The panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir have been called off, a senior Home Ministry official said. They have been deferred indefinitely due to the prevailing “security situation” in the Kashmir Valley, the official said.
Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) has threatened to pour acid in the eyes of people who participate in the electoral process.
Based on the State government’s request, the Centre had mobilised around 40,000 central armed police forces (CAPF) and put them on standby.
According to the initial plan, the elections were to be held in four phases from February 15. J&K Director General of Police S.P. Vaid wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs on January 25 requesting “deployment of additional CAPF companies” for panchayat election duties in J&K, a communication accessed by The Hindu said.
‘Forces not deployed’
The Home Ministry sanctioned 7,000 Central forces that were to be deployed by February 10 for the first phase, 5,500 personnel by February 15 for the second phase, 7,000 by February 20 for the third phase and 10,500 for the fourth phase by February 28.
In addition to this, 10,000 CAPF personnel who were under training were also to be deployed for the elections.
“We had mobilised the forces but were asked not to deploy them. Close to 40,000 Central forces which are in addition to the current deployment had been earmarked for the panchayat polls,” said the official.
State Public Works Minister and senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti will take a final decision on conducting the panchayat elections when the Cabinet meets next time.
He said Ms. Mufti chaired an all-party meeting on February 4 to hear the views of all parties and said several Opposition parties, including the National Conference, expressed reservations.
“In 2011, the panchayat polls were possible because the Peoples Democratic Party as an opposition party supported the government’s initiative. When to conduct the polls will be discussed in the Cabinet. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti will take a call on it,” Mr. Akhtar said.
The last panchayat elections were held in April-May 2011 with 80% turnout. J&K has 4,378 panchayats.
“It’s unlikely that the elections will be held anytime soon. After committing to it earlier, the State government does not want an election now,” said a senior Home Ministry official.