Mendhar's Rebuff To LeT; 73.1 Pc Vote2 June 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: As Panchayat elections entered into 13th phase, polling began in mountainous region of Ladakh with three blocks of Leh district going to polls along with six other blocks of Jammu and Kashmir regions spread over six districts, which recorded a total percentage of 73.1. Eight persons were injured as supporters of rival candidates clashed at three places in militancy-infested Mendhar block of Poonch district, where polling generally passed off peacefully despite disturbed conditions and threats by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to disrupt polling. Though nine blocks of six districts that went to polls today involved 240 Sarpanch and 1709 Panch constituencies, election was held only for 175 Sarpanch and 677 Panch segments. While 56 Sarpanches including highest number of 30 in Tral block of Pulwama had been elected as unopposed, 757 Panches, 238 of them women, were elected uncontested. For rest of the posts, which falls in Tral and Sopore blocks of Pulwama and Baramulla districts, there were no contestants. Out of a total of 2.33 lakh votes, 1.70 lakh exercised their right to franchise in today’s polling, official sources said. Highest voting percentage of 85.1 was today recorded in Dansal block of Jammu district while lowest turnout was reported from Tral block of Pulwama (50.8 per cent). Voting percentage in other blocks included Mendhar, Poonch (80.5), Gundana, Doda (82.4), Bhagwah, Doda (81.8), Kahru, Leh (66), Chuchot, Leh (63.5), Leh (52.9) and Sopore, Baramulla (54.1). Supporters of two Panch contestants, Mohammad Rafiq, affiliated with National Conference and Mohammad Jehangir, who owed allegiance to People’s Democratic Party (PDP), clashed outside the polling station Aqual Bani in Upper Salwa area of Mendhar block in Poonch district at 12.30 pm leveling charges against each other for indulging in bogus voting. Polling for Ward Nos. 6, 7 and 8 was suspended after the clash. However, police and para- military personnel immediately swung into action and chased the supporters of the two groups. Seven persons sustained minor injuries in the clash. Polling resumed after 45 minutes. Workers of two women Panch candidates-Begum Noor Bano and Shahida Akhter also clashed at Dhara in Panchayat Halqa Tanvi near Gursai in Mendhar block at 9.30 am on the charges of proxy voting by one of the candidates. However, police and para-military personnel chased away the clashing groups. No one was injured while voting resumed at 10 am. At Government Primary School, Chappar Dera polling station in Panchayat Halqa Upper Salwa, polling was suspended at 10.15 am when supporters of two Panch candidates Nazir Hussain and Fazal Hussain clashed. Polling was resumed at 11 am on the intervention of police personnel and civil officers. Deputy Commissioner, Poonch, Ajit Kumar Sahu and SSP Poonch Ashkoor Wani accompanied by SHO Mendhar Choudhary Mohammad Aslam toured all sensitive polling stations of Mendhar to ensure peaceful voting in the block, which had been rated as most sensitive. Large queues of voters were seen at Salwa where the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit had recently pasted posters threatening to behead the people, who would contest the Panchayat elections. However, there seemed to be absolutely no impact of the LeT posters as people including women jostled with each other to cast their votes not only in Salwa but also its adjoining areas. In some of the polling stations of Salwa, over 90 per cent voting was recorded as the people gave a strong rebuff to the militants. Police authorities had made tight security arrangements for the polling in entire Mendhar block especially Salwa area. No militancy related incident was reported in any part of Mendhar block during polling as well as counting. Sources said the huge turn-out of 80.5 percent in militancy-infested Mendhar block and nearly 90 per cent voting in Salwa was a big blow for the LeT outfit, which had threatened the people to stay away from the voting. In Dansal block of Jammu district, a massive enthusiasm was witnessed among the voters. At Surinsar, Manwal and surrounding areas, people turned out in large numbers to cast their votes. One of the Panchayats in Manwal had been elected unopposed. The enthusiasm among the voters could be well gauged from the fact that a number of Gujjars, who had migrated to hills in the summer, especially trekked distance of several kilometers to poll their votes. The Gujjars said they wanted to elect the candidates of their choice and that was the sole reason that they traveled a lot to cast their votes. Some polling stations in Jagti recorded above 90 per cent voting. In Bhagwah and Gundana blocks of Doda, there was no fear of militants among the voters, which was evident from the fact that the two blocks recorded 82.4 and 81.8 per cent turnout. Some of the polling stations accounted for near 90 per cent voting. Sources attributed comparatively low turnout in three blocks of Leh including Leh, Chuchot and Kahru to uncontested election of many Sarpanch and Panch candidates. Leh and Chuchot accounted for only 50.8 and 52.9 per cent voting while Kahru had 63.5 per cent turnout. Sources pointed out that out of a total of 11 Sarpanch constituencies in Leh block, nine Sarpanches had been elected unopposed. Similarly, in Chuchot block, five out of 15 and two out of seven in Kahru block had been elected uncontested. Similarly, 76 out of 79 Panches in Leh block, 93 out of 99 Panches in Chuchot block and 37 out of 43 Panches in Kahru blocks had also been elected uncontested. Polling in all three blocks of Leh passed off peacefully. Highest number of Sarpanches 30 out of 60 (exactly 50 per cent) had been elected unopposed in Tral block of Pulwama district. Two Sarpanches each were elected without any contest in Sopore block of Baramulla and Dansal block of Jammu while five Sarpanches had won uncontested in Mendhar. One Sarpanch was elected unopposed in Gundana block of Doda. As many as 757 Panches had also been elected without any contest, the highest number again being in Tral block of Pulwama district where 135 out of 403 had won uncontested. Seventy-five Panches had been elected unopposed in Sopore block of Baramulla, 37 in Bhagwah block of Doda, 45 in Gundana block of Doda, 60 in Dansal block of Jammu and 199 in Mendhar block of Poonch district. A total of 607 candidates were in fray for the posts of Sarpanches, 10 of them women while 1568 candidates were in race for Panches. Sources in the Election Department said that majority of election results had been declared by late tonight and entire election process will be over tomorrow morning. In Dansal block of Jammu district, 42,902 votes were polled from a total of 50,395 while in Mendhar block of Poonch district, 50,891 people exercised their right to franchise out of 63,218. In Gundana and Bhagwah blocks of Doda district, 14,700 and 20,410 votes were polled from out of 17,824 and 24,939 electorates respectively. In Leh block, 2072 out of 3911 votes were polled, In Chuchot and Kahru blocks of Leh district, 4656 and 2862 out of 7326 and 4336 votes were cast. In Tral block of Pulwama, 14,657 electorates exercised their right to franchise from 28,812 while in Sopore block of Baramulla, 17,763 people polled their votes from 32,790. Leh block has total 11 seats of Sarpanch and 79 Panches, out of which elections were conducted today for two seats of Sarpanches i.e Tashi Gatsal and Phyang Panchayat halqas.The rest seats of Sarpanches and Panches in Leh block had already been declared elected uncontested. Likewise, out of 15 Sarpanches and 101 Panches in Chushot block, elections were held for 10 seats of Sarpanches which include Thiksay-A, Thiksay-B, Shey-Kongnos-A, Matho, Stakna,Chushot Gongma-II, Chushot Shamma-I, Chushot Yokma-I, Nang and Stok.The only Panch seat of Stok-Chutang went for election today. The rest seats of Sarpanches and Panches in this block had been won unopposed. Out of the total 7 seats of Sarpanches and 40 seats of Panches in Kharu block, elections were held for 5 seats of Sarpanches in Gia, Tagar, Taknak, Chenday and Igoo and 4 seats of Panches in Tagar, Taknak and Shara. No nominations were filed for two seats of Panches in Choglamsar Panchayat halqa which include one woman reserved seat. Similarly, no nomination was filed for two women reserved seats of Tagar-Sakti and Chemray Panchayat halqas of Kharu block. In Chushot block, no nominations were filed for 6 seats of Panches which include 2 women seats of Shey Yoknos and Stakna. Out of 6 seats of Panches in Shey Kongnos-A, no nominations were filed for 4 Panch seats. As a result, 4 seats of Panches are lying vacant in Shey Kongnos. Our Srinagar correspondent adds:- In a virtual snub to the separatists, who had called for a boycott of the Panchayat elections, people in large numbers turned out to exercise their franchise in Sopore block of Baramulla district today. Similar reports of huge participation of people in the electoral process have also come in from the Tral block of Pulwama district. Since early morning, people came out of their houses in the villages coming under the Sopore block and cast their vote during the 13th phase of Panchayat elections. Long queues of voters could be seen lined up outside polling booths in villages like Sangrama, Hygam, Amargarh, Lalad, Seer Jageer, Tarzoo, Nowpora-Kalan and others to exercise their franchise. Most of the voters while sharing their views said that these elections have nothing to do with the political future of Kashmir. They said they wanted better services and that is the reason for them to come out and vote during the Panchayat elections. 'The Panchayat elections are being held for the development of villages and blocks. There is no politics attached to it and that is why we have come out to vote. We want better roads, upto the mark water supply, uninterrupted power supply and same is possible only when we vote for the best candidate,' said Irshad Ahmad, a voter. There were others who opined that Sopore area remained neglected over the years and same needs to be changed. They said that the fate of people living in this apple rich town can be changed only when honest people are elected as Panches and Sarpanches. 'Sopore and its adjoining areas have remained under developed for a long time now. Time has come when we have to transform the whole area and it is my wish to play this role in this respect. I want Sopore to retain its lost glory and same is possible only when the elected representatives come up to the expectations of people who have reposed trust in them,' said Mohammad Ashraf, a voter. Some of the voters accepted that Sopore has a history of poll boycott in the past saying that this time around the picture is different as the nature of elections is different. 'It is true that very few people cast their vote during the Assembly and Parliamentary elections, but this time around the situation is different. These elections are being held to empower the people at the grassroots level and it is due to this reason that there is a healthy voter turnout,' said Ghulam Nabi, a voter. Some voters while sharing their views said that the Government should immediately transfer the powers to Panches and Sarpanches adding only then the Panchayati Raj System would flourish in the State. 'Recently a Sarpanch was thrashed by some official at Handwara. It is important that such incidents are not repeated in future. The administration should understand the powers as well as functions of Sarpanches and Panches. If that happens well and good and if not then the essence of Panchayat elections would be lost,' said Abdul Rahim, a voter.