Fear grips among candidates in Valley ahead of polls ULB candidate from Srinagar-held hostage

The killing of two National Conference (NC) workers in broad daylight in the heart of the city has created a sense of fear among the candidates in the Valley who are contesting municipal polls commencing from October 8 in the State.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, many candidates highlighted the vulnerability of getting attacked at any point of time in absence of an adequate security provided to them by the State administration.
Hakim Ruhullah Gazi, who is contesting elections on Congress ticket from Jamia Masjid ward in Budgam, said despite several pleas to the administration, many of the Congress candidates were not provided security as per their likings.
Gazi accused the State administration of favouring BJP candidates’ in terms of providing standard security cover and shifting them to safer places.
“I know there is a threat to my life but I can’t let BJP penetrate into our society at the grass roots level,” he said.
On the other hand, a BJP candidate, who is contesting polls from Basant Bagh area of Srinagar also accused the State government of exposing them to open attacks from “militants” due to lack of arrangements.
The BJP candidate, wishing not to be named for security reasons, said many candidates belonging to different parties including independents have been kept in a hotel in Srinagar “that is exposed to great danger of militant attacks”.
On October 4, around 79 independent candidates contesting municipal polls in a press conference expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the security arrangements being issued by the State government.
An Independent candidate, who is contesting elections from one of the wards in Rainawari, said the attack on NC workers has created “panic” among the candidates.
“To be honest, I no longer feel safe. The attack has exposed claims of tight security in the valley and added more to the anxiety among the candidates ahead of civic polls,” the candidate said.
On Friday, at around 11.30 am, unidentified gunmen fired a volley of bullets in Habba Kadal at three NC workers Mushtaq Ahmed Wani, Nazir Ahmed Bhat and Shakeel Ahmed Zangoo.
The three were rushed to the hospital where Wani and Bhat succumbed to injuries and Zangoo is in a critical condition.
Two days ahead of the voting for the first phase of ULB polls, one of the candidates Tariq Ahmad Ganaie’s family alleged that he had been forcefully detained by Police to protect him from withdrawing nomination papers.
Ganaie’s mother Hajira begum told Rising Kashmir that her son was picked up by Police on the pretext of providing him security but now even the family was not allowed to meet him alone.
“The Khanyar Police Station personnel picked him from his home late Thursday evening,” Hajira said. “He wants to withdraw his nomination but Police isn’t letting him do that.”
She said Police was not allowing the family talk to Ganaie one-on-one.
“There is a police personnel present in every meeting we have had since they picked him up. He can’t talk to us freely, Hajira said.
She said Police has been telling the family that Ganaie would be allowed to go after the polling for his ward is over.
“They didn’t let him campaign as well. How would he win if they really want an election,” Hajira said.
She alleged that her son was lured by a friend to file nomination form for the election and in reality he had not been associated with any political party.
As per the family, Ganaie is participating from Rozabal area which is going to polls in the third phase scheduled on October 13.
Meanwhile, National Conference Youth Wing President Salman Sagar said the family of Ganaie had approached him as the assembly constituency was represented by their party.
“They told us that he has been forcefully detained. We aren’t against elections even though we have boycotted them but doing such acts forcefully isn’t acceptable at all,” Sagar said. “Ganaie is contesting on a Congress party ticket.”
He said every candidate has every right to withdraw his or her nomination.
“These elections are a sham anyways but then forcefully confining a candidate against his will to prove the credibility of the process speaks volumes in itself,” Sagar said.
Station House Officer, Khanyar Police Station while refuting the family claims said they have no knowledge about the detention of Ganaie.
“Why would we detain a candidate? We have no role in elections apart from providing security,” the SHO said.
He said every candidate was being provided security when he or she seeks it for campaigning in any area.
“The family’s allegations are baseless,” the SHO said.
Meanwhile, Congress’ Khanyar in charge Tariq Tenga told Rising Kashmir that the family is lying as Ganaie was willingly in the fray for polls.
“He has opted for security himself as there is a threat perception. Today he went with his polling agents to collect forms for them,” Tenga said.
“I don’t know why Ganaie’s family is lying. But he is a winning candidate,” he said.
Tenga said since yesterday Ganaie has been going out less frequently following Police advisory after two NC workers were shot dead in Habba Kadal area.
Earlier, four candidates from Pahalgam area, who had filed their nomination papers for 3rd phase of ULB polls, were being prevented from withdrawing nominations from Pahalgam Municipal Committee.
A senior rank police official, requesting not be named, told Rising Kashmir that Police is doing its best to enhance security arrangements in the Valley.
However, the official said, “It is not possible to provide security cover to all candidates participating in municipal polls.”
The four-phase polls for 79 ULBs in Jammu Kashmir would be held on October 8, 10, 13 and 16.