Violence again in Rajouri, 20 injured in 6th phase4 May 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Violence erupted in Behrote, one of the Panchayat Halqas of Thanna Mandi in Rajouri district leading to suspension of voting in all six polling stations today. A re-poll would be held on May 12. More than 20 persons, mostly supporters of rival candidates were injured in the clashes. Polling for nine blocks of eight districts including 320 Sarpanch constituencies and 2320 Panch segments excluding the ones where candidates had been elected as unopposed passed off peacefully with a massive turnout of 80.5 per cent. Out of a total of 3.60 lakh electorates in nine blocks, 2.89 lakh exercised their right to franchise in sixth phase out of a total of 16 phase Panchayat elections. Highest percentage of 86.06 was recorded in Langate block of Kupwara district, where election was held for 52 Sarpanch and 419 Panch segments. Lowest turnout of 75 per cent was reported from Tangmarg block of Baramulla, Majalata block of Udhampur and Billawar block of Kathua district. Polling percentage in remaining blocks that went to the polls today included 85.4 in Khag, Budgam, 80 in Breng, Anantnag, 84.9 in Reasi, 80.9 in Doongi, Rajouri and 81.9 in Thanna Mandi, Rajouri. In all six phases of elections, voting percentage had been around 80, which is quite significant going by the fact that the State was engulfed by over two decades long militancy. All six phases have recorded by and large peaceful polling excepting stray incidents of violence at Darhal in Rajouri district in fifth phase and Thanna Mandi in the same district in sixth phase. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) -cum-Home Secretary of the State, B R Sharma, is monitoring the polling. Official sources said the Election Department has recommended a re-poll in all six polling stations of Panchayat Halqa-Behrote in Thanna Mandi block of Rajouri district where supporters and polling agents of rival candidates clashed. The re-poll would be held on May 12. Sources said nine persons were injured when lathi-wielding supporters of two candidates attacked each other outside Government higher secondary school, Behrote this morning. Police and para-military personnel chased away the warning groups. Panchayat Halqa Behrote had already been declared as sensitive. At Sora, polling station in Tota Morha and Bahroon, similar clashes broke out between supporters of warring candidates. Police had to intervene to prevent the clashes. After the clashes, the people boycotted polling at a couple of stations. However, the voting was resumed with the persuasion of civil administration. The Election Department has, however, ordered a re-poll in all six polling stations of Panchayat Halqa Behrote. DIG Rajouri-Poonch range Rajesh Kumar, SSP Rajouri Anand Jain and Deputy Commissioner G A Khwaja visited the violence-hit polling stations and assured people of a re-poll. During fifth phase of polling on April 30, trouble had erupted in some polling stations of Darhal in Rajouri district leading to injuries to over two dozen persons and suspension of polling at few stations. Sources said barring Behrote incident at Thanna Mandi, polling in all other nine blocks of eight districts remained by and large peaceful. At Khroa, Palain in Billawar block of Kathua, the candidates complained that polling continued till 2.30 pm in support of one contestant. They demanded a re-poll in the area alleging bogus voting by supporters of an influential Congress leader. A total of 320 Sarpanch and 2320 Panch constituencies were involved in today’s voting for nine blocks. However, 18 Sarpanch candidates and 527 Panches including 338 women had already been elected unopposed. Sources said excepting one Panchayat Halqa of Behrote, Thanna Mandi, counting had been completed mostly in all areas by late tonight and all results declared. Few results were expected to be declared by tomorrow morning when election process for sixth phase would be completed. In Thanna Mandi and Doongi blocks of Rajouri district that went to polls today 27,304 and 15,750 electorates exercised their franchised from out of a total of 33,338 and 19,468 votes respectively. In Billawar block of Kathua, 46,025 people cast their votes out of a total of 61,366 while in Reasi block, 37045 votes were polled from 43,634. In Majalata block of Udhampur, 18,836 votes were cast from a total of 25,115. In Kupwara’s Langate block, which recorded highest turnout of 86.06, 45,581 people exercised their franchise from 52,965 electorates while Tangmarg block of Baramulla, 22,206 votes were polled from a total of 29,608. As many as 23,839 votes were cast in Khag block of Budgam from 27,915 while in Breng block of Anantnag, 53,350 votes were polled from 66,688. In today’s voting, 52 Sarpanch and 419 Panch constituencies were involved in Langate block of Kupwara while 29 Panchayats and 220 Panch constituencies accounted from Tangmarg, Baramulla. In Khag and Breng blocks of Budgam and Anantnag, 27 and 58 Sarpanch and 217 and 416 Panch segments accounting for contest. Majalata block of Udhampur district elected 17 Sarpanches and 128 Panches while Reasi block accounted for 38 Sarpanches and 259 Panches. In Billawar block of Kathua district, people elected 46 Sarpanches and 332 Panches while Doongi and Thanna Mandi blocks of Rajouri district voted for 18 and 35 Sarpanch and 110 and 220 Panches respectively. A total of 935 candidates were in fray for Sarpanch constituencies and 3032 for Panch segments. In Billawar block of Kathua district, one complete Panchayat had been elected unopposed. Ninety Panches including 46 male and 44 females had also been elected unopposed. SSP Kathua J L Sharma, Deputy Commissioner, Zahida Khan and Additional SP Kathua Mahadeep Singh supervised the polling. Sources said the high turnout even in militancy-infested areas has sent a clear signal that writ of the ultras didn’t run and the local people were fed up with militants and their threats to boycott elections. Out of nine blocks, where polling was held today, six were infested by militancy but a massive turnout was recorded there. Reports said people in two blocks of Rajouri district and one each of Kupwara, Baramulla, Budgam and Anantnag voted fearlessly. Large queues of the people were seen in these areas right from the morning despite the fact that there was very less presence of security forces and police. Our Srinagar correspondent adds Electorate in long queues could be seen in all the four blocks where elections were held today. 'Our area is neglected in every respect and we want the elected Panches as well as Sarpanches. We want clean drinking water, better roads and above all connectivity with the people living in other parts of the State,' said Mohammad Subhan, a voter in the Breng block. Similar views were echoed by some other residents of this block saying that roads are in dilapidated condition. They demanded that their problems be solved. Sharing their views, a group of people in Khag block said that the area lacked a proper transport service and wanted their elected representatives to do some work on it. They demanded better transport facilities saying that this would settle the nerves of the people living in the block. 'Connectivity in form of surface transport is very important in contemporary times. But as far as our area is concerned we have been left behind and there is nobody to come to our rescue. There is a need to put in place a best and efficient fleet of transport so that people get connected to the different district headquarters and towns,' said Mohammad Yusuf, a resident of Khag. People in Tangmarg block urged the State Government to expedite all resources and make the place beautiful so that the tourists get attracted. Their belief is that Tangmarg holds a special place when it comes to Kashmir tourism. 'People from across the globe come to visit Gulmarg since it attracts them. Therefore, Tangmarg area holds a special importance and it needs to be developed fully. The elected Panches and Sarpanches should work in close collaboration with the civil administration officials so that Tangmarg comes up as a model for other tourist areas to follow,' said Mohammad Ramzan, a resident of Tangmarg. Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir who represents Tangmarg in the Legislative Assembly cast his vote in his native village of Hari Watnu. In the Langate block of Kupwara district people had assembled at the polling booths since early in the morning to exercise their franchise. Women wearing colourful dresses could be seen rubbing shoulders with their male counterparts during the voting. The scene was festive and it looked like that a fair is going on in the area. 'We have come over here to cast our votes and play part in the overall progress of our area. There are many un-attended issues in our block and same required immediate redressal. The most burning issue being faced by us is shortage of potable drinking water and this needed immediate attention from the elected representatives,' said a group of women while waiting for their turn to cast votes at a polling booth in Langate block.