Kashmir has been under a tight security blanket and a communication clampdown since 5 August
The BDC polls mark the Centre’s first attempt at restoring democratic processes in the region
New Delhi, October 10:
The Centre has beefed up security and initiated outreach measures in Kashmir with less than two weeks to go for the Block Development Council (BDC) polls, scheduled for 24 October.
Kashmir has been under a tight security blanket and a communication clampdown since 5 August. The Union home ministry, however, has been trying to balance restoring normalcy in the valley while ensuring tight security in the wake of fresh infiltration attempts and risks of heightened militant activity following the reading down of Article 370.
The BDC polls mark the Centre’s first attempt at restoring democratic processes in the region, following the revocation of its special status and bifurcation, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking at making a significant mark in the upcoming polls. Union home minister Amit Shah, meanwhile, has given instructions to extend all possible support to panchs and sarpanchs in the region to carry out preparatory work for the polls.
“There is a very tight security and anti-terror grid. Intelligence inputs indicate the presence of militants who are likely to disrupt the polls. Since they have anyway been issuing threats to locals to boycott any attempt by the Centre to restore normalcy, we are keeping a very close watch at any suspicious movement,” said an official familiar with the development, adding that panchs and sarpanchs preparing for the BDC polls were being kept away from harm.
The Congress party, however, announced on Wednesday that it would boycott the BDC polls.
Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief said, “We have come to realise that these elections (Block Development Council elections) are being held to facilitate only one party – ruling party. Our leaders are under detention. We have no other option but to announce that we are boycotting the election.”
Mir’s announcement came just days after the Jammu and Kashmir administration, in a bid to restore democracy ahead of the block development polls, decided to release a few leaders in Kashmir who were in preventive detention since 5 August.
At the same time, while Shah has been taking stock of the situation in the valley, he has directed the J&K unit of the BJP to ensure that normalcy is restored in the Valley. Shah has asked the local administration to focus on reopening of schools and other educational institutions in the region and roll out outreach programs to ensure the smooth conduct of the BDC polls.