Valley gives cold shoulder to J-K civic polls

Separtists’ strike against elections disrupt normal life
Report by: 
8 Oct 2018

Just 8.3 per cent of the electorate voted in the first-phase of the urban local body polls in militancy-wracked Kashmir Valley, while Kargil recorded the highest turnout of 78 per cent, an official said Monday.
Polling in 83 wards of the valley began at 7 am and ended at 4 pm amidst tight security.  "Only 7,057 voters of the 84,692 eligible persons turned up to vote in the wards which went to polls Monday. The polling was by and large peaceful," the official said. The polls to urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in four phases with the first completed Monday. Heavy polling was witnessed in Kargil and Leh, which recorded turnouts of 78 per cent and 52 per cent respectively, the official said. In north Kashmir, the Kupwara Municipal Committee recorded a high voter turnout of 36.6 per cent, while 27.8 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise at wards of the Handwara Municipal Committee.
Out of the 30,074 voters in three wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,862 turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations. Budgam recorded a turnout of 17 per cent while Anantnag 7.3 per cent. Baramulla recorded a turnout of 5.7 per cent and Bandipora the lowest 3.3 per cent, the official said. Polling was held for only 83 wards in the valley Monday as 69 were won uncontested. Of the 150 polling stations in the Kashmir division, 138 polling stations were categorised as hypersensitive. The first-phase of the elections in the valley remained by and large peaceful with some minor incidents of stone pelting reported from Bandipora district where a BJP candidate was injured after being targeted by miscreants. The polls were announced last month but two major political parties -- the National Conference (NC) and the PDP -- boycotted the elections accusing the Centre of not taking a firm stand on the protection of Article 35A of the Constitution which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
Militants had issued threats to anyone participating in these polls, resulting in absence of any campaigning by the candidates. They had also killed two NC workers. In several wards, especially those in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers for the polls. For ensuring security of candidates, they were moved to safe locations and their details were not made public. The election authorities also kept the identities of the contesting candidates from the valley secret due to security reasons, prompting the people to term these polls as 'secret elections'.
Meanwhile, normal life was hit in the Kashmir Valley today due to a strike called by the separatists against the holding of the local bodies' polls. Shops, business establishments, private offices and fuel stations remained closed here in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said. They added that public transport was off the roads, while a few private cars, taxis and autorickshaws were seen plying in some areas of the city. Similar reports of shutdown were received from the other district headquarters of the valley, the officials said. They added that while there were no restrictions anywhere in the valley, security personnel were deployed in strength in the vulnerable areas to maintain law and order. (PTI)