The murder of a woman candidate in Budgam, in central Kashmir, has cast a shadow on the celebrations over the high turnout in the first phase of panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir. After this incident two candidates withdrew their candidature from the village council elections.
Panchayat elections are being held in the state after a gap of 10 years.
Haseena Akhtar, 45, was allegedly killed by separatists at Karpora village, in Pakharpora area, late on Friday night.
Although the polls are being held on a non-party basis, Akhtar was associated with the opposition People’s Democratic Party. She was to contest from Pakharpora in the second phase of the polls on April 17.
“The men asked her why she was participating in the elections. We apologised and promised to withdraw from the polls,” Akhtar’s 20-year-old son Bilal Ahmad Gania said.
“They then asked us to say the same thing in front of the village headman. But she was shot at point black range a few metres from our house,” Gania added.
CM Omar Abdullah, however, said that the assassination had nothing to do with the elections. “The investigations are going on and there is no evidence to suggest that her killing is related to these elections,” Abdullah said in Jammu.
His assurance notwithstanding, Shagufta Bano and Mohammad Yusuf Wani, also from Pakharpora, said they wouldn’t be participating in the polls.
Bano pasted a handwritten letter on a milestone near Karpora village, apologising “for letting the community down”. Wani announced his withdrawal at a mosque. “I have committed a mistake. Please forgive me, I will never repeat the same again,” he said.
Separatists and militant groups have asked people to stay away from the polls, but voters defied the boycott call in the first phase of polling, held on April 13. The turnout was a high 80%.
The elections are to be completed in 16 phases, ending on June 30.