By mercilessly killing an unarmed Army soldier in his home and setting ablaze four panchayat buildings on Monday night in South Kashmir, terrorists and radical supporters of the pro-Pakistan separatists are trying to create an atmosphere of fear in Kashmir against the upcoming panchayats and municipal elections. They have tried to send the signal that the coming J-K elections might not be peaceful.

Reports said miscreants torched the panchayat ghars at Seer Jagier (Tral), Nazneenpora (Shopian), Drubgam and Nagbal (both in Pulwama) in South Kashmir that has become the nerve-centre of terrorism and is also considered stronghold of the separatists.

Top separatists Syed Alishah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik on Monday reiterated their poll boycott diktat  after which the CPI(M) also announced its decision to stay away from the elections. The National Conference (NC), PDP and Awami NC have already said they will boycott these elections.

The Congress is tightlipped on the issue of contesting these elections and party chief GA Mir has so far only said the atmosphere in the state is not conducive for holding the elections. Among the major political parties, only BJP has been keen to participate in the elections.

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Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Governor Satya Pal Malik have appealed to the political parties to participate in the poll process that provides an opportunity to interact with the masses at the grassroots.

The Pakistan backed terrorists particularly in South Kashmir were trying to sabotage these elections by creating violence. Reyaz Naikoo, self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, has also given the call for poll boycott.

As many as 14 elected panchayats members and candidates were shot dead during the last elections in 2011 when Pakistan-based top terrorist Salahuddin had given the call for poll boycott. More than 120 elected representatives of panchayats had submitted resignations on his diktat.

Unlike municipal corporation and municipal council elections, the panchayat elections will not be held on party lines. The notifications for the polls will start coming out from 18 September.

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Though J-K Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said security would be provided to all those contesting and conducting these elections, the fact remains that it is going to be a gigantic and worrisome exercise as polling is to take place for 35,096 panch seats , 4490 sarpanch slots, two municipal corporations of Jammu and Srinagar and 72 municipal councils across the state. More than 58 lakh voters have been enlisted for these elections.

The elections to municipal corporations and municipal councils have been due for the last eight years as their respective terms expired in 2010 after the last elections in 2005. Similarly, the last elections for panchayats were held in 2011 and their term expired in July 2016.

Meanwhile, BJP state spokesman Brigadier (Retd) Anil Gupta in a statement complemented Governor Satya Pal Malik for not falling in the trap of Kashmir-centric parties that were trying to create hurdles in conduct of the grassroots elections. He accused the parties boycotting the elections of parroting the language of separatists.