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Deserted roads, near-empty booths mark polling in Pulwama, Shopian

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Photo/ Muneeb ul islam

Shopian/Pulwama, May 06: Deserted roads leading to polling booths and overbearing presence of security forces were dominant scenes on Monday in militancy-infested Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir where voting ended for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat with only three percent of the electorate exercising their franchise and over 25 percent polling stations not recording any vote.

At some places people were seen in groups discussing the security situation and the elections and they were quite vocal about their non-participation in the political process.

Pulwama and Shopian, which form part of south Kashmir, have seen maximum number of encounters last year as well as this year. The number of militants killed in encounters in 2018 was above 80 and it stands at 40 as of now this year.

Officials at several polling stations were idling around, while security forces maintained a vigil against possible disruption or an attack by militants.

Not a single vote was cast in 320 of the 1,250 polling booths in the two districts, they said.

Giving details, they said that Pulwama recorded a polling percentage of 0.8 percent as only 652 out of 84,775 people cast their ballots. In neighbouring Rajpora Assembly seat, 1.6 percent polling was recorded at the end of the day.

Tral, which has also been witness to numerous encounters, accounted for 1.1 percent polling.

Moderate polling could be seen at some polling stations in Pampore Assembly segment, the hometown of National Conference (NC) candidate and former High Court judge Hasnain Masoodi. This area recorded a polling percentage of 5.1 percent.

In neighbouring Shopian district, 4.3 percent votes were polled and at adjacent Wachi 2.5 percent was recorded.

Total number of votes polled were 15,500, out of an electorate of 5,21,989. This includes 2,249 votes polled by Kashmir Pandit migrants in Jammu and Delhi.

The polling for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was held over three legs in view of security threats and the election authorities had clubbed many polling stations at one location to ensure minimal dispersion of security forces in Shopian and Pulwama districts.

Polling for Anantnag constituency ended at 4 PM, two hours before the scheduled ending for other constituencies, and the final count was three percent which included the migrant votes in the six Assembly segments spread across the two districts, the officials said.

Main thoroughfares crisscrossing through Pulwama and Shopian districts were deserted with only security forces vehicles and mediapersons moving around.

Shareefabad village of Burhan Wani, posterboy of Hizbul Mujahideen who was killed in 2016, Noorabad village of Zakir Musa of Ansar-Gazawat-ul-Hind, and Beighpora village of present commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Riyaz Naikoo saw zero percent voting.

However, 15 votes were polled from Gundibagh, a village that hit the international headlines after one of its resident Adil Dar became a suicide bomber for Jaish-e-Mohammed and rammed an explosive laden car into a CRPF convoy killing 40 personnel. There are 350 votes in this village.

The threat perception to poll process in these districts was not unfounded as militants lobbed a locally assembled grenade at a polling station but there was no damage to life or property in the attack.

A police official said the explosive was a “socket grenade”, a crude bomb manufactured locally with explosive material fitted in a pipe.

Incidents of stone pelting were also reported from many places in the twin districts. Shattered pieces of windscreens could be seen at some places, highlighting the dangers of moving between places in the poll-bound areas.

Pulwama and Shopian districts have witnessed low key campaigning both due to security reasons and general disinterest among people in the elections.

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

Police, in order to ensure smooth conduct of the polls, had arrested hundreds of possible “trouble-makers”.

While there are no official figures, a rough estimate is that 900 youths were picked up and lodged in jails and police lock-ups as a precautionary measure.

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 in mainland India has revolved around Pulwama with parties making nationalism a key poll issue.

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

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

Peoples Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, Congress state president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge and National Conference candidate Hasnain Masood, BJP’s Sofi Yousuf and Zaffar Ali of the People’s Conference are among the 18 candidates in fray from the seat.   (With PTI Inputs)

Polling stations attacked in Rahmoo, Tral

Srinagar, May 06: Militants lobbed a grenade at a polling station in Pulwama and set off an explosion at another in the district during voting in the last phase of Anantnag parliamentary constituency of south Kashmir on Monday, police said.

There were no casualties in both the incidents, the first militant attack on polling stations in the state during the ongoing Lok Sabha election, an official said.

A grenade was lobbed at Rohmoo polling station in Pulwama. Later in the day, an explosive substance was hurled at a polling station in Tral area. The explosion took place outside the polling booth and there was no loss of life or injury to anyone, the official said.

Meanwhile, reports said that in some areas of the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama, groups of youth pelted stones on security forces who used tear smoke shells and pellet guns.

Police sources said that one youth sustained pellet injuries and has been admitted in SMHS Hospital Srinagar while as two more, hit by tear smoke shells have been admitted in Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzalla, Srinagar.

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