2016 but were deferred due to unrest in the Valley that year following killing of Hizb ul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, will be held in February.
According to officials, the last panchayat elections were held in March-April 2011 after a gap of nearly four decades. However, they could not be held in 2016 as mass protests broke out during which close to hundred protesters were shot dead in retaliatory action by security forces to end the vicious cycle of demonstrations.
While the announcement of election schedule had set the ball rolling to strengthen the Panchayat system in the state, clouds of uncertainty hover over the process due to a fresh spate of civilian killings in Kashmir Valley that have vitiated the atmosphere.
“There is anger and fear among people in Kashmir who have been subjected to all kinds of atrocities by the RSS government. In this atmosphere, when the ruling party members are unable to visit their constituencies, how will they ensure peaceful polls,” Ali Mohammad Sagar, senior NC leader, told The Citizen.
The joint Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik has already asked people to boycott the election while as the Hizbul Mujahideen has threatened to pour acid into the eyes of those who take part in the election process.
The last election in Kashmir was held for by-polls on Srinagar Lok Sabha seat on April 9 when widespread violence and protests resulted in the killing of eight civilians in Budgam district, prompting the government to defer the Anantnag Lok Sabha by-polls indefinitely.
“A repeat of the unprecedented violence reported on the election day in April last year, coupled with a record low voter turnout of seven percent, is the last thing that the government wants. They will have to factor in all the eventualities before going ahead with the polls,” Prof Noor A Baba, Dean of Social Sciences at Central University of Kashmir, said.