Militant groups warn public against taking part in civic polls



Srinagar: Stung by massive participation in the 2008 Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, militant outfits like Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen have warned the people against taking part in the upcoming Panchayat polls in the state beginning later this month.

Posters of LeT and Hizb have appeared outside mosques and other prominent places in rural areas like Shopian, Sopore and Bandipora in the Valley warning people not to take part in the civic polls, a senior intelligence official said.

He said the anti-election posters have appeared in the areas where there is still significant presence of militants and their sympathisers.

"This seems to be a reaction to the massive participation in the Assembly elections in 2008 and a good turnout in the Parliamentary elections held in early 2009," he said.

The security forces across Kashmir and other militancy-infected areas of the state have been put on an alert after these posters appeared, he said.

Although the official put the number of active militants in the valley at around 300 only, he said they were enough to create sense of insecurity among the people, which could affect the voter turnout.

"We have already seen one political killing last week. A National Conference worker was shot dead in Tral area of Pulwama district," he said.

The official said steps have been taken to ensure that the militants are put on the backfoot and that they are not able to interfere in the democratic process.

"Police, paramilitary forces, Army and intelligence agencies are working in coordination on counter-insurgency operations so that we are able to get the militants before they can cause any serious damage," he said.

As part of the strategy, area domination in rural areas is being carried out by intensifying the night patrol and increasing the vigil around security installations and vulnerable persons like political activists.

The effects of militant threats are already visible as in Qoimoh block in Anantnag district more than three dozen candidates will be declared elected unopposed as there was only one contestant for these seats.

Qoimoh block, which had witnessed more than 70 per cent turn out in 2008 Assembly elections, will be going to polls on April 13.

Panchayat elections are being held in the state after a gap of around 10 years with the last polls held in 2001.

Absence of Panchayats has been costing the state dearly as Jammu and Kashmir is losing around Rs 300 crore annually in assistance under Centrally-sponsored schemes.

PTI