At least 15 candidates withdrew from the J&K local body polls after two workers of the National Conference, which is boycotting the polls, were shot dead and another injured by suspected militants in Srinagar’s old city Friday morning. Late evening, the house of a candidate in Hajin in north Kashmir was attacked by unidentified men who, police said, hurled “some type of substance” that set ablaze a pile of clothes. The candidate was not in the house at the time of the incident.
Through the day, there were a total of 23 nomination withdrawals in Srinagar which will vote in phase four of the polls — phase one starts October 8. Sources said 15 withdrawals were made in the afternoon following the killings. For the 25 wards that make the Srinagar municipal corporation, 146 people had filed nomination papers.
One of the candidates, Muzamil Jan, from the Dalgate ward reserved for women, told The Indian Express that she pulled out of the contest because she feared for her three children. “My elderly mother-in-law was very frightened after the incident. We also felt that if workers of a party which is not contesting (NC) the polls can be killed, what support can I hope for as an independent candidate,” she said.
Around 11.30 am Friday, two “motorcycle-borne militants”, police said, attacked the three NC workers and fled. The two gunned down were identified as Nazir Ahmad and Mushtaq Ahmad, close aides of Shamima Firdous, NC leader who represents Srinagar’s Habbakadal constituency. The injured party worker, Shakeel Ahmad, is a block president of the NC.
According to police, the attack took place at Karfali Mohalla in the old city around 11.30 am when militants opened fire at the three men while they were at a meat shop that Shakeel owns. Shakeel’s family said he was shot in the arm and was taken to hospital. Dr Saleem Tak, Medical Superintendent of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, said three persons with bullet injuries were brought to the hospital. “Two were declared brought dead and the third person had bullet wounds on the arm. We referred him to a bone and joints hospital for further treatment,” he said.
Additional DGP (Security and Law and Order) Muneer Ahmad Khan told The Indian Express that according to information collected so far from the public, “two militants came on a bike” and killed the two men. An investigation, he said, had begun. NC leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, said: “I cannot condemn strongly enough the murderous terrorist attack against three of my party workers. Nazir Ahmed Bhat (working in the office of MLA Shamima Firdous) & Mushtaq Ahmed Wani have been killed. Allah Jannat naseeb karey.”
NC leader Tanvir Sadiq told The Indian Express: “Our party has boycotted the election, still our workers have been attacked. We are shocked.” The PDP, which is also boycotting the polls, said in a tweet: “Attack on political workers who champion the cause of common masses is downright appalling & symptomatic of alien elements misrepresenting the ethos of Kashmir. We strongly condemn the brutal murder of @JKNC_ workers. Our hearts go out to their bereaved families.”
The J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) said the incident was “shocking and highly painful.” “Both State and Centre cannot escape the responsibility of killings in the Valley,” the JKPCC said.