‘PAGD candidates locked in hotels under garb of security’

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 11/20/2020 11:00:59 PM

SRINAGAR, Nov 20: Ahead of the November 28 District Development Council polls, the first democratic exercise since Jammu and Kashmir’s lost its special status and statehood in August last year, several leaders of the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have alleged that their candidates are forcibly confined in distant hotels under the “garb of security” and are unable to campaign freely because of the many restrictions imposed on them.
The PAGD has alleged that a level playing field is being denied by singularly cracking down on their candidates while the BJP candidates have been given enough security to move around and continue their campaigning in their constituencies. PAGD candidates have been locked up in hotels and guesthouses in several places and not allowed to campaign, they reiterated.
The issue of candidates in fray being huddled and sequestered in government buildings and hotels far away from their constituency and being immobilized first came to light on November 18, as already reported in Kashmir Times, when National Conference vice-president, Omar Abdullah questioned the conduct of elections in the Union Territory, saying “What sort of elections are being held in J&K where candidates are being stopped from campaigning? Is this the safe, terror free J&K the Home Minister was tweeting about yesterday?”
Omar was responding to the tweet of one of the NC candidates from Khag, Rayees Mattoo, who maintained that “he was being detained in a hotel” and “prevented from campaigning”.
According to today’s report in PTI, Mattoo said, “We are not provided with security or vehicles. I had three meetings scheduled for the day and had conveyed the same to the authorities well in advance. But I was not allowed to move out of the hotel as they say there are not enough vehicles or security available," he asserted.
His party colleague and candidate Mohammad Ashraf Lone said there are only six vehicles for about 40 candidates in the hotel he has been allotted.
"How can we all move around in just a few vehicles? The government says new faces should contest the polls and so we did. But if they cannot provide us with the facilities, how can we manage? If they do not want us to contest, let them say it then."
According to Lone, the candidates were told to use the vehicles to campaign but return before 4 pm. "The journey from our hotel to Beerwah (in central Kashmir's Budgam district) itself takes about two hours. How can we campaign in such a short time," he said.
Sabzar Ahmad, an independent candidate from Dooru area of south Kashmir's Anantnag district, said he has been placed in a hotel in Pahalgam and is not allowed to move out.
"About 25 of us are here and we feel like prisoners. They do not let us move out, while candidates from other parties go out for campaigning," he said.
Another independent candidate, Akhtar Hussain Magray from Beerwah, withdrew his nomination papers, saying the authorities had failed to provide the candidates with security and other arrangements.
According to IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, the candidates are provided escort when they leave and the security forces secure the area for them to visit and campaign. "Whenever any candidate goes out for campaigning, we provide a double escort with him and secure the area for him to campaign," he said.
However, some PAGD leaders have alleged discrimination in the way security is being provided to enable the mobility of the candidates in fray.
According to an NDTV report, at least 40 candidates have been sequestered at a highly guarded accommodation facility near Pampore in Pulwama district.
There are dozens of candidates from Pulwama and Shopian districts who allege that the campaign of opposition candidates is being scuttled in the name security and only BJP candidates are being facilitated by the authorities, the report said and quoted one of the candidates, Abdul Gaffar Wagay.
"We have filed nomination papers to serve people. If this election is for people then why we have been detained here? There 30 to 40 people with me who have been detained here. police are harassing us. They are not allowing us to go out. Look at my condition," Wagay said.
The NDTV report also mentioned the case of Javid Ahmad, a BJP candidate, who is carrying out a door-to-door campaign in Shopian. He is escorted by heavily armed police guards. In the absence of an opposition campaign, Ahmad is confident that he will win this election in a place otherwise considered a strong bastion of the People's Democratic Party and the National Conference.
Meanwhile, PDP leader, Khursheed Alam said, “It is very evident that only BJP candidates are allowed to campaign while others are not. It's killing democracy. We should be provided security so that we can go into our constituencies and ask for votes."
Salman Sagar, candidate and NC leader said, "We are not satisfied with regard to security and I think they don’t want us to campaign. It's the responsibility of the government to provide security," he said
The most scathing comment came from NC provincial president, Nasir Aslam Wani who made a veiled innuendo at the BJP and the Apni Party and stated, "The BJP and 'Kings party' candidates and their junior-level workers are provided individual personal security and bulletproof vehicles, while all others are hounded too far away government accommodations.”
He also questioned the rationing of the limited campaigning hours. "I have never witnessed this kind of electioneering… not since the political process started after the eruption of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. We have always had candidates running around. How can you expect somebody to campaign only between 12.00 Noon and 3.00 PM?" Wani said.

 

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