Militants Stepping Up Anti-poll Drive
25 April 2004
Mahore: In the remote hill areas of Jammu and Kashmir, the people, including tribals, have begun earning the wrath of militants for taking part in the election process. After the election dates were announced, people were warned against participating in the poll process, but in many places there was open defiance by the locals. The militants are mainly angry with those in the hilly belt who are part of the electorate in the Udhampur parliamentary segment of Jammu province. Four days ago, militants beat up Misri Din, panchayat member, and Haji Sulla Mohammad, village head, at Morha Kalwa. Says Aijaz Khan, a tribal leader who is a Minister of State in the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed Government apprehends: 'The impact of the militants threats will be felt by the tribal population after the elections as the people here are far away from the high-security zones in the State. Most of the tragedies here go unreported because of the remoteness of the area.' Mr. Khan has lost many of his relatives to militant violence. In the 2002 Assembly elections, the tribal-dominated segments of Udhampur district - Reasi, Gool-Arnas and Gulabgarh - witnessed an average voter turnout of 60 per cent, the highest in the State. This time the militants have embarked upon an active anti- election drive in the area. The police claim to have made all arrangements for the protection of the civilians in the belt but the past incidents continue to haunt the locals. In April 1998, 28 persons were killed in nearby Prankote when the locals defied the milinats' diktat and allowed the authorities to construct a polling booth in their locality. Dalip, an eyewitness to that carnage, says: 'I still remember the scene of the blood-soaked, mutilated bodies of my parents and the rest of family members. The incident continues to scare me day and night.' Not too different is the pain of Krishan Lal, who lost his parents and three sisters in the same incident.