All prominent Kashmiri separatist leaders have been either detained at different police stations or confined to “house arrest” even as the authorities on Tuesday admitted to have picked up over 600 “miscreants” ahead of the phase 3 of the polling in Kashmir valley on Wednesday.
While as the octogenarian radical leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (Geelani)spokesman Ayaz Akbar, Chairman of the so-called moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Bilal Gani Lone and Abdul Gani Bhat have been placed under house arrest, JKLF chairman Yasin Malik has been detained alongwith Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Ashraf Bin Salam, Shaukat Bakhshi and 30 others.
National Front chief Nayeem Khan, Democratic Freedom Party head Shabir Shah and Peoples League chairman Mukhtar Ahmed Waza, who were all running an anti-election campaign, have also been detained by Police.
Senior Police officers confirmed the arrest of 600 people and told The Hindu that “200 to 300 more miscreants, stone pelters and trouble mongers” would be picked up to ensure free and fair polling in Srinagar-Budgam on April 30, and in Baramulla-Kupwara on May 7. They said that over 400 “miscreants” had been arrested in Central Kashmir and 200 in Baramulla and Anantnag constituencies.
National Conference leader Dr. Farooq Abdullah and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s Tariq Hamid Qarra, are the key contestants for the Central Kashmir seat which witnessed two blasts at the former’s rally venues at Khanyar and Magam on Sunday. Fifteen persons were injured in the blast at Magam, in Budgam district.
“We are fully prepared to conduct a free and fair polling on Wednesday. All necessary arrangements are in place to ensure that the polling is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and there’s no room left for intimidation or an attack on the polling staff or the voters”, Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday told The Hindu.
“Nobody will be allowed to disrupt the electoral process or attack or intimidate those who have a right to vote and want to exercise it”, Srinagar Deputy Commissioner and Returning Officer Farooq shah said. He said 9,000 government officials, who include 8,500 Kashmiri resident Muslims, were holding the polling on Wednesday and all loopholes had been plugged to ensure their safety.
Almost all the separatist groups have dismissed the elections in Kashmir as a “military exercise” and argued that holding the elections under gun point carried no meaning. Separatist-turned-mainstream leader Sajjad Gani Lone has urged Election Commission of India to intervene and stop the crackdown against the Kashmiri youths.