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Lok Sabha polls: Phase 5 of voting in south Kashmir marked by clashes between security forces and youths, boycotts

Shopian: The forested areas as well as crowded neighbourhoods of the southern Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama have often witnessed gunfights between militants and security forces. It has become a routine, local residents said, to draw shrouds over the bodies of young boys.

On the polling day on Monday, since early morning, youth clashed with government forces in the twin districts as shops were shut while polling stations remained deserted.

The stretch between Mool Chitragam and Turkwangen area in Shopian remains one of the hotbeds of militancy, with many youths having taken up the gun. A large number of areas that lied on the stretch saw people completely boycott the polls.

Both in Pulwama and Shopian, a near boycott was witnessed in the last phase of elections which was held for the Anantang parliamentary seat. By 3 pm, only 1.91 percent voting was registered in Pulwama while it was 2.66 percent in Shopian. As many as 5,22,530 electors were eligible for voting at 695 polling stations in the two districts.

 Lok Sabha polls: Phase 5 of voting in south Kashmir marked by clashes between security forces and youths, boycotts

Representational image. Reuters

Only nine votes were cast at Prichoo polling station at government degree college in Pulwama by 2 pm from 928 eligible voters. At polling station number 31, Wagam, Rajpora, none had turned up to cast ballot from among 941 voters. The polling percentage was also zero at polling station number 28, Kareemabad, Karimabad-B and polling station number 29 of Karimabad, while only one person had turned up to cast the ballot at Monghama.

Local residents said that the authorities shifted the polling station from Mool Chitragam to Trenz, which lied few kilometres away. The polling station was also shifted from Turkwangan area of Wachi in Shopian, said residents.

Youth in large numbers had descended on the roads to enforce boycott. At one of the squares of Bongam in Shopian, the road was strewn with shards of broken window panes, which the local youths said, was the doing of the security forces that were deployed in the area late last evening at a polling station. However, after the protests, the polling station was shifted from the horticulture office in the area, said a 28-year-old resident Umar Shiekh, of Bongam.

“If someone will vote, we will cut his finger,” added 18-year old Zubair Turray. Late last evening, the residents said that the youth engaged in clashes with the forces while resisting the bid to set up a polling station. A local poultry shop owner, Khalid Dar, said that the forces damaged one of his vehicles and the shop.

“Nothing short of referendum is acceptable to us. A vote for plebiscite should be held rather than a vote to elect a pro-Indian politician,” said 30-year-old Mudasir Ahmad.

Residents said that none voted in the village of Mool Chitragam. A youth, Tajamul Mushtaq, said that the “vote will amount to betrayal with the blood of martyrs who have laid down their life for Kashmir’s freedom.”

Many who boycotted the polls said that they did it to protest against the excesses “committed by government forces”. “There is no question of voting. I was randomly arrested few years back and lodged at a camp by the forces at Imamsaheb area of Shopian,” said a resident, Manzoor Ahmad Mochi, of Turkwangen area of Shopian. "The police is framing us in false cases and makes us cough out money,” said another youth Mushtaq Ahmad Lone.

At the polling stations inside government boys school at Chattpora in Pulwama, a loud blast alerted two paramilitary force personnel guarding an iron gate. Outside the gate, a grenade had exploded in the afternoon but no one was injured nor was any property damaged.

By around 2.40 pm, none had turned up to cast the ballot at one of the polling stations here. Only one vote was cast at another polling station, 22 at the third one from among the 2,581 total voters.

The youth clashed with the forces at different places, forcing the polling staff to close the voting ahead of schedule. Massive security had been deployed to thwart protests, but the strength of polling staff, police and paramilitary force personnel outnumbered voters at most of the places.

The staff lounged on the iron benches while at some polling stations set up inside a government college in Pulwama, there were no agents representing the political parties. An uneasy calm prevailed in the town as the gun and baton wielding force personnel patrolled in large numbers.

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Updated Date: May 06, 2019 21:02:17 IST