Fresh violence in Kashmir before Anantnag poll
Srinagar, April 10 (IANS): A school building was set ablaze as mobs stoned security personnel on Monday in Anantnag town and adjoining areas, prompting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother and PDP contestant Tassaduq Hussain Mufti to seek deferment of the Wednesday Lok Sabha by-election in the region.
The fresh violence amid a complete shutdown in response to a call from separatists comes a day after widespread clashes, disrupting voting for the Srinagar by-election, while security forces left eight civilians dead in central and north Kashmir.
A police officer told IANS here that clashes erupted in Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag and Shopian districts of south Kashmir – the region that is scheduled to vote on Wednesday for a Lok Sabha by-poll.
The officer said mobs threw stones at security forces at more than a dozen places as the forces used tear gas canisters and baton charged the crowds to disperse them. Amid the protests, mosque loudspeakers played slogans hailing Islam and pro-freedom songs.
In Shopian, people took to the streets after security forces arrested suspected troublemakers on Sunday night.
Protesters earlier set ablaze a school building – the second in two days – in Shopian that was designated as a polling station for the Wednesday by-poll, the officer said.
Top district education officer Mohammad Sadiq told reporters that “three rooms of the government school were damaged.
On Sunday, a government school was torched by unknown persons in neighbouring Pulwama district.
The Monday protests came a day after eight civilians were killed by security forces during the Lok Sabha by-election in the Srinagar-Budgam constituency.
Life remained paralyzed in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, Pulwana, Shopian and Kulgam districts on Monday.
Markets, public transport, educational institutions and other businesses were closed in Srinagar and other parts of the troubled valley.
Heavily armed police and paramilitary personnel patrolled the deserted streets across the valley. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked the Election Commission to postpone the Anantnag election.
PDP candidate for the Anantnag parliamentary constituency Tassaduq Mufti said the situation in the valley was not right for election.
“I appeal to the election commission that the polls be postponed keeping in view the situation in the valley. Eight civilians lost their lives. You can’t force people to vote and can’t force them not to vote,” Tassaduq told reporters.
Former Chief Minister and opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the PDP leader’s comment was a sign of the state government’s failure.
“Tassaduq’s statement is an indictment of his sister Mehbooba Mufti’s government and its abject failure. How can the BJP not see this,” Abdullah tweeted.
He said the poll panel “is well within its powers to postpone or countermand Anantnag election but if so Mehbooba Mufti must resign and Governor should take charge”.