Press Trust of india

Day before polling, an eerie silence prevails in Pulwama

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By: Sumir Kaul

Pulwama: An eerie silence descends on the streets of militancy-infested Pulwama district. People mill around but are guarded in their response. They want to talk about anything but elections.

Pulwama, known as the "Anand (delight) of Kashmir" for its congenial climate, innumerable springs and waterfalls, hogged the headlines when a suicide bomber rammed his car into a CRPF convoy on February 14, killing 40 paramilitary forces.

Since then the campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha polls has revolved around Pulwama and terrorism with parties making nationalism a key poll issue.

On Monday, Pulwama -- a part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat -- will go to polls and all eyes will be on how the ground zero responds.

Gulzar Wani, a grocery store owner, who virtually turned agitated when asked about the prospects of Monday's voting, says "I don't think that there will be any voting in this area. The machines may return untouched," he said.

Senior police officials believe that the voting may not cross the double-digit mark.

The district has hardly seen any election campaigning by political parties.

The National Conference and the Congress confined their political activities to party offices.

The PDP, which has a strong base in south Kashmir, is almost missing. Party candidate Mehbooba Mufti has preferred to stay away from canvassing.

No wall, street or building is festooned with colourful flags and banners of the parties.

Former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah, while advocating for party candidate Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, has linked the necessity of voting to prevent attempts to abrogate Article 370 which guarantees special status to the state.

G A Mir of the Congress attempted to woo the voters by pointing out the failures of the National Conference and the PDP.

However, a thin attendance of people can be seen in their election meetings.

Reasoning out the difficulties, Waheed Para of the PDP in an article explained that ahead of the elections, the anti-militancy operations needed to be halted as political parties cannot go and ask the people to vote when they are mourning the deaths of their loved ones.

Security forces working to ensure smooth conduct of the polls have cracked the whip on trouble-mongers.

While there are no official figures, a rough estimate is that 400 youths have been picked up and lodged in jails as a precautionary measure, say political activists from the area.

"Ever since February 14, the people here live in fear. A midnight knock from security forces is quite possible," says Nazir Ahmed, a tea stall owner in Pulwama town.

A senior police official said all arrangements have been put in place for Monday's voting in Shopian and Pulwama.

"Everything has been put in place and adequate number of security personnel along with their mobile bunkers have been placed in the two districts," he said.

Pulwama district has 3,51,314 electors, including 1,81,259 males, 1,69,508 females, 541 service electors (533 male and 08 female) and 6 transgenders.

For smooth polling, the Election Commission has set up 450 polling stations across the district.

Shopian district has 1,71,216 electors, including 89,868 males, 81,227 females, 116 service electors (113 male and 03 female) and five transgender voters and for them 245 polling stations have been set up across the district.

The elections to Anantnag Parliamentary seat was divided into three phases.

Earlier Anantnag voted on April 23 in which 12.8 per cent votes were cast. This was followed by the second phase in Kulgam on April 29 which recorded around 10 per cent voting. (PTI)

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