Security beefed up ahead of PM's rally in Srinagar

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Dec 07, 2014 11:51 IST

Security agencies are on high alert for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first election rally in Srinagar on Monday following a string of militant strikes ahead of the third phase of staggered assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities have thrown a multi-tier security cordon around Sher-i-Kashmir stadium, the venue of the rally that lies just 10 km from the site of one of Friday's attacks which intelligence officials said were aimed at dissuading people from attending the rally.

Checkpoints have also been set up across the city after the attacks that left 21 people dead as police said Modi's rally could have been on the radar of militants.

Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a shutdown to protest against the prime minister's visit. Although Modi has visited the state before and after taking oath as Prime Minister, this is the first time he is addressing a public rally in the Kashmir Valley.

"Adequate security arrangements are in place for the rally," said deputy inspector general of police Afadul Mujtaba.

Modi said the militant strikes in Kashmir were an attack on Indian democracy. He earlier condemned the strikes as "desperate attempts" to derail the atmosphere of hope created by the high voter turnout in the first two phases of the election.

"This is a shameless attack on India's democracy," he told an election rally in Jharkhand on Saturday.

Kashmiris will vote amid tight security in the third phase of the assembly election on Tuesday after an over 70% turnout in the first two rounds in defiance of a poll boycott call by separatists.

Unfazed by the string of militant strikes, thousands of BJP workers are ready to paint Srinagar saffron for the prime minister's visit.

The party plans to deck up the city with some 6,000 banners and flags and organise thousands of roses in the dead of winter to make the rally a massive show of strength as the BJP makes its most serious bid yet to gain power in the Muslim-majority state.

"The stage is set for the rally and we are sure the people of Kashmir will respond with a ballot for bullet," said union minister and BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain. "Modi lives in the heart of the people of the Valley. He has always been here when they needed him."

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