J-K: 57 Pc Turnout In Fifth Phase

13 December 2008
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Despite the death of a pro-boycott protestor and stone pelting incidents at several places in the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir once again registered a healthy 57 per cent turnout in the ongoing Assembly election. Tral, one of the Valley’s most militancy-affected constituencies, had a good turnout of 50 per cent followed by Shopian at 49.5 per cent. The voter turnout showed a substantial increase from the 2002 Assembly elections in all the Assembly segments. The Election Commission has put the voter turnout of Pampore at 46 per cent, Wachi at 46.25 and Pulwama and Rajpora at 45 per cent. In Jammu, the voter turnout at Bani was recorded at 76 per cent, Basholi 71, Kathua 65, Billawar 64 and Hiranagar at 63 per cent. In the first violent anti-poll incident, a teenaged college student, Muzaffar Ahmad Ganai, was killed when the CRPF opened fire on a peaceful anti-election protest at Quil village of Pulwama that went to polls on Saturday. Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Masood Samoon said the “miscreants” also attacked a poll vehicle and took away an Electronic Voting Machine in the same village. The Quil violence didn’t spill over to other parts of south Kashmir even though some villages of Pulwama witnessed a total boycott. In Naina village, people complained of coercion by the Army. By 10.50 am, no vote had been polled at 62-Naina A. “We stand for boycott,” said Feroz Ahmad. “The Army is harassing us and asking us to come out to vote.” Naina and some other villages apart, the rest of the Pulwama and Rajpora Assembly constituencies saw brisk polling. Long queues of voters were waiting outside the highly guarded polling booths in almost every constituency. On the right side of the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, the Wachi Assembly segment, from where PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is contesting, wore a festive look. Long queues outside the three polling booths of Wachi were there to vote for a macadamized road for the village. The rickety road to Wachi is a major poll issue here. “A good road for my village is my only motivation for voting,” Fareeda (38) said. “I want a smooth road to take my cancer-afflicted husband to hospital for check-ups.” Fareeda said she comes from the family owing allegiance to the secessionist political outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami, and would not have voted otherwise. The rickety road leads to Shopian. In Shopian, the road sees a change but the long queues of voters are no different from Wachi’s. At 10 Shopian-J, 452 votes out of 1,039 had been polled by noon. “We want our constituency to be represented by an able candidate,' said Hajra Begum (80). The Shopian Assembly segment has almost doubled its poll percentage this time.