With poll percentage below 30 in the two parliament seats in the valley, militants and separatists have upped the ante while security agencies have launched massive operation to ensure peace as north Kashmir is set for polling on May 7.
Just two days before the polling, the army on Monday claimed to have recovered seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from frontier hilly area of Tangdhar in Kupwara district, 100 km north of Srinagar.
“Based on a series of recent intelligence input received by the army about terrorists planning to disrupt polling process in Tangdhar area, a search operation was launched by the army in area around Tod and Gabra village since Sunday,” said Srinagar-based army spokesman.
During the operation, seven IEDs hidden in a hollow tree trunk close to Gabra village in Tangdhar were recovered.
In Bandipora district of north Kashmir, eight pistols along with eight magazines and 32 rounds of ammunition were recovered on Sunday.
“These recoveries assume importance as the final round of general elections in Kashmir is scheduled to be held on May 7,” said the army spokesman.
Taking no chances, unconfirmed reports suggest that 200 people with past records of participating in protests and stone-pelting have rounded up by the police ahead of the final phase of polls.
Hajin area of Bandipora district witnessed clashes following arrest spree and arguments between the police and locals. Several youth have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), who cannot apply for bail for next six months.
Kashmir University campus also witnessed a protest rally where students were demanding the release of Dr Ghulam Qadir Lone, a resident of north Kahsmir’s Rafiabad area. The writer-scholar was arrested on May 2 apparently for his anti-poll opinion.
Human rights body, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, has criticised the government move to detain separatists and youth from the valley.
“In last few weeks, 2,000 people have been arrested, mostly youth. Leaders like Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah and scores of other political leaders and activists have been detained. By these arrests and intimidation, the state has violated their own laws and the International laws,” alleged the rights body.
“It is part of the civil and political right of an individual to boycott elections and also carry out a campaign against elections,” said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, separatist leaders, including Geelani and the Mirwaiz, repeated their call for a poll boycott.
“People of north Kashmir should reject the so-called polls and show complete commitment and resolve towards the struggle,” said moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz, who has been placed under house arrest.
He has also backed the shutdown call issued by hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani.
“Polls are merely a military operation,” alleged Geelani. He appealed for protests on the eve of polls in “every village, town and district headquarters to convey a strong and clear message”.
North Kashmir’s Baramulla parliament seat is going for polls on May 7.