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Assembly polls in J-k: Overall 49 per cent voter turnout in fourth phase

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Srinagar (Dec. 14, 2014): Only a few quarters within the eight segments of Srinagar could keep the trend of turning up in large numbers to vote that had already taken over the rest of Kashmir Valley going.

This was on expected lines as Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital is known to the outside world as hotbed of pro-azadi campaign and where separatist parties which have called for boycotting polls still call the shots.

On Sunday, long queues of both male and female voters could be seen outside the polling stations only in select areas of Srinagar which with two other districts of the Valley-Anantnag and Shopian- and Jammu’s frontier Samba district went to the polls in the fourth of the 5-phased Assembly elections.

In quite contrast, elsewhere, mainly in central Srinagar where anti-India sentiment runs deep in the population and where its youth come often out on the streets to vent their anger and clash with police at slight provocations, many polling stations and booths wore deserted look.

At some places including Maisuma, a congested Srinagar locality known as pro-Independence JKLF bastion, slogan chanting groups of youth whole day gave policemen and CRPF jawans a tough time by hurling rocks and other projectiles at them.

Earlier, security forces had restricted the movement of residents in the politically volatile central Srinagar including Maisuma by laying Concertina razor wires and placing ‘bunker’ or armoured vehicles on the roads.

This was done to evade major face-offs with anti poll activists and their supporters in local population, officials admitted privately.

As reinforcements moved out on the completion of the 8-hour long polling at 4 PM, many parts of Srinagar including Nowhatta, Fatah Kadal, Nawab Bazaar, Nowshehra,  Zaldagar, Habba Kadal, Safa Kadal and Awanta Bhawan besides Maisuma erupted. While crowds chanting pro-freedom and anti India slogans held protests on the roads and side streets, at some places poll staff also came under attack from irate stone-throwing mobs, witnesses said.

Election Commission officials admitted that eight Srinagar segments recorded only overall 28 percent voting turnout, Habba Kadal being at the lowest 21.01 percent followed by Zadibal (23.64 percent) whereas Batamalloo recorded 24.34 percent, Amira Kadal 24.81 percent, Khanyar 26.12 percent, Eidgah 27.79 percent, Hazratbal 29.36 percent and Sonwar recorded 44.17 percent.

However, almost all segments in Anantnag, Shopian and Samba districts witnessed moderate to brisk polling. As per the EC statistics, in six segments of Anantnag district,  Anantnag recorded 38.67 percent, 63.94 percent, Kokernag 64.90 percent, Shangus 67.27 percent, Bijbehara 53.87 percent and Pahalgam  68.53 percent voter turnout. In Shopian, Wachi segment recorded 42.66 percent and Shopian 52.06 person whereas Samba district’s Samba (SC) segment recorded 77 percent and Vijaypur 81.31 voter turnout.

Chief Electoral Office (J&K), Umang Narula, told reporters here that overall 49 percent voters exercised their right to franchise in the 4th phase of elections across 18 Assembly constituencies of the four districts. As many as 182 candidates are in the fray for these 18 seats including Chief Minister and ruling National Conference working president, Omar Abdullah (Sonawar) and Opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party patron and chief ministerial candidate, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed (Anantnag).

Among 14,73,050 electors were several thousand displaced Kashmiri Pandit voters who came out in large numbers at specially set up booths in Jammu and Delhi to vote what they said against terror and returning of peace in the Valley to pace the way for their dignified return. 

Many people in Samba and Vijaypur said they voted in huge numbers in the hope new political dispensation would work towards restoring peace in the border areas so that those who fled these in the aftermath of recent cross-border skirmishes could return to their homes and hearth soon.

During the polling also stray incidents of violence occurred at a few polling stations or outside these with supporters of mainly ruling NC and PDP fighting it out in the open. Also, BJP’s candidate for Amira Kadal seat, Hina Bhat, allegedly slapped a polling officer inside a booth to which NC agents and supporters angrily reacted forcing the police to intervene, witnesses said.

Also, police has registered a case against BJP candidate from Shopian constituency Javed Ahmad Qadri after he allegedly thrashed a polling agent of an Independent candidate inside Moochwad polling station, claiming that the latter had entered the booth without a voter slip.