Voting for the first phase of Jammu and Kashmir’s urban local body election concluded on Monday, with just 8.3% turnout in the Kashmir Valley, reported PTI. Most people in the region stayed away from polling booths following threats from militant groups.
“Only 7,057 voters of the 84,692 eligible people turned up to vote in the wards [in Kashmir Valley] which went to polls Monday,” an unidentified official told PTI. “The polling was by and large peaceful.” Bandipore recorded the lowest turnout at 3.3% and Kupwara the highest at 36.6%.
In the Jammu division, the voter turnout was 65%, while in Ladakh division’s Leh and Kargil districts, turnout was at 55.2% and 78.1%. Voting began at 7 am and concluded at 4 pm.
Polling in the three wards of Srinagar Municipality was held amid high security, according to The Indian Express. Only 1,862 of the 30,074 eligible voters cast their ballots.
Militant groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen reportedly threatened to “throw acid” at candidates and asked people to not cast their ballots. Streets in Kashmir Valley were deserted, while shops and business establishments were shut.
Separatist leaders called for a complete shutdown across Jammu and Kashmir to protest against the commencement of the elections. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Gilani were put under house arrest on Sunday evening. Others such as Yaseen Malik and Hilal War were also detained, reported India Today.
An unidentified official told Greater Kashmir that 422 wards were set to go for the polls in the first phase, but the number has come down to 321 because there are no candidate for 23 wards while only one candidate each had filed nomination for 78 wards and was thus elected unopposed.
Polling officials said a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate contesting from Bandipora was injured in a stone pelting incident, PTI reported. Adil Ahmad Buhru, BJP candidate for ward 15 of Bandipora Municipal Committee, was wounded when unidentified people hurled stones at him when he was on his way to cast his vote. Buhru was taken to a hospital.
Election authorities have designated over 60% polling stations in Kathua and 22% in Jammu district as hypersensitive and sensitive. “Of 584 polling stations in Jammu, 128 polling stations [around 22%] have been declared as hypersensitive and sensitive,” District Election Officer, Jammu, Ramesh Kumar told the media.
Security forces have intensified checking and area domination in the Kashmir Valley. They have increased checking of vehicles, frisking and area domination in Srinagar and other areas of the Valley. Sniffer dogs are also being used to check vehicles. Mobile internet services have been suspended in South Kashmir while the speed has been reduced to 2G in other parts of the Valley, reported ANI.
This is the first phase of polls. Voting in the second phase covering 384 wards will take place on October 10, followed by voting in 207 wards on October 13, and the last phase covering 132 wards on October 16. Votes will be counted on October 20.
This is the first time in 13 years that the state is holding local body elections. However, four parties – the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bahujan Samaj Party – have boycotted the elections due to concerns about the Centre’s stand on Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges to the residents of the state.