Lok Sabha election 2019: Officials on poll duty on Kashmir highway allege army violence
Army soldiers allegedly assaulted a government official on poll duty along with his four colleagues and damaged their vehicle in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Tuesday
Sub-divisional magistrate Ghulam Rasool Wani said they were heading towards Vessu to attend an election meeting when they were stopped along the Srinagar-Jammu highway to allow a security convoy to pass.
“They assaulted me and my staff members and broke our three phones. They held us hostage at gunpoint. Had [Anantnag] deputy commissioner [Khalid Jahangir] not reached the spot on time, we would have been killed,” said Wani, who is also the assistant returning officer for the Lok Sabha polls in Anantnag. Anantnag will go to the polls in three phases on April 23, 29 and May 6 due to security concerns in the militancy-hit area.
Army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia could not be reached for a comment. “Though it was not the convoy day, they [Army] still were not allowing any civil vehicles,’’ said Wani.
He was referring to the order issued on April 3 that banned civilian traffic along the lifeline highway that connects Kashmir with the outside world from 4 am to 5 pm every Sunday and Wednesday until May 31 to allow exclusive movement of security convoys. The order was issued after the February 14 car bomb attack left 40 paramilitary troopers dead along the highway.
Wani said the Army stopped their vehicle even as he told them that he was a magistrate and the area came under his jurisdiction and that he was on duty. “They did not listen and pounced on us...” said Wani. He added he has taken up the matter with authorities and filed a police complaint.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the Army thrashing civilians in the state is nothing new, but manhandling civil officers marks a new low. “The valley & its people are being choked to a silent death. For how long will you oppress them in their own land? Is this what we deserve for choosing India over Pakistan?” she tweeted.