New Delhi: The Centre has begun to roll out its security and outreach measures in Kashmir, with less than two weeks to go for the Block Development Council (BDC) polls, on 24 October.
While Kashmir has been under a tight security blanket and a communication clampdown since 5 August, the Union home ministry, while ensuring the restoration of normalcy in the valley, is also tightening its security grid in the wake of heightened militant attacks and fresh infiltration attempts, following the reading down of Article 370.
Though the BDC polls mark the Centre’s first attempt at restoring democratic processes in the region, following the revocation of its special status and bifurcation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking at making a significant dent in the upcoming polls. At the same time, Union home minister Amit Shah has also given out instructions to extend all possible support to panchs and sarpanchs in the region to carry out preparatory work for the polls.
“There is a very tight security and anti-terror grid. Intelligence inputs indicate the presence of militants who are likely to disrupt the polls. Since they have anyway been issuing threats to locals to boycott any attempt by the Centre to restore normalcy, we are keeping a very close watch at any suspicious movement," said an official familiar with the development, adding that panchs and sarpanchs working towards the BDC polls are also being kept away from harm.
The Congress party however, announced on Wednesday, that it would boycott the BDC polls.
Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief said, “We have come to realise that these elections (Block Development Council elections) are being held to facilitate only one party - ruling party. Our leaders are under detention. We have no other option but to announce that we are boycotting the election."
Mir’s announcement came just days after the Jammu and Kashmir administration, in a bid to restore democracy ahead of the block development polls, decided to release a few leaders in Kashmir, who had been placed under preventive detention since 5 August.
At the same time, while Shah has been taking stock of the situation in the valley, he has also Amit Shah directed the J&K unit of the BJP to ensure that normalcy is restored in the Valley, whilst also asking the administration to focus on reopening of schools and other educational institutions in the region and roll out outreach programs to ensure the smooth conduct of the BDC polls.
The J&K administration, on Thursday, also lifted the two-month ban on movement of tourists in the valley, while the announcement had earlier been made on Tuesday.