Says threat due to militancy increasing; ‘Army chief’s warning proving counterproductive’
The Election Commission of India must ensure a conducive atmosphere and adequate security for upcoming by-elections to two parliamentary seats in Kashmir, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Tuesday, two days after a former village head was killed by unidentified gunmen in southern Pulwama district.
Anger has been simmering in most parts of south Kashmir which has witnessed a rise in anti-militancy operations during the past few months, with people often rushing towards the gunfight sites in bid to help the holed up militants escape.
“The security of our former ministers and former legislators is being withdrawn and every time they visit an area they have to plead for adequate security with the authorities. In these conditions, the Election Commission expects us to fight elections. It should first ensure conducive atmosphere for the polls and also see that the candidates and campaigners are provided adequate security,” Omar said after his party National Conference’s Core Group meeting here to discuss candidates for upcoming elections.
Omar, the Working President of National Conference, said threat due to militancy isn’t going down. “It is increasing and instead of upgrading the security of our (opposition) leaders, it is being withdrawn,” he said in a veiled attack on the State Government.
While the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat will go to polls on April 9, the polls in Anantnag segment would be held on April 12.
To a question about people particularly youth rushing to encounter sites to help militants flee, Omar said it was a situation for the State Government to deal with.
“There has to be a way to make these people understand; threatening them hasn’t succeeded,” Omar said, referring to a recent statement by Army Chief that those who obstruct encounters in Kashmir would be dealt with seriously.
Omar said the Army Chief’s warning hasn’t proven successful and instead more people are coming out in support of militants. “A threat can’t solve this problem. The present Government has to understand people’s emotions and engage them,” he said.
Omar also talked about the “failure” of the State Government to restore Srinagar-Jammu highway for the past six days which has forced passengers stranded in Jammu to walk on foot for long hours to try and reach home on this side of Pirpanjal mountain range.
“This is really unfortunate,” Omar said, asking New Delhi and the State Government to take the issue seriously.
“Why aren’t they able to clear the road for traffic for the past six days? It speaks of callousness,” he said.
He said owing to closure of the road, Kashmir is running short of essential commodities.
On BJP’s landside win in Uttar Pradesh, Omar said if the opposition doesn’t learn from their mistakes, then “we will have to forget 2019 and prepare for 2024. But I am hopeful that we will change our way of work and get close to people.”