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Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh today hoped that the panchayat polls next month would be held in an environment free from violence. His remarks came after Kashmiri militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen reportedly threatened to physically harm those who would participate in the upcoming polls in the state. "I am confident elections will be held and the government will ensure they are held without violence," Singh told reporters. He described the threat as a "desperation" by militants, and also by Pakistan, "which is forcing the terrorists to spread fear psychosis and disrupt this process of elections." According to reports, Hizbul Muzahideen circulated a video on social media in which a person, believed to be the outfit's operations commander Riyaz Naikoo, is heard threatening residents against participating in the polls. The panchayat polls could not be held in 2016 because of violence and unrest in the Valley after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in July that year. The polls are now scheduled to be held from February 15. Deputy Chief Minister Singh asserted that the youths, who have been misled under Pakistan's influence, have returned. "In Kashmir parents and friends are appealing militants to come back and we hope that in future more people will shun militancy and return to their homes," he said. Asked about the action taken against four cricketers, who allegedly playing Pakistan's national anthem before the start of a cricket match in Bandipora district yesterday, Singh said: "Action has been taken and law will take its course".
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