India: Govt sets council elections in Jammu and Kashmir


Nearly two months after a government clampdown, India has decided to organize Block Development Council (BDC) elections in the troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, said an official on Sunday. 

The councils are the second tier of local government under the Panchayati Raj system (local self-government).

The elections will be held for 4 hours, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (0330-0730GMT), on Oct. 24, said Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar.

They will be held in 310 of 316 blocks in the state, a week before Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, are declared union territories on Oct. 31.

“The scrutiny of nominations will be done on Oct. 10, the last date for withdrawal is Oct. 11,” he added.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under a clampdown since Aug. 5, when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which conferred it a special status.

Hundreds of people, mostly political leaders, have been detained or arrested by authorities since the Indian government made the move.

India has said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.

India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Given the current restrictions, some are raising questions about holding elections at this time.

According to media reports and local officials, more than 4,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir have been arrested, including many political party leaders and members. The decision to hold elections under such an atmosphere has surprised many.

Asked about the suitability of holding elections, Kumar said: “The Home Department has evaluated the security situation in the state. They have also assured they can provide adequate security for free and fair elections.”

However, this election will be first for the government to assess the security situation in the state.
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