Srinagar bypoll: Small turnout, violent clashes make this the toughest election

Nestled in the contravened alleys and a cluster of tightly constructed houses in downtown Srinagar, is the deserted polling booth at Malikyar, Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar, where 29 people out of 576 people have voted till Sunday afternoon.

It is a frightening sight! Every person moving towards the alley leading to polling booth, which otherwise is a library and community marriage hall, is mocked and locals counting every person entering the booth. The mood at this polling booth is reflected on almost all the polling stations in Srinagar and Budgam area.

The deserted polo view road in Srinagar. Sameer Yasir/ Firstpost

The deserted Polo View road in Srinagar. Sameer Yasir/ Firstpost

The huge queues of voters were missing from the almost all the parts of the Srinagar city, and here at the Malikyar polling both in old town of Srinagar, the question was not how many people will vote, but who dared to come first.

“At 6:45 am, 15 minutes before the polling was to start, almost a dozen people came and wanted to vote, but we told them to go back and come at 7:00 am. They stayed in the courtyard till 7:00 am, voted and left immediately,” presiding officer, Suhaib Ahmad, told Firstpost.

As the lanes leading towards Malikyar polling station remained deserted, people peeped through their house. A pin-drop silence in the surroundings made things only worse for the polling staff inside. Stray dogs roamed in groups and three CRPF soldiers remained alert to keep an eye on every moving object in the vicinity of the polling station.

“Are we in the main Srinagar,” a paramilitary forces soldiers guarding the polling both asked this reporter. “I have not seen more than 30 people since morning”.

The fringes of the old town of Srinagar have traditionally been the supporter of National Conference but who is going to benefit from the nearly deserted polling station of Srinagar city this time, no one knows.

“If there are seven voters who took the risk of voting for National Conference. These are people who did not get afraid when militancy was at its peak, so how would they get afraid this time,” Nazir Mir, who stood outside the polling both number 31-C in Khanyar area, told Firstpost.

The polling was held under tight security as the election commission had deployed more then 15,000 additional para-military forces for the first phase of parliamentary by-polls to ensure peaceful polling in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, which is spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal.

The unprecedented security arrangements were made after militants carried out three attacks in Srinagar in last two weeks in the summer capital.

“I have given election duty four times but this is the toughest one I am seeing,” a women polling officer, said inside a booth in the old town of Srinagar.

Violence was reported from all the three districts after the protests broke out in Budgam district, four people were killed during the clashes after hundred of youth came out to protests against the polling.

One youth was injured in Dalwan village of Chrar-e-Sharif in Budgam district he later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Earlier, two youths were killed in clashes near the polling stations in Dalwan and Rathsun villages of the district.

The angry youth entered a polling station and started beating the polling staff in Khan Sahab area of Budgam were two staff members, both teachers, on poll duty were injured and shifted to hospital. Clashes were also reported from other places of the Budgam district were twenty protesters were hit by pellets in Soibugh village of central Kashmir. Two polling stations were closed after witnessing heavy stone pelting in Khag tehsil in the same district.

Till 1.00 pm Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency saw 4.98 percent votes were cast out of total electorate of 1261395. By 1.00 pm 62891voters had exercised their right to vote.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu said that fourteen EVMs were either damaged or snatched by mobs during by-polls through out the three districts.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has snapped the internet service in three districts falling under the Srinagar parliamentary constituency.

“Around 46 votes have been polled at out polling till 4:00pm. Now the question is how will we go back home in the evening,” Suhaib Ahmad, the returning officer, said.

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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2017 21:51:45 IST

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