Anantnag bypoll cancelled: Why have Kashmir’s parties gone underground?

Public anger against PDP is mounting and unknown gunmen are knocking on doors of political activists

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#LATEST | Less than a year ago, when you entered the town of Anantnag in South Kashmir, you were greeted with party flags. The pen and inkpot of the People’s Democratic Party, the plough of the National Conference, even the odd Congress hand fluttered in Khanabal Chowk, close to the government quarters.

As you drove deeper into Anantnag district, there were rival political rallies held in the main town and surrounding villages. And there was graffiti on walls and shopfronts, calling for a boycott of elections.

That was just before the bye-election to the Anantnag Assembly seat, which had fallen vacant with the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January 2016. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who had succeeded him as chief minister, won that election in June. And as mandated by law, she quit her Anantnag Lok Sabha seat. Which meant another bye-election was due.

The polling was scheduled on April 12 this year, three days after the bye-election to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. But when eight people were killed in firing by security forces on protestors trying to disrupt the Srinagar bye-election, which saw a turnout of only 7.14%, the Anantnag election was postponed to May 25. On Tuesday, as the violence continued, the Election Commission cancelled the bye-poll .

Clearly, the political and security establishments could not take any chances, certainly not in South Kashmir. A season of unrest has swept through the district since last June, wrenching the flags off Khanabal Chowk. There is new graffiti, demanding “India Go Back”, declaring “Intifada 2016”, swearing allegiance to slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and Pakistan. Some such slogans have been painted over but many remain.| read more…

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