“Going from defensive to offensive and hitting the participants in polling has become our compulsion — not passion — as the forthcoming parliamentary and Assembly elections are emerging as a major challenge to our freedom struggle,” read one of the hundreds of Urdu-typeset and laser-printed posters pasted on walls in Tral and other towns in Pulwama district on Saturday on behalf of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

“This is our final warning to the unscrupulous people attending the election rallies and polling and imposing the ill-fated Indian agents of the NC, PDP and Congress that their refusal to desist from this activity would mean their death. We have declared the war.”

In the first enforcement of the diktat to subvert the April 24 polling, village headman Anwar Sheikh was gunned down at Amlar and Sarpanch Ghulam Nabi Mir with son Firdaus at Batagund on Monday. The next evening witnessed considerable decrease in the number of regular mosque-goers — around 40 per cent according to college teacher Jauhar Qudusi. A retired Police officer described the wave of fear as “unprecedented”.

Thirty Panches and Sarpanches announced resignation in the notes read out by Imams at different mosques. There’s no activity at National Conference leader Ashraf Bhat's home at Harkar Mohalla. Three of his family have already been shot dead by militants. This red corridor passes through the Army’s counterinsurgent divisional headquarters of Victor Force, an IAF base, besides the three battalion headquarters of the Army and CRPF.