Women Voters Undeterred
10 May 2004
Kishtwar: Despite threats from militants and the violence witnessed in the past few days, a significant number of people, particularly women, came out to cast their vote in the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency today. There was unusual enthusiasm at an exclusive polling booth for women in Doda town. Women wearing the traditional burqa (veil) started streaming in from early in the morning. Located just a few metres away from the spot where militants exploded a grenade on Sunday, this polling station had a festive look with women waiting in the queue for their turn. Of the 1,034 votes, 83 had been cast by 9 a.m. 'We have come voluntarily to vote and we are not bothered about the militants' threats,' said Maryam Begum. 50. Shehnaaz, a young woman who had come to cast her vote for the first time, was not sacred either. The Akramabad station for women too had a large turnout. 'We have no problem in coming out to vote,' said Shanti Devi, a voter at another station. The city middle school booth witnessed brisk polling and by afternoon over 50 per cent of the 650 votes had been cast. In villages such as Baboor, Shiva and Beli, however, no vote had been cast till late afternoon. The polling station adjacent to the Doda town hall had yet to pick up momentum. The station was the target of a fidayeen (suicide) attack in the 2002 Assembly elections. 'People have started coming,' said the presiding officer. Tight security arrangements had been to foil any attempt to disrupt the polls. 'We are not taking any chance,' said P.L. Gupta, Inspector-General of Police, Jammu zone, who visited a few booths here. In Kishtwar town, there was a poor turnout till afternoon. At the Boys Higher Secondary School polling station, which was attacked on Friday night, only 57 of the 5,000 votes had been cast by 12.30 p.m. Same was the case in the adjacent booth where only 48 of the 4,000 votes had been cast.