Parties welcome poll announcement in Kashmir
Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday welcomed the announcement for the Lok Sabha polls, while separatists said it had "no bearing on the resolution of the Kashmir issue".
"We welcome the step. After every election, we always look forward to the next election. We hope people will come out in full strength to participate in the process and choose their representatives," said Tanvir Sadiq, spokesperson of the National Conference (NC).
On security issues during the elections, he said, "Security forces have been providing security for elections ever since militancy started here and I am sure they will do the job even better this time."
He said holding elections in five phases in the state was welcome because areas like Ladakh and border areas of Gurez, Machil, Tangdhar and Keran are still snowbound, and would require special attention.
Separatist leader Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, said that election for Kashmiri people "means misery and problems".
He said that when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah came back to power, he brought in the Public Safety Act "to put Kashmiris in prisons", while Ghulam Muhammad Shah brought in the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed brought in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) after winning elections.
"Let us see which new draconian law is made applicable to Kashmir after these elections," Malik said.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also asked people not to participate in the elections.
Congress spokesperson Salman Anees Soz said that the election would be "a wonderful thing" for the people of Kashmir.
"People will have the right to choose their representatives for the Lok Sabha. The government will take all necessary precautions it needs to ensure smooth campaigning and voting," he said.
Asked whether star campaigners like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi would join the Congress campaign in the state, Soz said, "We would love to have them and I am hopeful they will find time and come to campaign for the party."
Naeem Akhtar, spokesperson for the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), said that in view of the history of elections in the state, "the government will have to be extra cautious so that elections are held in a free and fair manner".
"The administration and security forces will have to be impartial and non-partisan so that people come out to participate in the democratic process," he said.
Harsh Dev Singh of the National Panthers Party said it was good that the elections have been announced. "The new government would be in office in time. We have already candidates for two seats in the state. Decision on other seats would be taken soon," he said.