Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir scheduled next month were postponed on Tuesday because of concerns about the law-and-order situation in the Union Territory. Elections for almost 13,000 vacant seats were expected to be conducted in eight phases between March 5 and March 20.

“Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir...has advised the Election Authority to consider deferring of the conduct of polls based on credible inputs from the law enforcement agencies,” the notice read. The government withdrew the notifications for the first three phases, and said a fresh schedule would be notified in two to three weeks “after addressing all the concerns suitably at the earliest”.

The polls were supposed to be the first major political exercise in the erstwhile state since its special constitutional status was revoked on August 5. It was also bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The last panchayat elections in the erstwhile state were held in 2018. The polls were boycotted by the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party – the strongest mainstream political parties in the Valley – amid fears that the special status would be removed. The Hurriyat Conference had also called for a boycott, describing the polls as a drama enacted to “fool people”.

Block development council elections were conducted in Kashmir last October, but the general electorate does not participate in it.

Prominent Kashmiri politicians, including former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, are still in detention and have been charged under the Public Safety Act. The Act allows the detention of a person without trial for up to two years.