Today: Jun 19, 2024

Mufti alleges PDP workers detained on polling day, holds protest; police ‘lathicharge’ crowd

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Claims outgoing calls on her mobile number suspended

 Bijbehara: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday staged a protest outside a police station in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, where polling was held in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, against alleged detention of her party workers and polling agents.

She also claimed that outgoing calls on her mobile number have been suspended.

Police, however, said those detained were “overground workers” (OGWs) and the action was taken to ensure the smooth conduct of elections.

Mufti, who is among 20 candidates in the fray from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, staged a sit-in outside Bijbehara police station on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. The protesters raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration and demanded that those detained be immediately released.

“Our PDP polling agents are being targeted and arrested. We are asking the reason but they are not saying anything. If they are so afraid of me going to the Parliament, then the lieutenant governor should tell me not to fight elections,” Mufti told reporters.

She said this kind of “rigging” was witnessed in 1987 which many believe led to the eruption of militancy in Kashmir.

Police said only a few people with a “tainted” past record and who can pose a threat to law and order on polling day have been detained.

“Those who have been detained are overground workers and have been taken into preventive custody to ensure peaceful polling,” a police official said.

A protester, Yasmeen, said her husband is among those detained.

“I am very worried since last night. My husband does not engage in any illegal activity and yet he has been detained.

“We are not even being allowed to meet him. Today is the voting day and everyone has the right to vote. Why have they been detained and prevented from voting? The law should be the same for everyone,” she said.

Police and civil officers rushed to the scene and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief for over an hour to lift the blockade, officials said.

Police personnel resorted to “lathicharge” to disperse the swelling crowds of onlookers, they said.

Media persons covering the protest claimed that some of them were injured after being hit by police batons.

Mufti left the protest site briefly to cast her vote.

Media persons were not allowed inside the polling booth and were stopped by security personnel 100 metres from the booth.

On Friday, Mufti had written to the Election Commission claiming that PDP workers and polling agents were detained by police.

“Many of our PDP polling agents & workers are being detained just before voting. When the families went to the police stations they were told that it was being done at the behest of SSP Anantnag & DIG South Kashmir. We’ve written to @ECISVEEP hoping for their timely intervention,” the PDP chief had said in a post on X.

Earlier on Saturday, Mufti said that outgoing calls on her mobile number had been suspended without any explanation.

“I am not able to make any calls since morning. There is no explanation for this sudden suspension of services on the day of polling in the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency,” she said.

The PDP also flagged the issue in a post on X.

“Just ahead of the polls, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti’s @MehboobaMufti cellular phone service has been abruptly snapped. Yesterday evening and in the early hours today, scores of PDP workers and polling agents were detained across the polling belt,” the party said.

PHOTO/Farooq Javed