SRINAGAR: Ahead of the crucial third phase of election for Anantnag parliamentary constituency, security forces have launched a massive crackdown in poll-bound south Kashmir where dozens of persons, mostly youngsters, have been detained to prevent protests on the election day.

Police sources said over hundred persons, including teenage boys, have been detained in the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama which will go to polls on May 6 in the last phase of election for the crucial south Kashmir constituency.

The latest detentions were made from Pulwama district’s Tahab and Chewakalan villages where at least 38 youngsters, including some teenagers, were whisked away by police during nocturnal raids on Wednesday night while the rest were held from Vehil and Narwah villages of Shopian.

A day earlier, security forces swooped down on Murran village of Pulwama from where at least 19 youth were detained on unspecified charges. Sources said more than two dozen youth have been detained from Kangan, Newa, Parigama, Rajpora, Payar, Keegam and other villages.

“At least 20 more youth were detained from other villages of Shopian and Pulwama during nocturnal raids. This is an ongoing operation to ensure that election takes place peacefully,” police sources said.

The third phase of the all-important Anantnag parliamentary constituency will go to polls on Monday amid fears of widespread law and order disturbances. “It (detentions) is a preemptive measure. They will be released once the elections are over,” a senior police officer said.

Unprecedented security measures are being taken to ensure smooth conduct of election. On Thursday, posters purportedly issued by the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit appeared in some areas of Shopian, warning people to boycott the election. The separatists have also issued a poll boycott appeal.

With barely 12 percent votes polled, elections in the first two phases in Anantnag district on April 23 and Kulgam district on April 29 was marred by low voter turnout. Some sporadic incidents of violence were also reported from the two districts.

The election commission has reduced the end of voting time to 4 pm from 6 pm in order to ensure that the polling staff get a safe passage out of poll-bound areas during daytime.

Sources said the state government is planning to deploy 40,000 central paramilitary troopers in Pulwama and Shopian in addition to the existing personnel of police, paramilitary and army which run in thousands. On May 6, polling will also be held in Ladakh constituency which marks the end of Lok Sabha election in J&K.

Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR