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|October 3, 1999||
Security forces on 'maximum alert' for Anantnag polling
Apprehending trouble and violence, the security forces have been put on ''maximum alert'' to ensure trouble-free polling in Anantnag parliamentary constituency which goes to the polls tomorrow to decide the fate of 18 candidates, including two former Union ministers.
Authorities have arrested more than 20 leaders of the separatist All-Party Kashmir Hurriyat Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party for their anti-election campaign which had by and large affected the voter turn-out during the first two phases of elections in the Valley.
About 7,000 of the 29,000 Kashmiri migrant voters in the constituency have registered themselves with the commission for voting through postal ballot. Senior state and security officials, quoting intelligence reports, said Pakistan's ISI-trained militants may try to disrupt the polling in the constituency spread over 18 assembly segments of the districts of Anantnag and Pulwama in south Kashmir.
State deputy chief electoral officer B D sharma said all necessary measures have been taken to ensure peaceful polling. Altogether, 994 polling stations have been set up across the constituency for an electorate totalling 8,04,983, which includes 3,60,492 women.
Former Union ministers Mufti Mohammed Sayeed (Ind) and Mohmmad Maqbool Dar (Janata Dal-United) ), state revenue minister Ali Mohmmad Naik (NC) and former state minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayed (Congress) are among the contestants.
Sharma said 625 polling stations were declared sensitive or hyper-sensitive, and all necessary measures had been taken to give a peaceful atmosphere to voters to exercise their franchise. Official sources said about 200 more companies of the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Jammu and Kashmir police would be deployed across the constituency.
These companies would be in addition to forces, including Rashitrya Rifles and Indo-tibetan Border Police already deployed in the constituency for daily counter- insurgency operations.
Despite requests by state authorities for more forces, the Centre has expressed its inability to spare more forces for the state because of elections elsewhere in the country, the sources added.
The poll process received a major setback in the constituency when Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Ghulam Hyder Noorani was killed along with three others in a land mine blast at Bijbehara on September 7. The Election Commission subsequently announced adjournment of the polling which was originally scheduled for September 18 in the constituency.
The BJP fielded as its new candidate Showkat Hussain Wani, a surrendered militant-turned-politician after the Election Commission issued a fresh notification giving seven days' time to the party.
For tomorrow's polling, security forces have been deployed in strength at important public places and government buildings. Patrolling has also been intensified. Sharma said the poll material has reached the respective polling stations. Poll officials were being given government accommodation. ''All the poll officials are locals,'' he added.
State chief electoral officer S V Bhave, accompanied by divisional commissioner (Kashmir) Kurshid Ahmad Ganai reviewed the arrangements. The constituency has been divided into zones and sectors in a bid to make fool-proof security arrangements. Bhave impressed upon the poll staff to ensure free, fair and smooth polling, and directed employees to be impartial in the poll process, and said stern action would be taken against the employees found violating the Model Code of Conduct.
Authorities have voiced concern over the presence of a good number of heavily-armed militants, mostly foreigners, in the jungles of Deksum, Kokernag, Achabal, Ahrabal, Shopian, Wadwan, Ahalangadwal and Pirpanchal ranges bordering Doda. Patrolling in these areas has been intensified. A militant was killed at Kandi Dhok in the Pirpanchal range last evening.
Observers feel the low turnout in Srinagar and Baramulla constituencies will have its impact on polling in the constituency.
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