Scared Beerwah may stay away from poll

Published on Apr 23, 2004 02:39 AM IST

This central Kashmir town has had a 15-year history of death and destruction. The feeling of dread is palpable. People here do not want to talk about the elections.

HT Image
HT Image
PTI | ByRashid Ahmad, Beerwah

This central Kashmir town has had a 15-year history of death and destruction. The feeling of dread is palpable. People here do not want to talk about the elections.

“We are not interested in polling. Elections are the politicians’ affair. We are concerned just about our own profession,” says an elderly shopkeeper, Mohammad Sultan.

The area is home to some big militants. The slain Hizbul Mujahideen founder leaders, Shamsul Haque and Ashraf Dar, belonged to this area. Waheed Shaikh, one of the five militant leaders declared proclaimed offenders in 1989 too is from here. Abdul Gani Dar alias Abdullah Gazali, the Valley’s oldest militant commander who heads the Harkatul Mujahideen, also hails from here.

Security agencies acknowledge that militants have a big presence in Tosamaidan, south-west of Beerwah, and adjacent localities. Tosamaidan spreads to Poonch and Rajouri in the south, Gulmarg in the west and the hills of Shopian and Pulwama in the east. The authorities say that the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba have a heavy presence here.

“They often come down from their safe zones and hit their targets at will,” says a local police officer.

National Conference president Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah have survived two attempts on their lives by militants here a few days back.

This is considered the most militancy-prone assembly segment of Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary seat, where Omar is a candidate. He had to cancel an election meeting at Panjo on Tuesday after the police refused to clear his visit.

Militants have shot dead two PDP activists in Hajj.

There is hardly a banner or flag. Candidates mostly campaign in safer zones. Not surprisingly, participation in elections is very low.

Some posters in favour of a local candidate, Nazir Ahmad Khan, are the only signs of the elections. Nazir’s father Sarfaraz Khan is a leader of the ruling PDP and minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government. His son rebelled against the party after he was denied a nomination and is now contesting independently.

The Khans are known for their influence in the area. Sarfaraz and Nazir stayed back all through the years of militancy and never faced trouble. Nazir’s candidature, thus, has put the PDP’s prospects in jeopardy. His father has refused to campaign against his son.

Why the fear

* Beerwah is hotbed of Kashmiri militancy

* Prominent Hizb and Harkat militants hail from this town

* Omar, Farooq survived recent attacks here

* Campaigning virtually absent with parties avoiding area

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