The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mela in Mufti hub

Srinagar, Oct. 11: At four o’clock this afternoon, a day after the Congress’ good showing in the Kashmir elections, the party headquarters in Srinagar is locked and bolted.

After much banging on the huge black steel gate, a security guard pokes his head out of a little peephole and says the office is closed. Apart from two small posters of Ghulam Nabi Azad stuck on one side of the gate and a few buntings overhead, there is no one around. Not even the hangers on of a victorious party.

“The Congress celebrations are in Jammu, not here,’’ the taxi driver explains. “Yesterday, when Ghulam Nabi Azad was in the city and the results were coming in, there were more people.’’

In contrast, the PDP headquarters looks like a virtual mela. The huge grounds are overflowing with dancing, shoving crowds as winning candidates and their supporters gather in Mufti Sayeed’s spacious home. There are crackers and gun-toting security men all around. The door to the living room had to be shut to stop the crowds charging in. The PDP headquarters is in one wing of the residence.

Signs that this is the new power centre in Kashmir are evident. There are scores of securitymen all around. As the crowds began pouring in since morning, the administration put together a security drill. In the past, Mehbooba Mufti had complained that the National Conference government was reluctant to provide adequate security to the Opposition. Today, however, the administration made up for past lapses. Mehbooba is now guarded by six armed policewomen. Outside the gates, every visitor is thoroughly frisked.

PDP workers said they realise the process is tedious and irritating to most people who come to the headquarters, but there is no choice.

“Some one could just slip in and start shooting. We cannot take the risk,’’ Akhtar, a party loyalist, explains.

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