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Posted at: May 4, 2019, 6:51 AM; last updated: May 4, 2019, 1:08 PM (IST)

Pulwama not keen, leaders not seen

Ahead of phase three polling for Anantnag LS seat, negligible activity on ground

Majid Jahangir
Tribune News Service
Pulwama, May 3

No banners, no buntings, not a trace of political activity just three days ahead of the election — Pulwama is living up to its image of a militancy stronghold. Activities related to the May 6 third-phase polling for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat are restricted to offices and residences of politicians, where security guards outnumber political activists.

The February 14 bombing, which left 40 CRPF personnel dead and brought India and Pakistan on the brink of a war, still plays on the minds of people here.

Though the Pulwama attack has taken centrestage in the country’s politics, at ground zero, the focus is on peace, not the poll turnout.

Political workers feel the voting percentage may dip further as compared to Anantnag and Kulgam districts of south Kashmir.

“People are indifferent. Politicians know this and don’t expect even a double-digit turnout… We have seen the worst violence here. There is no question of voting. Pulwama may be a national issue, but for us, Kashmir is an issue that needs a solution,” said Tariq Ahmed, a local resident.

Anantnag is the only seat where polling is being conducted in three phases owing to security concerns. The authorities have already made a string of arrests ahead of Monday’s polling. 

The twin south Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama are the epicentre of Kashmir’s “new-age militancy” where 100 “native militants” are reportedly active. Two active operational commanders — Riyaz Naikoo and Zakir Musa — belong to Pulwama district. It was home to Burhan Wani, whose killing in 2016 triggered unrest. Pulwama district comprises four Assembly segments of Tral, Pampore, Pulwama and Rajpora, while Shopian district has two Assembly segments of Shopian and Wachi. These two districts have been a stronghold of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, the party is facing immense anger. The little political activity visible in Pulwama is inside offices of PDP and National Conference in Pulwama town in a high-security zone. At PDP office, over a dozen party workers were seen busy with preparing a list of polling agents. “There is a lot of fear, but as a party worker, I am ready to take any risk,” said an elderly worker at the office.

PDP youth president Waheed Parra, who hails from Pulwama, too does not expect any impressive turnout. 

“We don’t expect much turnout. It may be less than 20,000 votes (less than 5%) in both Shopian and Pulwama,” Parra said, adding that majority here felt that “vote is against the sentiment”.

Though PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who is the Anantnag candidate, launched her campaign from Pulwama by leading a protest against the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, she never returned to canvass.

A senior government official said holding polls was challenging due to the volatile situation. “Militant threat is looming large and we are ready for this challenge. Our concern is not the turnout, but peaceful polls,” he said, adding that law and order was also a concern.

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