J&K Assembly Polls: Uri Replies To Terrorists With 79% Turnout

9 December 2014
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: Serial terror attacks by Pakistan-backed militants, including one on the Army camp in Uri just days before the third phase of polling in Jammu & Kashmir, failed to deter voters as thousands braved the winter chill and lined up outside booths on Tuesday, posting a record 58% turnout for the Valley. The highest turnout in the 2008 assembly elections was 52%. Ignoring the boycott call by separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani and threats from pro-azadi groups, Kashmiris who lined up at polling booths said they were voting for change. Geelani's supporters were seen distributing pamphlets asking people to boycott the elections, but found few takers. 'I am unemployed and have voted for a candidate who I want to work for the development of our area and help us get jobs,' said 23-year-old Khurshid Ahmed, a resident of Gulshanabad. Chrar-i-Sharief, once a hotbed of terrorism, recorded the highest turnout with 82.14%, followed by 79% in Uri, where 13 people, including an Army officer, were killed in Friday's attack. J&K's chief election officer Umang Narula said overall 58% polling was recorded across 16 constituencies, including Beerwal where chief minister Omar Abdullah is contesting. Two more phases are left in the election. Even Sopore, where separatist boycott calls find greater resonance, recorded 30% polling, up from 20% in 2008. In south Kashmir, Tral recorded a dip in turnout with 37.68% polling compared to 48.69% in 2008. But there was much enthusiasm at many places in Tral. Mohammad Jabbar Dar, 75, said he voted to ensure the boycott does not lead to victory of an undeserving candidate. 'We participated to choose the right person for the right job,' he said. In Rajpora, Jana Begum, 59, said she voted for a better future of her children. 'I voted for jobs for my children. The previous government failed to provide us drinking water, bijli and roads. Now I expect the new candidate to deliver.' Unidentified men hurled a petrol bomb at a polling station in Gulmarg while polling was underway. Police said no one was hurt in the attack. Narula said barring this incident, polling in Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla districts was peaceful. 'No untoward incident was reported from anywhere across the valley,' he said. Narula added 55% displaced Kashmir Pandit voters exercised their franchise . Zahoor Ahmad Mir, a voter in Gulmarg constituency, said they were undeterred and voted for change. 'That's why there were long queues since morning despite intense cold weather in Watnu in Tangmarg in Gulmarg constituency,' Narula said. On the eve of polling, though, workers of agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir's Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) were accused of pasting anti-election posters in Tangmarg. 'Though the villagers caught Mir's supporters, they managed to escape taking advantage of darkness,' said a source. 'But the driver of their vehicle hired by Mir's nephew, Ishfaq Mir, was arrested.' A police officer confirmed the driver had been taken into custody.