The re-election in at least 38 polling stations in central Kashmir's Budgam district shall take place on Thursday amid tight security arrangements and fears of Sunday-like protests and clashes in which eight youth were killed by forces during the bypoll to Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency. More than 50 companies of additional forces have been deployed in the Budgam district to ensure smooth conduct of re-poll, officials said.
Official sources told Greater Kashmir that elaborate security arrangements have been put in place in areas that are slated for re-poll, with special focus on ensuring that no protestor manages to the disrupt the election process.
"To ensure close coordination among various security agencies, two senior police officers, of SP-rank, have been deployed at Budgam to meet any possible challenge," they said.
Pertinently, seven youth were killed in forces' action in Budgam and one in Ganderbal district on Sunday as the Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency went to polls. The polling was, however, marred by large-scale protests and clashes wherein protesters literally took over many polling booths amid pro-freedom slogans. At least 33 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had gone missing, according to officials. "Only four damaged EVMs were recovered," they had said.
It was for the first time in the electoral history of the state that Srinagar parliamentary constituency witnessed just 7% voting.
"The poll-body's directive to hold re-poll at 38 polling stations in Beerwah, Chadoora and Budgam Assembly segments came after a team headed by the ECI observer for Budgam, Rajesh Bahuguna, recommended re-election in these polling stations after getting the feedback from the presiding officers," sources added.
"Keeping in view the sensitivities involved following massive clashes that occurred on April 9, a well-thought out security plan has been framed this time around. More than 50 companies of forces have been deployed in the district to ensure re-polling at the 38 stations goes incident-free," an official said. "Each polling station will be guarded by more than one company of forces."
Police sources said additional 50 companies would join the already-deployed forces for the polling in the district. "The district will remain enveloped in the thick security blanket and if needed, Army may be requested to press in Unarmed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for monitoring the situation," they said.
Srinagar-based spokesman of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Bhuvaish Chaudhary said all the security arrangements have been put in place for the re-polling. "This time more focus will be in villages adjacent to polling stations. We will ensure that no trouble-maker manages to come closer to a polling booth. Special focus will be on the law and order part and possible militant strikes," he said.
Chaudhary said special directions have been passed to the forces "to exercise maximum restraint and not open fire."
"We hope that the day would pass off peacefully," he said.
J&K's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu said all the security arrangements are in place to ensure smooth polls. "We are hopeful that re-polling at all the 38 polling stations will pass off peacefully," he said.
Section-144 imposed in Budgam areas
According to District Magistrate Budgam restrictions under Section-144 shall remain in force in the district on 13 April 2017, except for those areas where re-poll is to be held.