Mixed Opinion By People On Poll Boycott

7 May 2014
Kashmir Times

Baramulla: The North Kashmir Parliamentary Constituency that witnessed over 60 percent poll boycott roiled up a mixed opinion among the people who preferred to stay away from polling booths. From political instability to lack of basic amenities, people who boycotted the polling on Wednesday believe that those who voted prefer individual interests over a 'collective goal' of Kashmiris. A group of youth who met a media team at Singhpora-Pattan said that they will not vote because of there is no development in their area. 'Political mainstream has failed us. They never come here except for polling days. So we have decided to teach them a lesson,' opined Shabir Ahmad, a youth in early thirties. He was immediately rebuffed by another young man Bashir, who says: 'See we still remember 2010 killingsthis highway is a witness to that red hot blood of Kashmiri youth. How can we vote?' After a few kilometers drive, people in Pattan were seen walking leisurely. 'We do not know where it is,' replied a person, when asked to guide us to any polling booth. We straightway drove ahead and Palhalan greeted us with its deserted roads and a huge deployment of forces portraying a scene of strict curfew. As our team left the village we received a call that some explosive device has been defused resulting into injury to one of the CRPF personal. On reaching Sangrama, a group of shopkeepers stopped us. 'We have decided not to vote because they always take Kashmiris for a ride. We will not achieve anything by voting,' said one of the shopkeepers without disclosing his name. After crossing a few kilometres, an elderly person taking a stroll at Main Chowk in Sopore met us unwillingly. No vote was polled when we reached polling booth meant for Main Chowk, Sopore. 'My son who had just arrived from Delhi where he is pursuing a course in clinical science was arrested by police yesterday. Police had raided our home to arrest my brother who is affiliated with Tehreek-e-Hurriyat but since he was not home, they whisked away my son. But I don't have any problem with this kind of harassment. Even, I am ready to face any consequences for my personal belief that is to achieve right to self-determination,' said Mohammad Ramzan Sopori. Sopori guided us to take Handwara route if we wanted to meet any voters. But before adopting that route we were welcomed by a youth with stones in their hands. 'Stop we want to check your identity cards. And second show us your hands,' they asked us while making sure that there is no poll ink mark on our fingers. 'We are sorry. We thought somebody has returned after casting his vote,' they said in a remorseful tone. These stone pelters when asked for a reason behind their anger opined: 'We hate political mainstream want permanent settlement of Kashmir.' On reaching Handwara, we witnessed an entirely different scene from that of Sopore. 'People were in queues to cast their votes. 'It is a fight between Peoples Conference and National Conference. There is no PDP here,' said a youth at polling booth set up at Girls Higher Secondary School Handwara. Over a 1000 votes out of 2350 were polled in two booths here by 12.00 Noon. At 66-B Handwara polling booth 328 votes were polled out of 898 votes by 12.10 pm. Similarly, 298 out of 784 votes were polled at Khanbal Handwara polling booth by 12.50 PM. From Handwara we took Baramulla road. During our drive to the town, shouting pro freedom slogans different groups of youth stopped us at Watergam-Rafiabad. 'We will not say 100 per cent boycott but few elderly whom we say brokers of different political parties have casted their votes. The youth of Watergam want permanent settlement of Kashmir,' said Tariq Ahmad (name changed). On reaching Baramulla, only one bridge out of three was open for traffic that was mainly off the roads. There was huge deployment of forces on bridges and all the link roads that connect the town with the highway. There was a curfew like situation and people had preferred to remain indoors. Set up in old hospital building, at 75-Kakrhamam old town polling booth 17 out of 497 votes were polled by 3.40 pm. At an another polling booth 74-M Ganiehamam zero out of 414 votes were polled by 3.45 PM. Similarly at 76-Khwaja Sahib Ganiehamam zero out of 867 votes were polled by 3.45 PM. At 70-Tawheed Gunj only one out of 1071 votes was polled by 3.45 PM. A nearby shopkeeper when asked about the reason behind the poll boycott, said: 'I have never voted. I don't know why? So I cannot say the reason why other people do not vote,' he said in a sarcastic tone. On way to Bonyar Uri, we met some people at Khanpora the birthplace of Prof Saifuddin Soz, President Pradesh Congress committee. How many votes were polled here, we asked a few youth sitting in a passenger shed nearby a polling booth set up in a school, '20 out of 2854 votes have been polled,' they said. Why this low turnout that too in Prof Soz's birthplace, we asked? 'People hate mainstream politics. We have been neglected by every political party,' they reasoned. On reaching Bonyar in Uri, we saw a brisk voting. People were seen coming in cars to vote at 60-Bonyar government Boys Higher Secondary school. '321 out of 790 votes have been polled in this polling booth by 2.20 PM,' said the presiding officer of the polling booth. A few kilometers up from this polling booth, we saw 265 out of 530 votes were polled by 2.45 pm at 69-Hiller Peerneya Boniyar. 'This time we want change. We have not seen the present member parliament visiting this area. We do not have electricity despite having many power projects here. We also do not have jobs. Our educated youth are unemployed. That is why we give vote to see a change,' said a group of people who had just polled in Boniyar. Areas mainly falling on highway had observed a complete boycott in response to the boycott call extended by different separatists groups. At Nowpora the village of former minister Ghulam Nabi Lone who was killed by militants in a an attack at Tulsi Bagh, falling in Sangrama segment, two polling booths were closed at 4.30 PM recording zero polling out of 1772 votes in Sangrama segment The Lok Sabah elections in North Kashmir though witnessing a marginal increase in poll percentage than what was recorded in Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies has brought out a precise urge among the people who preferred to stay away from polling booths.