Nagam: Just a few meters away from the compound of a government school, the road here is deserted. The market remained shut and very few people were turning up to cast their vote at the polling station inside the school. An iron-gate was guarded by a security force personnel who allowed people inside only after they were frisked and had shown their voter slips. The school playground was rutted and near the high brick walls the forces looked out from inside the sand-bag bunkers.
In the first three hours, only 39 votes had been cast from among the 649 eligible electorates at Nagam polling station in this central Kashmir district of Budgam. The number at other polling station was 112 from among the 756 voters who were eligible to cast the ballot. The polling staff, however, was rather livid with the security forces saying that they were not allowed entry for nearly half an hour late last night, and not even a room was spared for them to turn it into a polling station. They said they had to use the school principal's office as a polling station.
A few voters who turned up said that they cast their votes to reject those "who are hellbent" on depriving "us of our special status" and exclusive property rights that are enjoyed under Article 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution. 60-year old, Abdul Khaliq Najar, who works as a carpenter, said that he came to vote to elect a candidate who will "help provide jobs to the educated unemployed."
“I also voted to ensure that the oppression in Kashmir ends. A sense of insecurity prevails across the Valley and the people who venture out of their homes are not sure that whether they will return back safely,” he said.
Another voter Ghulam Qadir Yatoo said that he has voted to “ensure the safeguard and protection of special constitutional provision of Article 370 and Article 35A.” “If Article 35A is revoked, our economy will be shattered. The level of unemployment will become more severe and the people from outside the state would settle down and usurp us of our land and jobs,” he said.
Outside another polling station in Nagam, a group of youngsters said that they preferred to boycott the elections. "Voting will be a betrayal to the blood of those who have laid down their lives for Kashmir's freedom," said Faisal Ahmad.
Polling was held in the three districts of Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal and the overall turnout was low. Up to 1 pm, the polling percentage in Ganderbal was 11 percent, in Srinagar it was 4.8 percent and 11.4 percent in Budgam. By 3 pm, the turnout percentage was 14.4 percent in Ganderbal, 5.7 percent in Srinagar and 17.1 percent in Budgam.
A few incidents of stone pelting were reported from many areas of the Lok Sabha constituency. Massive stone pelting was witnessed between forces and protesting youths in Charar-i-Sharief area of Budgam.
As the polling was going on, youth in large numbers poured on the roads and pelted the forces with the stones. Heavy contingent of police and paramilitary forces which were deployed responded with the barrage of tear smoke shells. A vendor, Zahid Ahmad Sodagar, said that his vegetables were thrown on the road by the forces who also “robbed me of my money.”
Due to the stone pelting, the polling percentage was thin in the area. Only 42 votes were cast by 2 pm at Trajbal polling station in Charar-i-Sharief, from among the 368 eligible electorate.
The polling started across Kashmir amid the heavy deployment of forces on the roads and outside the polling stations here. On the seat former chief minister and NC president, Farooq Abdullah, is pitted against the People's Conference candidate, Irfan Ansari, People's Democratic party candidate, Aga Mohsin, and BJP's Khalid Jehangir.
The polling percentage was particularly low in the urban areas of Srinagar, where highest number of polling stations had been set up for voting.
In Srinagar 857 polling stations were set up, which was followed by Budgam with 624 and Ganderbal where the number was 235. Last evening about 1716 polling parties were dispatched to different polling stations to hold the elections.
On the constituency, even in 2017 polling was marked with low percentage and heavy violence. Eight people were killed and the voter turnout was only 7 percent. The 2017 by-poll had become necessary with the resignation of Tariq Hamed Karra from PDP in response to what he termed was the protest against heavy handed means adopted by forces in 2016 after the killing of HM militant commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani. Karra has joined Congress, which is supporting Farooq on the seat.
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 14:09:28 IST