Security on standby as Shopian, Pulwama prep for polls

With twin south Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama going to polls during the third leg of the polling for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat on Monday, security agencies are on tenterhooks to ensure peaceful elections in the hotbed of new age militancy in the Valley.

The already subdued election mood in twin districts has further been dampened by Friday’s encounter in Shopian in which three local militants, including Lateef Dar alias Tiger, the last surviving ultra of Burhan Wani group, were killed.

Taking no chances, authorities have deployed additional 300 companies of para-military forces along with state police for the smooth conduct of the polls with officials declaring all the polling station in Pulwama and Shopian as hypersensitive.

Sources said layering of security has been finalised to ensure a fool-proof security cover for the voters and polling staff as there are chances that mobs or militants may attack the polling booths.

“The army is manning the heights to sanitize the areas and ensure that there was no militant threat during the polling. Night patrolling, area domination and multiple-layer of security cover are some of the measures which can thwart the attempts of militants and stone pelters to disrupt the polling,” they said.

“Separate teams have been deployed on ground for facing the militant threats. The number of checkpoints and mobile check posts has been jointly established by the police and the CRPF on all important road links to facilitate the movement of voters,” they added.

Indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has threatened to “kill those who cast their votes.” Posters were seen posted on several walls and electric poles in Shopian on Thursday carrying a warning by the Hizbul. separatist groups have asked people to boycott the polls in line with their three-decade-old anti-election policy.

The Election Commission had decided to hold polls for the volatile constituency in three phases - on April 23 in Anantnag district, on April 29 in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama on May 6 - due to security challenges.

Regional People’s Democratic Party President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference candidate Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi and State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir in locked in a triangular contest in this constituency. A lawyer from Uttar Pradesh, Shams Khwaja and a lone female candidate, Ridwana Sanam are also in the run.

697,148 voters including 357,879 males, 335,799 females, 3,456 service voters (3401 male and 55 female) and 14 transgender voters are eligible for the voting in the two districts.

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