J&K admin allows NC to hold poll rallies on May 12 after Omar writes to EC

SRINAGAR — The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Thursday allowed the National Conference (NC) to hold public rallies on May 12 in the Sopore police district, which is part of the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat that goes to polls on May 20.

The move comes within hours of the NC vice-president and candidate for the Baramulla seat Omar Abdullah asking the Election Commission to direct authorities in the constituency to allow his campaign programme as per schedule.

In a fresh statement, the district election authority granted the NC permission to hold a public meeting at Malmapanpora village of Sopore from 10 am to 5 pm on May 12, subject to certain conditions as per election guidelines.

Baramulla’s additional district magistrate cited a “no-objection” certificate from the Sopore police while granting the permission but said that it could be withdrawn at any point if required in the interest of the administration and state security.

Abdullah’s letter to the EC came a day after the Superintendent of Police (SP) in Sopore Divya D issued an official directive to the additional district magistrate, outlining the rescheduling of various political activities in the area.

The May 8 order postponed a car rally from May 9 to May 18 and rescheduled a political rally in Rafiabad from May 10 to May 18, while no new date had been provided for a May 12 gathering scheduled in Behrampora.

Abdullah, who has been actively campaigning in the region, was to participate in all three.

In a letter to additional district magistrate of Baramulla on Thursday, the SP, however, said “… this office has no objection if the permission is granted in favour of Mr Javaid Ahmad Dar (JKNC) to hold public meeting/rally at Behrampora playground, Ladoora, Nadihal, Tragpora, Watergam, Behrampora, Handipora, Seelo and Marazigund on 12.05.2024.” The SP also imposed certain conditions stating participants or organisers should not indulge in any unlawful activity, deliver any provocative speech or carry any objectionable flag during the election campaign.

Guidelines of the Model Code of Conduct have to be followed in letter and spirit, the police officer added.

The letter also said that traffic movement or the functioning of schools should not be disturbed during the election campaign.

Earlier, the senior police officer’s order to reschedule political activities in north Kashmir’s Sopore sparked a controversy with the NC accusing the UT administration of “bias and obstructing” a fair electoral process.

In a separate statement, the election officer of Baramulla refuted the allegations and said all decisions regarding permissions to political parties were made with due consideration to security advisories and after consultations with relevant authorities.

“The rescheduling of political events on May 9, 2024, was necessitated by credible security concerns, as advised by SSP Sopore. Subsequent permissions were granted in line with revised security assessments and ECI guidelines,” it said.

Sopore falls within the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency that will go to polls on May 20 in the fifth phase of the seven-phase parliamentary polls. NC leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah is contesting from the seat.

On May 8, the office of Senior Superintendent of Police in Sopore, Divya D, issued an official directive to the additional district magistrate, outlining the rescheduling of various political activities in the area.

The campaigning for the Lok Sabha seat is scheduled to end at 5 pm on May 18.

The SSP’s order had also mentioned the cancellation of a People’s Conference rally in Rafiabad, to be addressed by local party workers.

Sajad Lone, the chief of a faction of the People’s Conference, is contesting from Baramulla.

The rescheduling directive did not cite specific reasons, but sources familiar with the situation indicated that it was due to the ongoing cordon and search operations following intelligence reports of foreign militants being present in the region.

Taking to social media platform ‘X’ earlier, Abdullah alleged that the police directive to cancel his election canvassing in some parts of the constituency was aimed at sabotaging his campaign.

“My opponents have been unnerved by the tremendous response my campaign is receiving throughout North Kashmir. This move to sabotage my campaign in three important segments is further proof of their collective inability to match the response of the voters. They have taken to hiding behind the Administration which is going out of its way to help these BJP proxy candidates,” he said.

“I hope the @ECISVEEP will take note of this move by the administration to sabotage my campaign,” Abdullah added. — (PTI)