Voting to elect the chairpersons of 283 block development councils in Jammu and Kashmir concluded peacefully at 1 pm on Thursday amid tight security, Firstpost reported. These were the first elections held in the state since the Centre revoked its special constitutional status in August, and the last before the state gets split into two Union territories on October 31.

Polling was held in 310 out of the 316 blocks in the state, but 27 candidates were elected unopposed. In the remaining blocks, 1,038 candidates were in the fray. The councils are the second tier in Jammu and Kashmir’s three-tier panchayati raj system. All the 23,629 panches and 3,652 sarpanches in the state voted.

Senior Superintendent of Police Rajouri Yougal Manhas said no untoward incidents were reported during the voting. “No ceasefire violation in LoC have taken place,” he added. “All 19 blocks in Rajouri district have had smooth polling and no untoward incident was reported. In one or two blocks, there was even a turnout 100%, with most districts registering 80 to 90% turnout.”

The Congress, National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party boycotted the polls. The results were declared later in the day. Independent candidates won 217 seats and the BJP took 81.

The turnout was 99.37% in Udhampur, 99.55% in Samba, 99.70% in Reasi, 99.38% in Kathua, 99.48% in Kishtwar, 99.58% in Doda, 99.4% in Rajouri and 99.5% in Jammu. Eleven of the 20 blocks – Akhnoor, Arnia, Chowki Choura, Kharah Balli, Khour, Maira Mandrian, Mathwar, Miran Sahib, Nagrota, Pargwal and RS Pura – in Jammu district recorded 100% turnout.

Tight security was put in place at all polling stations, PTI reported.

On Tuesday, more than 260 public figures had appealed to President Ram Nath Kovind to urge authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to postpone the Block Development Council elections till the situation in the state normalises.

Also read: The last election of J&K state: Meet four candidates in the fray

Some of the prominent people who signed a letter are professors Ayesha Kidwai, Jayati Ghosh, Jean Dreze and Nandini Sundar, human rights activists Bezwada Wilson and Harsh Mander, and journalists P Sainath and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

“For democracy to be meaningful, it is imperative that elections are conducted in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation, so that citizens can vote without fear, for candidates of their choice,” read the letter. “Given the unprecedented socio-political situation in Jammu and Kashmir, those conditions do not exist today.”

Several mainstream political leaders – such as former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, and Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal – were taken into custody or put under house arrest after the crackdown in August. Jammu and Kashmir National Conference President Farooq Abdullah was booked under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows one to be detained for six months without trial.

Corrections and Clarifications: Eleven of 20 blocks in Jammu recorded 100% turnout. Earlier, the headline and the article did not mention which district they were located in. The headline has been edited to mention that.

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