India sets date for council elections in occupied Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Nearly two months after it illegally revoked Indian Occupied Kashmir’s (IOK) special status and imposed a barbaric clampdown, New Delhi has decided to organise Block Development Council (BDC) elections in the occupied territory.

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

The elections will be held for four hours, from 9am to 1pm, on October 24, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said on Sunday.

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

“The scrutiny of nominations will be done on October 10, the last date for withdrawal is October 11,” said the official.

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

Thousands of people, mostly political leaders, have been detained or arrested by authorities since the Indian government’s illegal move.

India has said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased, 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 situation, some are raising questions about holding elections at this time.

According to media reports and local officials, more than 4,000 people in IOK 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 New Delhi to assess the security situation in occupied Kashmir.

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