September 1999 News

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Phase 2 of Jammu & Kashmir polls today

10 September 1999
The Indian Express

JAMMU/NEW DELHI: Polling in Jammu and Kashmir is turning out to be the biggest headache for the Election Commission. On the eve of the second phase tomorrow, security forces are on high alert in the border districts of Jammu and Kashmir but militant violence continues unabated. And fear of the gun may force many voters to stay indoors in Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha constituencies which go to the polls tomorrow.

Threatening posters issued by militants to dissuade people from voting have reportedly appeared at public places in various rural areas of both the constituencies. Though these posters were immediately removed by the police at most of the places, sources said that a whisper campaign for a poll boycott is going on in various remote and hilly areas of both Lok Sabha constituencies.

After the killing of the BJP candidate earlier this week, today militants gunned down a senior Congress activist in his Baramulla house. And militants stormed a police post set up to protect the minority community in Kashihama village in Baramulla and escaped with four rifles after overpowering the police. Two Army personnel were killed and ten injured when militants amushed them at Rajpora-Sanoora in Jammu.

The Jammu constituency includes Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts while the Udhampur constituency is spread over Udhampur, Doda and Kathua districts. Militants wield clout in the entire Rajouri, Poonch and Doda, besides a major portion of Udhampur district.

Though the remaining two districts of Jammu and Kathua are by and large unaffected by militancy, several residents are affected by Pak firing from across the border. A large number of people from near the LoC in pllanwala area have already migrated from their native places and are putting up in tents provided by the Government.

Sources in the administration, on terms of anonymity, say that the local residents are caught in a bind. If they vote, they incur the wrath of militants. And if they stay away, they could face the ire of security forces.

Recently, two villagers working in the fields were killed when security personnel resorted to indiscriminate firing following an IED explosion by militants on the Rajouri-Thanna road. The militants, however, managed to escape unhurt.

Similarly, militants triggered off an IED explosion near a Government school building at Saj in Rajouri district last week. Immediately thereafter, the security forces opened fire killing a mentally disabled person who was running in panic. A few days ago, the security forces recovered six IED's in LPG cylinders from under a culvert on the Rajouri-Thanna road and averted major tragedy in the area. They then banned local people from carrying LPG cylinders in buses as the militants managed to explode in IED on the same road after two days.

Given all this, most residents may prefer to stay indoors to avoid being hit by both the militants' or the security forces' bullets.

The Commission is in constant touch with the Home Secretary and the state Director-General of Police to ensure polls, Deputy Election Commissioner Subas Pani said. On preparations for the polls in the rest of the country, Pani said polls would be held in 124 Lok Sabha constituencies in eight states of the country. The second phase of Assembly elections to 353 seats in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka would be held simultaneously.

Some 2.07 crore voters are expected to vote through Electronic Voting Machine(EVMs) deployed in 151 Lok Sabha constituencies.


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